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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