If, last time, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) was running to prove a point, this time he’s running to win. And on Monday, his campaign flexed its muscle for the rest of the field, as if to indicate that they view themselves as not just the best nominee but the likely one as well.
On a call with reporters, senior advisor Jeff Weaver, campaign manager Faiz Shakir and campaign pollster Ben Tulchin went through a variety of data points meant to underscore the strong position that the 77-year-old senator occupies in his primary campaign. Top among them was the revelation that the campaign had already hired roughly 70 staffers across the country in addition to the estimated million-plus volunteers. By contrast, in the summer of 2015, that number was fewer than 30.
That added staff, the Sanders’ campaign said, would allow it to aggressively compete in the first five voting states, with California included in that group, given how early the voting process in the state will begin. In the 2016 cycle, Sanders had basically limited himself to initially competing in Iowa and New Hampshire in hopes that strong finishes in those states would catapult him nationally, which they did.
“We had to spend a tremendous amount of time and resources to introduce the senator,” Weaver said of the 2016 race.
As revealing as the data points were, the fact that the Sanders campaign even hosted a conference call for reporters was equally so. No 2020 primary candidate has done a similar call, in part because none has as much to brag about as Sanders. The senator has pulled in a massive fundraising haul, with $10 million raised in the first week. And his first two campaign rallies have attracted 25,000 people.
No other candidate in the field, at this early stage, can make similar boasts. Only Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) has had a larger singular campaign rally in her hometown of Oakland, and only she has come close to the small-dollar fundraising bonanza of Sanders’ bid. But even then the California Democrat drew only a quarter of his fundraising haul in their respective first days of campaigning.
A Democratic source affiliated with a competing campaign told The Daily Beast that they viewed the Sanders team decision to hold the call and tout these points as a flex of sorts for the other candidates in the race. A Sanders aide knocked down the notion that the call was timed or motivated for any reason.
On the call, Shakir stressed that the Sanders campaign had a strategy to not only steer him through a primary but to defeat President Trump in a head-to-head matchup, with Tulchin noting that he had performed the best among “announced” candidates. (Former Vice President Joe Biden has, at times, led among Democrats in a matchup against Trump).
“We are building this campaign to win,” Shakir said, reflecting a confidence that infused the whole team.
—With reporting by Sam Stein.