Sanders facing tougher 2020 competition for liberal support

  • Sanders

  • Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, right, I-Vt., shares the stage with home healthcare worker George Allen during a town hall meeting at the Victory Missionary Baptist Church in Las Vegas on Saturday, July 6, 2019. (Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun via AP) STEVE MARCUS

  • Prosper Hicks, 6, shows off her button as she waits for a town hall event with Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., at the Victory Missionary Baptist Church in Las Vegas on Saturday, July 6, 2019. (Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun via AP) Steve Marcus

  • Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., responds to a question during a town hall meeting at the Victory Missionary Baptist Church in Las Vegas on Saturday, July 6, 2019. (Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun via AP) STEVE MARCUS

Published: 7/10/2019 6:34:45 PM

Barbara Lee supported Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential bid, helping him score one of his most decisive victories that year when he dominated the New Hampshire primary. But as he wages another bid for the White House, Lee is looking at a different candidate.

“I like him, I like his ideas,” the 66-year-old retired massage therapist said of Sanders. “I just think right at the moment, Elizabeth Warren has better plans.”

That sentiment is becoming a hurdle to the Vermont senator’s effort to recreate the energy that fueled his insurgent 2016 campaign, when he emerged as the liberal alternative to Hillary Clinton. Democrats now have multiple options, including Warren, who had a strong debate performance and outraised Sanders by more than $1 million during the second quarter in a sign of her growing grip over progressives.

Lacking the clear anti-establishment lane he had to himself in 2016, Sanders now must carve out a new one – and it’s unclear exactly what that will look like.

“He has to be able to convince people that there’s something distinctive about him,” said veteran Democratic strategist Bob Shrum. “His speeches now, and what he says in the debates, are indistinguishable from what he said in 2016. In 2016, he was the new kid on the block, despite his age and he seemed fresh to a lot of people. Right now I think he’s lost some of that sense of freshness.”

Warren isn’t the only Democrat on the rise who could potentially eat into Sanders’ base. Voters making a generational choice have an alternative in a range of fresh Democratic faces who have only recently emerged on the national stage, including Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., and California Sen. Kamala Harris.

And despite his talk of political revolution, Sanders risks being seen as part of the old guard, another politician in their late 70s like Joe Biden .

For Alexis Falcone, a 27-year-old store manager from New Hampshire, the personal connection was what made her decide to shift her support from Sanders to Warren.

“I really feel like she’s sincere and that she wants to help everybody,” Falcone said.

Sanders’ campaign has privately acknowledged they need to hold more intimate events and give him a chance to connect with voters personally, especially in early primary states like Iowa and New Hampshire, where retail politicking matters.




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