The last time Bernie Sanders ran in the presidential elections, he was treated as an outcast in the Democratic Caucus in the Senate: his colleagues thought his campaign was a liberal fantasy that only served to harm to Hillary Clinton.
This time, however, the Vermont Independent receives a warmer welcome from Senators, who make up much of the Democratic establishment against which he is scandalized.
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Senate Democrats say they are more and more willing to support Sanders if he appears to be the strongest candidate in a year. And the attempts to try to deny him the candidacy are not at all questionable, according to interviews with more than 20 Democratic senators.
It is not that the Democratic caucus rallies behind it; most of them would prefer a more ordinary candidate, even if they do not want to say it now. But they give Sanders props for what he's accomplished, and say that if he's able to win the nomination, he has more power.
"I was wondering if he could get back on the bike after four years. But he got off to a good start, "said Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), The Second Democratic Party and a Fervent supporter Clinton in 2016. "I know Bernie, I worked with Bernie, I understand it. People have images of him that may be different from mine. But what if you tell me about Bernie Sanders versus Donald Trump? No problem."
Senator Patrick Leahy, from his home country, also quickly endorsed Clinton's candidacy earlier this year. Leahy said Sanders did not bother to ask for his support four years ago because he was already with Clinton.
Sanders returned the party at the party after hailing him for being a fool with Clinton in 2016. He signed a loyalty pledge with the Democratic National Committee and said he would not show himself against his opponents. And his team sees a Democratic party that is no longer hostile to the liberal ideals it has long advocated on the minimum wage, health care and foreign policy, as well as a DNC really committed to an open and open primary.
"I do not want to speak on behalf of Bernie, but I feel he is convinced that the rules of the game are fair," said Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii). "And even if he does not succeed, his opinions are well represented within the Democratic Party."
Sanders was added to the Senate leadership team after his defeat in 2016, placing him close to Democratic leaders with whom he had little to see before. The exhibition "pushed Bernie to get closer to the inside of the party," said Larry Cohen, president of the pro-Sanders Our Revolution group.
Democratic leader Chuck Schumer remains neutral in the cluttered primary, as is the vast majority of Senate Democrats caught in an uncomfortable position between the half-dozen senators currently in the running. In general, senators try to avoid talking to one candidate for fear of shocking a caucus member.
Yet, it is clear that the way Senators Democrats see Sanders has changed dramatically over the past three years. They said they respect the movement he has built and his potential to help the party defeat Trump, whether Sanders is the proposed candidate or not.
Many Democrats insisted on anonymity to speak frankly of the primary, but they recognized that Sanders was no longer a persona non grata.
"I certainly hear a lot of concern in the political world [about Sanders]. I do not hear much inside, "said a Democratic senator. The Democrats "see it differently because it does not run against Hillary Clinton. He is a major player in the party in a way he was not. He looked like a quixotic candidate. It's not as if people were sitting there thinking about how to keep him running this time.
There are several reasons for this. The Democrats believe there is a decent chance that Sanders is doing it alone and that pursuing it afterwards would only give ammunition to him and his supporters to attack insiders in Washington. But there is also the feeling that if Sanders can be on a par with 2020, he deserved it.
"The worst thing to do is to push someone outside. They just dig harder, "added a second Democratic senator. "I guess at the moment, if you want to do a poll, he's the favorite to win."
Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) experienced the Sanders phenomenon During the final days of his deliberations, he personally ran for president as he flew with Sanders and Senator Cory Booker (DN.J.) to Selma, Alaska this month. -this.
"There were a lot of people who wanted selfies with Bernie. Much more than selfies wanted with me, "he joked. "There is a lot of affection for him."
But it's not just selfies, it's money and organization. Sanders raised $ 6 million in a day when he launched his campaign. He is clearly the second choice in the first polls after Joe Biden, who did not participate in the race. He also hired Faiz Shakir, a former senior adviser to Harry Reid, as the campaign director, a new approach to the 2016 insular campaign that cracked down on the Democratic establishment.
Brooklyn, 77, has a diverse group of campaign co-chairs, including Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Former Ohio State Senator Nina Turner, and the Mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz.
"He demonstrated that he was a serious and formidable candidate. And I think the field will shrink very quickly, "said Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Predicting that Sanders would" definitely "survive the first selection of candidates and that he would be comfortable with Sanders in as a candidate.
Sanders took note of the change of tone.
"The Democratic caucus is respected for the movement that Bernie has built and supported over the last four years," said Sanders campaign leader Faiz Shakir in a statement. "As a result, the ideas put forward by Bernie in 2016 have become the norm in the Democratic caucus and leaders have adopted his message: to attack rich and powerful businesses."
Shakir added that Sanders was "encouraged by the willingness of his colleagues to collaborate" and noted that a "record number of people" have co-sponsored bills such as Medicare for All.
That does not mean that Sanders does not have his Democratic detractors. The most conservative Democratic senator, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, refused to pledge to support Sanders over Trump if the Vermont senator won the nomination. Manchin and Sanders have long had a cold relationship.
"Whatever the Democrats' candidate, I will look at him very closely. And maybe even work for, "said Manchin.
All other Democrats surveyed as part of this story said that they would support Sanders if he was a candidate.
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), However, is not yet ready to support anyone after being the sole supporter of Sanders' Senate in 2016.
Several senators have said in private that Trump would be able to defeat Sanders more easily than any other Democrat. It echoes the Republicans' view that a Sanders nomination would be a "gift" to the outgoing president, as Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) said.
But most Democrats have expressed confidence that the president will be removed from office by 2021.
"We will beat Trump, whoever the candidate is," said Brown.
A handful of Democratic senators openly question Sanders' program. Senator Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) Stated that it was "unimaginable" that Sanders does not qualify Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro as a "dictator", which speaks volumes about his keen sense of foreign policy.
"If you want to be president, you deal with domestic politics and foreign policy. And I do not understand how one can not just recognize a dictator as a dictator, "said Menendez, who supports Booker.
And Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), Who is lobbying for Biden to enter the race, asked how Sanders would "propose a political agenda" that could become law.
"This year is different and expectations are much greater" for Sanders, added Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), Another close ally of Biden.
Yet most of his rivals subscribed to Sanders calls for a higher minimum wage, universal health care and tougher environmental regulations. Whether he is a candidate or not, the Democratic Party is now part of Sanders' party, his former skeptical Senate colleagues admit.
"It brings a dimension to our primaries," said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), "This will help us win and recover the White House."