Sanders Set to Deploy for Democrats

The former presidential contender plans to increase his campaign activity in the final three months before Election Day.

FILE - In this July 25, 2016 file photo, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during the first day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
Ben Geman
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Ben Geman
Sept. 8, 2016, 5:07 p.m.

Coming soon to the campaign trail: Bernie Sanders.

After a quiet August and the troubled launch of the Sanders-linked group Our Revolution, the senator from Vermont is expected to make a series of campaign appearances this fall.

He got the ball rolling over Labor Day weekend with an appearance in New Hampshire to boost Hillary Clinton and Democratic Senate hopeful Maggie Hassan.

Sanders will campaign Sept. 16 in Pennsylvania with Katie McGinty, the Democrat challenging GOP Sen. Pat Toomey, telling the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that she will be an “extremely welcome progressive voice.”

But there’s likely more to come as Democrats hope to win the White House, regain control of the Senate, and, while it’s a long shot, see a chance to regain the House if Clinton clobbers Donald Trump by enough to create a huge wave for Democrats down ballot.

Democratic sources say that while logistics are being worked out, it’s expected that Sanders will bring the fiery message that animated his primary campaign onto the stump in multiple races.

“Bernie has offered to help in any way possible,” said Sen. Jon Tester, the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

“I haven’t sat down to think where he is going to be of the most value, but he will help where he can,” Tester said in the Capitol this week.

While it’s unclear exactly where Sanders may campaign beyond Pennsylvania next week, one Democratic campaign professional said there are two broad pockets of voters in particular where Sanders could make a difference.

“A more visible Bernie Sanders could have an important impact on turnout—driving low-propensity, progressive voters to the polls, including college students in places like Madison, Wisconsin, and the Research Triangle in North Carolina,” said Thomas Rossmeissl, managing director of Trippi and Associates.

“But Bernie’s impact may be even more important in heavily white, Rust Belt areas—traditionally Democratic pockets of middle-aged voters frustrated by trade policies who are skeptical of Hillary Clinton,” he added.

Sanders could also help to bring voters favoring the Green Party’s Jill Stein or Libertarian Gary Johnson behind Clinton. Those voters could matter in a close national election.

Sanders has already been helping with fundraising as Democrats seek to regain control of the Senate, which would give him new power as chairman of the powerful Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, or the Budget Committee.

In late August, he sent his massive list of supporters an appeal for donations to Democratic Senate candidates in competitive contests in Ohio, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania, and Sanders earlier wrote an appeal for former Sen. Russ Feingold, who hopes to regain his Wisconsin seat this fall.

Aides to Sanders declined to preview his fall plans.

A spokesman for Ted Strickland, who is trying to unseat Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman, said the campaign would welcome an appearance from Sanders. “Senator Sanders’s message of fighting for working families and opposing unfair, job-killing trade deals certainly resonates in Ohio. We’d be happy to have him here,” said communications director David Bergstein.

An aide to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, meanwhile, noted endorsements from Sanders or Our Revolution for various House candidates, and added: “We also look forward to his help in the future on things like fundraising or travel closer to the election.”

Sanders has also endorsed Clinton after a primary fight that turned nasty several times.

One source close to Sanders, who did not have knowledge of specific plans, predicted that Sanders would target college campuses this fall to boost turnout among young voters, who were key to President Obama’s elections. Already, the event with McGinty is scheduled to happen at Carnegie Mellon University.

The same source also predicted that Sanders could campaign in upstate New York. Sanders has endorsed Zephyr Teachout in the race for the seat that GOP Rep. Chris Gibson is vacating. The Cook Political Report lists the race as a “Toss-Up.”

A vigorous effort this fall would also benefit Sanders himself in multiple ways.

His surprisingly strong challenge to Clinton and huge network of grassroots supporters that he developed gives Sanders the chance to wield new clout in favor of a leftward agenda if Democrats regain the Senate.

An effective push on behalf of Senate Democrats would help continue the goodwill among colleagues that he has drawn with his full-throated support for Clinton, which would benefit Sanders in the next Congress.

“I think that Bernie Sanders has been great. He has been working very hard to unite the party and I think we all appreciate that,” said Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico.

At the Democratic convention in Philadelphia in July, Sanders worked to tamp down on criticism of Clinton among his delegates, warning that avoiding a Donald Trump presidency was a must.

“What he did at the convention, and I told him this today, I said that was class, pure class,” Tester said Wednesday.

The Clinton campaign did not say whether Sanders would be making any joint appearances with Clinton this fall.

The source close to Sanders said that he has a “good rapport” with the Clinton campaign these days, and also has a “really good” relationship with the Democratic National Committee since the resignation under pressure of former Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

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