67°F
weather icon Clear

Sanders’ second presidential run looks much like his first

But three months into his second presidential campaign, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is struggling with some of the same challenges that sank his last bid: doubts about his electability, worries about support from minority voters and an opponent with deep ties to the party establishment.

The 77-year-old entered the Democratic race with an organized donor base, name recognition and experience earned from 2016, giving him an instant edge over his rivals. His front-runner status, however, proved short-lived.

Former Vice President Joe Biden’s surge to the top of the pack has exposed Sanders’ struggle to expand his appeal. Polls have shown the senator with a grip on a significant slice of Democrats, but there are few signs yet that he is building support.

Sanders is not alone in the stasis. Many in the 23-candidate field are looking for ways to break out of the pack, and Sanders, at least, appears to have an edge over all but Biden. But perhaps more than most others, Sanders and his team have signaled they will not relaunch his campaign or tweak his strategy.

Sticking to plans

As some of his frustrated rivals made changes, Sanders has stuck close to the message, stump speech and campaign style that powered his failed underdog bid in 2016. His 2020 effort may test whether Democrats are hungry for that do-over or want a new face to rally the left wing of the party against the more moderate Biden.

Plowing past such questions, Sanders projected confidence as he faced New Hampshire voters on Monday. He predicted strong showings in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada and California.

“We have a very strong path to victory,” Sanders said.

He and his team vowed to run a bigger and stronger campaign this time. And, in many ways, he has — charting an aggressive national travel schedule backed by a larger and more diverse campaign team. His team also says it has modest plans to reach African American voters in key early states. He recently finished a tour of the Deep South, bringing his liberal economic message to black voters who largely backed Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Yet Sanders himself sits at the center of any campaign strategy, and the white-haired self-described democratic socialist is well past the point of reinventing himself or his approach. Example A: As he launched his bid, his campaign told reporters he would adopt a more personal tone on the campaign trail, but Sanders quickly returned to his familiar promises to transform a rigged system that favors the rich at the expense of the working class.

“One thing they can say about him across the board is he has been authentic, and he has been consistent,” said Nina Turner, a co-chair for Sanders’ campaign.

“This time around, the senator has more time,” Turner added. “He got into the race late last time, and not only does he have more time, he has almost 100% name recognition as well. The combination of those two things gives him the synergy that he needs to win the primary.”

Biden emerging

Biden, since launching his campaign a month ago , has emerged as a problem for the entire Democratic field. Polls show that the former vice president is popular among every key demographic, including African Americans and the white working class people who defected to Donald Trump in 2016.

Sanders’ advisers expect Biden to struggle under the weight of his front-runner status once debates begin next month . They view Biden’s record on trade, in particular, as problematic among working-class voters in the Midwest. Biden voted to support the North American Free Trade Agreement as a senator and supported several trade deals in the Obama administration that are deeply unpopular with union workers.

Sanders, by contrast, has spent the last quarter century railing against NAFTA and consistently opposed more recent trade deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

At the same time, Sanders’ team knows his standing with black voters could be a problem, particularly in South Carolina, the first Southern state on the presidential primary calendar and one where Clinton bested Sanders by 47 percentage points in 2016.

Targeting South Carolina

Armed with a more diverse staff in his downtown Washington headquarters, Sanders has quietly launched a paid media campaign in several South Carolina newspapers that target African Americans.

“You know better than I do that the system is rigged,” a smiling Sanders says in a full-page ad that ran in the Carolina Panorama, the Charleston Chronicle and the Black News.

“Racism has been used to divide us up and undermine the power of our working-class majority,” Sanders continues in the ad. “Let me be clear: There is no freedom without racial, social and economic equality.”

Sanders’ liabilities with black voters were clear last month at a forum in Houston dedicated to women of color , where he was booed by the overwhelming black and Hispanic audience when he offered a vague answer about what he would do for black women if elected. Later, there were audible groans when he recounted his youth activism in the civil rights movement.

Some in the audience were disappointed that Sanders offered his standard stump speech and not specific solutions aimed at the audience.

“I’m not really clear on talking point, talking point, talking point, didn’t necessarily feel like it came from the heart,” Cherisse Scott, 44, of Memphis, Tennessee, said after the forum. “I know that he’s been in the game a long time so maybe it’s just second nature, but I want to see more. … When there is a question asked to you directly about black women, I want you to answer the question.”

New Hampshire troubles

Meanwhile, Sanders faces new headwinds in New Hampshire, a state he dominated in 2016.

His campaign acknowledged the state is a “must win.” But recent polls suggest he’s trailing Biden while a handful of other Democrats, including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, are within striking distance.

Local Democrats have noticed that Sanders has paid less attention to the state than virtually all his competitors so far; his Monday visit was only his third this year. And as of Monday, he had fewer paid staff on the ground there than little-known former Maryland congressman John Delaney, although more staff announcements are expected soon.

Advisers note that Sanders has been particularly focused on the states that will host primary contests on the first Tuesday in March, so-called Super Tuesday. He heads to one of them, California, for a multiday swing late next week.

It was all about New Hampshire on Monday, however. Sanders returned to the state with an ice-cream-social-themed event in Warner, New Hampshire, where he preached for a half-hour to a crowd of hundreds from a stage at the bottom of a hill.

Not everyone in the crowd was a Sanders loyalist. Bobbi Slossar, a 47-year-old librarian, backed Sanders in 2016 and remains excited about him, though she’s “also interested to see what the rest of the field holds.”

“I was 100 percent committed (to Bernie) last time, and I was a little disillusioned by the process,” she said. “And so we’ll see what this time holds.”

Others, like 55-year-old Elvena Anderson, are still wowed by Sanders despite some disappointments.

“He hasn’t been here enough,” she said. “I think he should come more.”

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
Henderson allows immediate sale of alcohol with curbside pickup - VIDEO
The city of Henderson decided Thursday evening to allow alcohol to be sold by restaurants as part of their curbside pickup service during the COVID-19 crisis. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sisolak signs order banning any gathering of 10 or more people - VIDEO
Gov. Steve Sisolak on Tuesday signed a new order banning any gathering of 10 or more people in Nevada in another step the state has taken to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Takeaways from the president's daily briefing on coronavirus - VIDEO
RJ Washington correspondent Debra Saunders talks about today's daily White House news conference regarding the coronavirus outbreak, Friday, March 20, 2020. (Renee Summerour/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Judicial Department 5 Debate - Video
The Las Vegas Review-Journal hosts a debate between the 3 candidates running for Department 5 in Clark County District Court. Participating are Veronica M. Barisich, Terry A. Coffing and Blair Cowan Parker.
Trump cancels Las Vegas trip because of ‘coronavirus outbreak’ - VIDEO
President Donald Trump canceled planned travel to Las Vegas ‘out of an abundance of caution’ amid virus outbreak. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trump signs $8.3 billion coronavirus package - VIDEO
President Trump signed a bill providing $8.3 billion in emergency funding to combat the coronavirus outbreaK, Friday, March 6, 2020. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sen. Rosen supports Judge Togliatti - VIDEO
Sen. Jacky Rosen shows her support for Nevada Judge Jennifer Togliatti to be appointed to the federal bench. (Sen. Jacky Rosen)
Sen. Cortez Masto shows support for Judge Togliatti - VIDEO
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto shows her support for senior state District Court Judge Jennifer Togliatti to be appointed to the federal bench in Nevada. (Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto)
MSNBC’s Chris Matthews resigns following series of controversies - VIDEO
The "Hardball" host announced his departure Monday night, March 2, 2020, effective immediately. The anchor recently came under fire for comparing Sen. Bernie Sanders’ victory in the Nevada caucasus to the Nazi conquest of France in 1940. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Candidates file for office in Clark County - VIDEO
Amy Klobuchar drops out of 2020 presidential race - VIDEO
On March 2, campaign officials announced Amy Klobuchar’s decision to suspend her presidential bid. The news comes on the eve of Super Tuesday and just one day after Pete Buttigieg also announced his decision to depart from the race. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Activist shouts warnings at Nevada Democratic chairman's home - VIDEO
A Southern California activist and supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders spent nearly an hour shouting warnings and condemnations of the Democratic Party through a megaphone at the home of Nevada Democratic Party Chairman William McCurdy II on the eve of last week’s presidential caucuses, prompting him to call the police. (Maria Estrada)
The Nevada caucus in photos
Best shots from the Review-Journal photo staff's coverage of the Nevada Caucus, Saturday, February 22, 2020.
Bernie Sanders announces his Nevada caucus win to supporters in Texas
At a rally in San Antonio, Texas, Bernie Sanders announces winning the Nevada Democratic caucus.
Joe Biden addresses supporters in Las Vegas
Joe Biden energizes a crowd of supporters at the IBEW Hall in Las Vegas after the Nevada Democratic caucus.
Tweet highlights from the 2020 Nevada Democratic caucus
Confusion, flaring tempers and misinformed volunteers highlighted Review-Journal tweets during the Nevada Democratic caucus.
Voters comment on Nevada Democratic caucus - VIDEO
Nevada caucusgoers comment on the process from locations across the Las Vegas Valley, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Doolittle Community Center hosts caucuses - VIDEO
The Doolittle Community Center hosted six precincts in one room for the Nevada Democratic caucuses, and voters engaged in debate and discussion about who to lead each precinct, Feb. 22, 2020. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Desert Oasis High School has wait for caucus check-in - VIDEO
James Strange has been waiting in line to caucus for the first time for 45 minutes and some said they have been waiting for an hour at Desert Oasis High School for the Nevada Democratic caucuses. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Conservative guru encourages Republicans to vote in Democratic caucuses - VIDEO
Republican activist Chuck Muth encourages his fellow GOP members to change party affiliation for a day to elect Bernie Sanders. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Nevada Congresswoman Susie Lee at Desert Oasis High School - VIDEO
Rep. Susie Lee, D-Nev., stopped by the Nevada Democratic caucus at Desert Oasis High School in Las Vegas, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Caucus day in Summerlin - VIDEO
Out-of-state caucus observer Ken Valz speaks about the Nevada Democratic caucuses at Palo Verde High School, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Doors open for Nevada Democratic caucuses - VIDEO
Caucusgoers are lining up Saturday morning to take part in the Nevada Democratic caucuses across the state (Renee Summerour/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Caucus day at East Last Vegas Community Center - VIDEO
Registration begins at the East Las Vegas Community Center for the Nevada Democratic caucuses, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
It’s caucus day in Nevada - VIDEO
Democrats will gather at over 250 locations across the state to declare their presidential preferences in the Nevada caucuses, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Democratic caucus-goers lined up to register at Liberty High - VIDEO
Democratic caucus-goers lined up to register at Liberty High in Henderson, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Elizabeth Warren holds rally with Julian Castro
Elizabeth Warren held her Get Out the Caucus Block Party with Secretary Julián Castro at the Clark County Government Center Amphitheater.
Trump caps western swing with campaign rally in Las Vegas
President Trump speaks to an enthusiastic crowd of thousands gathered at the Las Vegas Convention Center during a tour across the western United States.
Anti-Trump Protestors at LVCC Rally - Video
President Trump speaks at a Keep America Great rally as a small group of protesters gather outside the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Thousands gather for Trump rally
Thousands showed up for President Donald Trump’s rally Friday morning, forming a line that stretched nearly a quarter mile around the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Trump supporters camp outside the Las Vegas Convention Center
Trump supporters camp outside the Las Vegas Convention Center on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, where President Trump will held a rally on Friday in Las Vegas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
President Trump lands in Las Vegas - VIDEO
Donald Trump landed in Las Vegas on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020, as part of a four-day western state swing. (James Schaeffer/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Long lines during early voting in Las Vegas - VIDEO
The final day of the Nevada Democratic Party’s early presidential caucuses wrapped up Tuesday, as thousands of Democrats lined up at 55 locations around the state for their last shot at filing an early preference card before the traditional caucuses on Saturday. Long lines were seen at CSN Charleston in Las Vegas. (Alexis Egeland/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Democratic candidates Elizabeth Warren and Tom Steyer talk pay for child care workers - Video
Elizabeth Warren and Tom Steyer talk to care in action about the importance of Medicare for All, paid leave and child care. (Nathan Asselin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Election 2020: Nevada Caucus and Early Voting - Video
AARP's Nevada Caucus discussion with Steve Sebelius about the Nevada Caucus and early voting.
Election 2020: Nevada Caucus - Video
AARP's Nevada Caucus Discussion with Steve Sebelius. Join us as we discuss the Nevada Caucus process.
Las Vegas ready to enforce homeless camping ban - VIDEO
Las Vegas police will begin enforcing a controversial camping ban on city streets on Saturday, but officials say they expect to impose the penalties available under the new ordinance only in rare instances. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Yvanna Cancela Speaks on Supporting Biden - Video
The RJ Politics podcast crew sits down with Nevada State Senator Yvanna Cancela to discuss why she is supporting former Vice President Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential race.
Tom Steyer on Donald Trump and the economy - Video
Tom Steyer joins the RJ Politics podcast to talk about his campaign presence in Nevada and how he plans to take Trump on when talking about the economy. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas City Council Votes On Homeless Ordinance - Video
The Las Vegas City Council on Wednesday will discuss expanding on a controversial camping and sleeping ban aimed at deterring the homeless from bivouacking on city streets to include hours when public sidewalks are being cleaned.
THE LATEST
Democrats delay national convention until August

Prospective nominee Joe Biden said he didn’t think it would be possible to hold a normal convention in mid-July because of the coronavirus pandemic.