MADISON, Wis. – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) Walked here and there. 2016.
He repeated the epithet Saturday at a union hall in Michigan, another Trump state. "The most profound one is that he said he was going to stand with the working class of this country," Sanders said.
The blistering attacks on the president Sanders' developing, and arguably risky, strategy of reaching out to Trump's voters It's a sharp contrast with other Democratic candidates who are focused on mobilizing Trump opponents. Not incidentally, it is also a way to signal Democrats that Sanders are their best hope for knocking off Trump, at a time when many fear he is the opposite.
The most striking example of this strategy will be published on Monday night when Sanders appears at a town hall meeting hosted by Fox News Channel. Sanders says it's important to talk to Fox viewers directly and tell them Trump misled them.
Sanders' approach faces a significant test in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, all part of the world, working in the classics were drawn to Trump's fiery populist message in 2016. Sanders argues he can reclaim these voters by convincing them he can deliver the economic relief they were seeking all along.
But many Democrats across the country are unconvinced, even though they are more likely to have a strong grip on the subject.
Some worry that a septuagenarian democratic socialist who wants to transform government will alienate the political center – not only helping help Trump win a second term goal erasing recent gains by centrist Democratic lawmakers in suburban areas.
If Sanders "wins the nomination, Trump will be president again," said Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.). "I will guarantee it."
Many of the Democratic gains in the 2018 election were made by candidates who were visited in recent years.
In Wisconsin and Michigan, Democrats nominated more traditional candidates for governors and recruits both seats from Republicans. Some Democrats say a similar model to the path to victory in 2020.
Framing Sanders as the face of the Democratic Party, as the Fox would rather help Trump rather than hurt him, they contend.
The divide over Sanders reflects a dilemma at the heart of the Democratic primary: Should the party nominate a Democratic version of Trump who can match his combativeness, energizing liberals and taking the fight to the president? Or should it embrace a consensus builder, one who can rise above the country's partisan anger and bring people together?
That question could take on even greater significance in coming weeks with the expected candidacy of vice president Joe Biden. Biden's bipartisan approach would sharpen the contrast between the field's "unified" – Biden, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) And train congressman Beto O'Rourke – and its more aggressive supporters like Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
Democratic concerns about Sanders echo some of the attacks Trump and his allies are deploying against the senator. They have said that they would like to say that they would like to talk about it, and that they would like to talk about democracy and up and down the nerd.
Trump's comments on Sanders have been two-sided, simultaneously insulting him and building him up. Last year, Trump castigated the senator, whom he calls "Crazy Bernie," for the fight against the skimpier health insurance policies backed by Trump, tweeting, "Crazy Bernie and his band of Congressional Dems will outlaw these plans. Disaster! "
Trump told reporters, "I like Bernie," seeking to stoke complaints by Sanders' loyalists that the Democratic Party mistreated him in 2016. "I think he was taken advantage of," Trump said , at an Oval Office signing ceremony. "I thought what happened to Bernie Sanders four years ago was quite sad."
Sanders' campaign manager, meanwhile, calls Trump to "fake Bernie Sanders" on trade At Sanders' first campaign rally this year, an introductory speaker cited the "Crazy Bernie" label as a bade of honor.
At his Michigan rally Saturday, Sanders is in the trump's reworked version of the North American Free Trade Agreement, calling it weak on labor protections and urging the president to scrap it.
All this sets up an intriguing backdrop for Sanders' Fox Appearance. Fox is Trump's favorite network, and he has a good relationship with some of its hosts. Sanders' appearance on the face of the body is a pathological liar couldprovoke one of the president's outraged responses.
In his first two months as a candidate, Sanders has gotten off to a fast fundraising start, drawing large crowds and posting impressive showings in early polls.
Still, Sanders' Midwestern rallies of recent days have not attracted the same massive crowds as during its New York and Chicago earlier this year. The hearings have shown some signs of animosity to current and form rivals; Mark Craig, Missing Trump and Hillary Clinton with Expletives on his Sanders during his speech Saturday in Warren, Mich.
The next phase of his campaign, officials said, will be focused on activating a million people and persuading voters that he is electable.
Campaign manager Faiz Shakir described this phase as "continuing to address what I think is one of the most important questions in this race. Who is the best candidate to defeat Donald Trump?" He argued that Sanders is "uniquely" to "so".
Sanders' Supporters say they are deeply frustrated and looking for a leader who will shake things up. They note that 11 percent of voters who were selected in the 2016 National Democratic Election Studies survey. Another 8 percent voted for minor-party candidates, and Sanders's camp argues he has a shot with them as well.
Anita Cox, a 52-year-old teacher who attended the Sanders rally in Indiana Saturday wearing a "Feel the Bern" button, said she knows what she's saying Sanders could win over. "Maybe they believed his lies," Cox said.
At Sanders in Michigan, Christina Fong, who supported Sanders in 2016, said she knows some people who voted for Sanders and then Trump. Sanders can win them back, she said.
"Unfortunately, a lot of times people are really angry, and sometimes they're moving that anger," said Fong, a 54-year-old musician from Grand Rapids. "So they remain angry, which he's getting into," she added, speaking of Sanders.
But many Democratic leaders are watching Sanders with concern, believing that the better bet for beating Trump is a less hostile messenger with a more moderate message. Nominating someone who no one knows the difference Democrats could lose in 2020, they argue.
"I do not think about anybody's for basically socialism. I really do not, "said Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), Who won last year Trump captured decisively in 2016.
Sanders' unapologetic embrace of a Medicare-for-all health plan that would effectively eliminate private insurance also worries some party operatives. Democrats won in 2018 by depicting GOP health plans as extreme, they say, and they have no desire to see the tables turned in 2020.
"I think when people find out that some people want to take away people's employment, that's going to be very bad for some Democrats, especially in some of these affluent suburbs," said Ian Russell, executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which coordinates the party's House campaigns.
Sanders campaigned for Democrats in the Midwest several times in the run-up to the 2018 midterms, but most of his endorsed candidates lost. Kansas's Brent Welder and Iowa's Pete D'Alessandro, for example, were defeated in their homes by the moderate Democrats who went on to win in November.
Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Who faces reelection in a ruby red state, said his constituents want a consensus builder at the top of the ticket, "who who can govern, who can reach across, not only across the aisle, but within the various groups, within the Democratic Party. "He declined to discuss whether qualified Sanders.
In many ways, the Democrats' current dynamic shows similarities with the Republican landscape in 2016, when Trump prevailed: a party unsure how to deal with a rowdy populist of outside its traditional ranks, a crowded field that plays to his advantage and an unpredictable political climate.
Republicans, for their part, say they are eager to run against Sanders.
"Speaking for North Carolina, if America had a choice between a self-avowed socialist and a free market capitalist, he loses," said Sen. Thom Tillis (NC), who is up for reelection. "Period, end of story."
Of course, Democrats said the same thing about Trump in 2016. And many in the party are signaling that they recognize the political appeal of Sanders' positions.
When Sanders unveiled his Medicare-for-all bill on Wednesday, he had 13 co-sponsors, including four of his presidential rivals. One of them, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Appeared at a news conference with Sanders.
In another echo of the Trump 2016 phenomenon, Sanders' rivals, for now at least, are being careful what they say about him, wary of starting a feud and attracting the wrath of his followers.
As she left the Capitol on Wednesday, Warren, who is also seeking the appointment, agreed that Sanders has gotten off to a fast start. But when asked why, she demurred.
"I'm sorry, but I'm late," she said as she walked briskly away. A few seconds later, she added, "He's doing great."
David Weigel and Scott Clement contributed to this report.