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Government

Don't write off Bernie Sanders, top campaign officials say

2020 Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks Sunday at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines. (Scott Morgan/Reuters)
2020 Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks Sunday at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines. (Scott Morgan/Reuters)

To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of the death of Bernie Sanders’ presidential bid are greatly exaggerated, his campaign said Monday.

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” senior campaign adviser Jeff Weaver said about a recent run of news stories suggesting the Vermont senator’s campaign is in free fall.

In a call with reporters, Weaver likened the coverage to the “Bernie blackout” in the summer and fall of 2015 when Sanders’ campaign was written off by many.

Now, he said, “there seems to be a direct correlation between media coverage of polls and Bernie’s specific standing in those polls. The better his numbers in the polls, the less coverage he receives. The worse he does, the more it receives.”

Sanders’ pollster Ben Tulchin said that of 13 polls since the televised Democratic presidential debates in July, “Bernie’s in a solid second place” in 11.

An independent analysis of post-debate polls by fivethirtyeight.com found that Sanders gained in the polls while former Vice President Joe Biden and California Sen. Kamala Harris lost ground, Tulchin added.

The campaign singled out a recent heavily covered Monmouth University Poll that showed Sanders running fourth behind Biden, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Harris. Monmouth polled Iowa Democratic primary voters. However, Tulchin said Iowa Democratic Party voter files show that caucusgoers are not the same people as those who vote in a primary.

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“In fact, Sanders voters are even less likely to have voted in a Democratic primary than the more establishment-type of party insider who participates in a regularly scheduled statewide primary,” he said.

As evidence that “Sanders is on a positive trajectory,” Weaver pointed out the campaign has more than 1 million volunteers and more 850,000 donors who have made nearly 2.5 million contributions. Sanders, he said, has raised more money than any other Democratic presidential hopeful — $36 million — and has $27.5 million cash on hand. He expects the campaign to have more than 130 staff members on the ground in Iowa.

“Given our experience there, we’re on a good track to win in Iowa,” Weaver said, adding that because Sanders has run here before, “you avoid rookie mistakes.”

Referring to recent multicandidate events in Iowa, including the Iowa State Fair and the North Iowa Democrats’ Wing Ding, Weaver said, Sanders continues to be warmly received as the focus of the campaign in terms of issues has shifted to health care. It’s an issue that demonstrates Sanders’ long commitment to providing health care for everyone regardless of income.

“It also shows a clear differentiation between the candidates who are willing to take on big insurance companies and the big pharmaceutical companies to benefit working Americans,” he said.

Comparing the current campaign with the 2016 cycle, Weaver said “we’re head and shoulders above where we were then” when Hillary Clinton edged by less than a percentage point on caucus night.

• Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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