Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., is developing a risky strategy of reaching out to President Donald Trump voters, stumping last week in Wisconsin and Michigan — and appearing on a Fox News-sponsored town hall Monday, The Washington Post reported.
The approach will be tested not only in Wisconsin and Michigan, but Pennsylvania, too — all part of his current campaign swing, where many white, working-class voters were drawn to Trump’s populist message in 2016.
Yet many of the Democratic gains in the 2018 election were made by candidates who were in a more traditional Democrat mold — including in Wisconsin and Michigan, where Democrats nominated more traditional candidates for governor and captured both seats from Republicans.
According to the Post, Sanders’ approach also will be tested with the the expected candidacy of former vice president Joe Biden. Biden’s bipartisan approach would sharpen the contrast between the field’s “unifiers” — Biden, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and former Texas Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke — and partisans like Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.
Sanders’s supporters say voters are deeply frustrated and looking for a leader who will shake things up, noting 11 percent of voters who picked Sanders in the 2016 Democratic primary went on to vote for Trump in the general election, the Post reported, citing an American National Election Studies survey. Another 8 percent voted for minor-party candidates, and Sanders loyalists think he’s got a shot at them as well.
“Unfortunately, a lot of times people are really angry, and sometimes they displace that anger,” Sanders supporter Christina Fong, of Grand Rapids, Mich., told the Post. “So they remain angry, which he taps into.”
Others think Sanders’ message is too extreme.
“I think when people find out that certain candidates want to take away people’s employer-sponsored health care, that’s going to be very worrisome for some Democrats, especially in some of these affluent suburbs,” Ian Russell, former executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told the Post.
Republicans, meanwhile, are ready for a run against Sanders.
“Speaking for North Carolina, if America had a choice between a self-avowed socialist democrat and a free market capitalist, he loses,” Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., told the Post. “Period, end of story.”