Whether Donald Trump faces Bernie Sanders in this year’s presidential election or not, Republicans will make sure the Vermont senator is on the ballot.
Republicans are delighted by the rise of the self-proclaimed democratic-socialist, whose radical policies they believe will help them sweep the elections this November, the Washington Examiner reports. Party operatives have begun tying all Democrats to Sanders’ radical politics with the hope of winning tough Senate races and taking back the House.
“If he’s the nominee, I don’t care if you’re running for dog catcher or Senate, every Republican is going to bend over backwards to tie their Democratic opponent to Bernie Sanders’ socialism and all the crazy stuff he supports,” Corry Bliss, a Republican consultant, told the Examiner.
Sensing an opportunity
As Sanders rises, some Republican operatives sense an opportunity to win back suburban voters who don’t like Trump but are wary of the radical change that Sanders is promising. The Republicans lost the House majority in the 2018 midterms, largely thanks to a rout in the suburbs, and they maintain a narrow majority in the Senate.
But Republicans aren’t the only ones calling out Sanders’ uber-progressive policies. The senator’s moderate rivals for the Democratic nomination have argued that he’s too far to the left to be electable and that his flagship policy, “Medicare for All,” is too expensive and unrealistic. According to The Hill, some have even expressed concern that Sanders’ rise may be unstoppable after he swept New Hampshire’s primary and finished strong in Iowa’s caucuses — at least if moderates don’t start uniting.
It remains to be seen if Sanders or a more “moderate” candidate will triumph for the Dems’ nomination — billionaire Mike Bloomberg has emerged as a foil to Sanders and is an unabashed capitalist — but either way, Republicans think that the senator’s prominence in the race will enable them to paint all Democrats as his supporters, despite lingering disagreements within the party on health care and other issues.
“Democrats have embraced the same policy positions as Bernie, so he will be on the ballot in all these places whether he’s the nominee or not,” said Kevin McLaughlin, the top in-house strategist at the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
The anti-Sanders strategy is being employed in battlegrounds like Arizona, where embattled GOP Sen. Martha McSally has begun using “Bernie Bro” as an attack line. The Congressional Leadership Fund, the House GOP super PAC, has been attacking vulnerable House Democrats with the line as well, the Examiner reported.
Prosperity vs. socialism
Republicans have long sought to make the 2020 election into a choice between prosperity and socialism, but it certainly helps that Sanders, whose Medicare for All policy would abolish private health insurance, is the genuine article. What’s more, Democrats have on the whole shifted significantly to the left on a range of sensitive issues, from immigration to abortion.
While the Bernie strategy focuses on socialism specifically, it echoes the blunt messaging used by President Trump, who has shown an eagerness to label Democrats as not just the party of socialism but also of open borders and late-term abortion. In what looked like an indirect reply to a chaotic and vicious primary debate in Las Vegas this week, Trump tweeted a message late Wednesday contrasting the Republican Party’s positive vision with a destructive radical agenda.
The Democrat party is the party of high taxes, high crime, open borders, late-term abortion, socialism, blatant corruption, and the total destruction of your Second Amendment. The Republican Party is the party of the American Worker, the American Family, and the American Dream! pic.twitter.com/GhyS5MD8Q9
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 20, 2020
Of course, whoever wins the nomination, Trump could easily, and truthfully, attack them as out of touch with most Americans. In the meantime, the jury is still out on the Sanders strategy.