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Bernie Goes Negative

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT)

Twitter was buzzing with news of a story Politico broke over the weekend regarding a leaked call script Bernie Sanders volunteers are using to trash Democratic opponents ahead of the Iowa caucus in three weeks.  Politco reporter Alex Thompson tweeted extensively about it over the weekend and the script itself is saved as a photo (you can read it better on Thompson’s Twitter feed here).

The Sanders Volunteer call script – Iowa 2020

In all things Bernie, his campaign volunteers quickly took to Twitter to say “they didn’t see this,” “Bernie never approved it,”  or “It was sent by a campaign volunteer who posted to Slack (a collaboration communications tool) only once before.”  Other Twitter feeds from Bernie campaign volunteers say they did get a copy of the memo.

Thompson dispelled the notion that the Sanders camp didn’t know and/or didn’t approve of the call memo (a script used by volunteers to phone bank).

His initial Tweet: Bernie stealthily goes negative on Warren w/ a volunteer script to tell Warren-leaning voters that she only appeals to the “affluent”/”highly-educated” & “She’s bringing no new bases into the Dem Party” (I re-typed script below to protect sourcing)

Eric Issac, a Bernie volunteer, tweeted a response quickly embraced by the Bernie Bros:

Bernie Sanders volunteer hits back: Here’s what actually happened. A random user who’s only ever posted once before posted that document in the Sanders volunteer Slack group. A moderator promptly removed it and stated that it was NOT a campaign source.

And Thompson answered it:

Thompson Retweeted Issac:

Fwiw, this popular thread is not true. Attacking reporting and pushing misinformation is not just a right-wing phenomenon. I provided all the info to Bernie’s camp before publishing & they didn’t deny its authenticity. The doc had “Paid for by Bernie 2020”

Also, no one on Bernie’s team is refuting the story–either when we brought it to them beforehand or since we published it.

All of this on the heels that Sanders is the new front runner in the Des Moines Register poll three weeks ahead of the caucus.  The next three – Biden, Warren, Mayor Pete — are all in striking distance and within the margin of error with a full 45% of Iowa Democrats saying they can be persuaded to vote for someone else.

It’s worth noting that Iowa will likely not be in the Blue column come November.  The state is pretty solidly Red so a win by any of the top four really doesn’t matter much.  New Hampshire and Nevada — typically swing states — will be a much better indicator of who might be ahead leading towards Super Tuesday.

The attacks aren’t winning Bernie any friends.  From the Politico story:

At a campaign appearance Sunday, Warren responded that she was “disappointed to hear that Bernie is sending his volunteers out to trash me.”

“We all saw the impact of the factionalism in 2016, and we can’t have a repeat of that,” she said.
“I hope Bernie reconsiders and turns his campaign in a different direction.”

The quasitruce between the two has had moments of friction but has largely held. Last summer, some Sanders aides tweeted criticisms of Warren’s positions on “Medicare for All,” of her for not going on Fox News, and more.

The Warren campaign did not respond publicly. But senior Warren adviser Dan Geldon privately communicated with Sanders’ campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, in an attempt to stop the tweets, according to an official familiar with the conversation.

The number of critical tweets did decline, but some Sanders aides, including policy adviser Warren Gunnels, have continued to occasionally jab at her.

The Sanders script is a sign that the Sanders campaign is starting to go after all the candidates more aggressively, not just Warren. When volunteers encounter voters leaning in favor of Biden, they’re told to respond that there is no enthusiasm for the former vice president and that Trump would “clobber him on his Iraq war vote, for instance, and his support for free trade agreements. That’s exactly what Trump did with Hillary and it’s part of why Hillary lost,” according to the script.

The news is causing great distress for Democrats per this story in The Hill.  From the piece:

Democrats who believe Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) had a negative influence on the 2016 general election against President Trump are increasingly expressing worries he’ll hurt the party again in 2020.

The Democrats complaining about Sanders, some of whom have histories with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, argue the rhetoric being employed by the Vermont senator in some cases goes too far in damaging his rivals.

They say it will make it harder for the party to unify around a nominee, and they’re particularly worried that supporters of Sanders won’t back any nominee who isn’t their favored candidate.

“He needs to stop,” said one Democratic strategist, who is not affiliated with any of the presidential campaigns. “It’s not helpful and it actually hurts the party. It’s like he didn’t learn his lesson the last time. It’s incredibly short-sighted and terrible.”

This strategist pointed to the senator’s recent remarks in a Los Angeles Times editorial board meeting where he said that Trump would eat former Vice President Joe Biden’s lunch if he is the nominee.

“Joe Biden is a personal friend of mine, so I’m not here to, you know, to attack him, but my God, if you are, if you’re a Donald Trump and got Biden having voted for the war in Iraq, Biden having voted for these terrible, in my view, trade agreements, Biden having voted for the bankruptcy bill. Trump will eat his lunch,” Sanders told the Times.

Since the sanders camp has not refuted Politico’s story, allow me to offer my own call script on Bernie for use by just about any remaining Democratic candidate.

“You’re leaning towards Bernie Sanders?  That’s interesting because he’s still not a registered Democrat even though he caucuses with the party in the Senate. His most recent Senate press release still identifies him as an Independent from Vermont (https://www.sanders.senate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/sanders-and-lee-call-for-vote-in-the-senate-for-no-war-against-iran-act).  His fellow Senator from Vermont, Patrick Leahy, has no problem attaching a “D” next to his name so that Vermont party registration issue is really a non-starter.  While Bernie supported Hillary Clinton in 2016, his support was tepid at best and enough of his supporters in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — angry that he didn’t win the nomination — voted for Trump in numbers that were beyond the margin of votes Trump won those states by. And his recent attacks on other Democratic candidates means he hasn’t learned his lesson.  You only go negative when your positives cannot go higher. 

Many people think Bernie is a lot like Trump.  He was elected on the backs of the NRA, has shady ties and votes connected to Russia, profited by running for president in 2016 (he’s a member of the 1% and owns three homes), and his wife profited handsomely from a shady real estate deal (like Trump has) in the closure of a college in Vermont. Bernie refused to release his taxes from the 2016 race until just recently, and he still couldn’t get over losing to Hillary Clinton by millions of votes (the margin was 55% to 43%).  He isn’t polling well with women, moderate Democrats which make up the majority of the party, and older voters who vote reliably.  His platform requires massive new taxes that many voters won’t support and Vermont’s version of “Medicare for All” failed because taxpayers didn’t support the increases taxes they had to pay.

In Blue states, Bernie and every other leading Democrat outperforms Trump.  Vice President Biden is the only Democrat beating Trump in Florida, and is tied with Trump in Arizona, a reliably Red State.  Other candidates have larger margins over Trump in Ohio and Pennsylvania where Bernie does not.  The truth is Trump will eat any Democratic nominees’ lunch over votes and policies and every candidate — Bernie included — can fight back effectively against Trump’s lies, nicknames and insults with facts and logic and an examination of Trump’s own policies and record.  Bernie will be attacked as a socialist, for being too old, and for his health.  Statstically, people in their late 70s who have had a heart attack have another one within five years and being the president of the United States is a stressful job. Biden is also in his late 70s.  Warren in her early 70s.  Bernie would be 79 if sworn in. Biden 78.  Is that too old?  If elected, which one will make it for re-election in 2024?”

Bernie has a lot of good ideas but so do all of the other Democrats running for president.  The difference is they are longtime members of our party and Bernie is not a Democrat; his ideas won’t matter unless Democrats take back the Senate. 

Bernie shouldn’t be telling Democrats how to change our party when he is not a member of it.  He should campaign against Trump and stop attacking fellow Democrats.”