For months, the Vermont senator was written off by Democratic Party insiders as a candidate with a committed but narrow base who was too far left to win the primary. Elizabeth Warren had skyrocketed in the polls and seemed to be leaving him behind in the race to be progressive voters’ standard-bearer in 2020.
But in the past few weeks, something has changed. In private conversations and on social media, Democratic officials, political operatives and pundits are reconsidering Sanders’ chances.
“I believe people should take him very seriously. He has a very good shot of winning Iowa, a very good shot of winning New Hampshire, and other than Joe Biden, the best shot of winning Nevada,” said Dan Pfeiffer, who served as an adviser to former President Barack Obama. “He could build a real head of steam heading into South Carolina and Super Tuesday.”
The durability of Sanders’ candidacy has come as a surprise even in some states where he performed strongly in 2016 and where he is attempting to improve his standing ahead of the 2020 election.
California state Sen. Scott Wiener, who defeated a Sanders-backed Democrat for his seat in the liberal-heavy San Francisco area in 2016, said Sanders has been “more resilient than I anticipated.”
“But in retrospect,” he added, “he has a very, very loyal following, and people have really stuck with him.”
The same day on MSNBC, national political correspondent Steve Kornacki said, “Democratic voters like him, and if he starts winning, there could be a bandwagon effect.” GOP pollster Frank Luntz, who conducted a California focus group that found most participants thought Sanders had won the debate, said on CNBC, “I think you’re going to see continued movement. Sanders has been gaining in California over the past two months.”