Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-Vt.) campaign aides are not happy with the polls and venting frustration with the news media. They argue that a biased political press is writing him off or blackballing him from coverage of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary.
Sanders is in second or third place in many national and early-state polls, but his campaign has struggled to overcome the continuing storyline that his moment has passed.
Sanders charged up the liberal base as the only serious challenger to Hillary Clinton in 2016, but Sanders has at times been overshadowed in his second presidential run by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.). They have generated buzz and excitement as they’ve risen in the polls.
Sanders campaign aides argue that public opinion surveys don’t capture their young, enthusiastic base of supporters or the new voters they say they’re bringing into the fold.
“Every time there is a story about how Bernie can’t win, it fans the flame of our base and we get more donations and more volunteers,” said one Sanders campaign aide who is not authorized to speak on the record.
“We’ll never be the favorites in the media. I get it. But when was the last time one of these pundits visited a field office or talked to a state director? The bottom line is we have 2 million [donors] who have bought stock in what we’re trying to do. That’s powerful. If the media doesn’t want to tell that story, that’s fine. It just means we have to out-hustle these other campaigns.”
Sanders’s critics say it’s up to the candidate to reinvent himself in a way that makes him stand out. Others say that Sanders has failed to broaden his appeal beyond a core bloc of progressive voters.
“The challenge here is getting news editors to see him as newsworthy when he’s not moving in the race,” said one Democratic strategist with close ties to the progressive movement. “The reality is he’s having a hard time expanding. It’s completely OK for the media to point this out. The media is reporting on real movement in a dynamic race. This is not 2016 where he was the only other option.”