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Whispers: Why hasn't AOC been on the trail for Bernie much lately?

Some schadenfreudean fun via Politico, and not the first “Team Bernie feuding with AOC?” story of the past 30 days. It started with this innocuous tweet:

Nothing too notable about that. Ocasio-Cortez is far left, Warren is far left, obviously they’re going to be simpatico even if Warren wasn’t AOC’s candidate of choice. Plus it’s basic good pracice for a big Bernie booster like Ocasio-Cortez to say flattering things about Warren at a moment when Sanders badly wants her endorsement.

Just one progressive paying another progressive a compliment. Meh.

Or is there more to it? A Politico reporter chimed in:

Come to think of it, I haven’t seen many Ocasio-Cortez tweets about Bernie lately. There was this on the day of the Nevada caucus and a few tweets on the night before Super Tuesday. And … that’s really it. Lots of coronavirus tweeting, some promotion of failed House candidate Jessica Cisneros. By no means was she in flood-the-zone GOTV mode for Sanders. What gives? It’s not like Bernie had been on a long, slow decline lately such that she might reasonably want to run away from him. He was still expected to clean up on Tuesday night even after Biden’s blowout in South Carolina. AOC couldn’t have seen the extent of Joementum coming.

Is there something else going on here? Let me remind you of this Vanity Fair report from February 12, after Bernie had just won Iowa and New Hampshire.

Following Ocasio-Cortez’s three-day stint, Sanders’s campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, texted AOC’s campaign manager to express his dissatisfaction with aspects of her performance, according to a source familiar with the exchange. Specifically, the Sanders campaign was miffed that Ocasio-Cortez didn’t mention Sanders by name when she closed out a campaign event at the University of Iowa on a Friday night at the end of last month—a fact that Fox News picked up on…

Ocasio-Cortez’s comments about the abolition of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Patrol were also seen by some within the Sanders campaign as going too far, straying from Sanders’s stance on the issues in encouraging people not to cooperate with law enforcement agencies, according to this source. During an event in Ames, Iowa, Ocasio-Cortez told the crowd, “Organizing is about tipping people off if you start to see that ICE and CBP are in communities to try and keep people safe.”…

Ocasio-Cortez and her team, after all they’d done for Sanders, were said to be annoyed at being called on the carpet. And AOC’s team is also said to have had concerns about radio host Joe Rogan’s controversial unofficial endorsement of Sanders.

Any rift seemed to have been healed by that point, though. AOC was at his big closing-night rally in New Hampshire on February 10. What could have happened in the past three weeks, during most of which time Sanders was the frontrunner and likely nominee? She was on CNN to make the case for him as recently as last night so it’s not like there’s been a falling out. She just seems to have … dialed back on the Berniemania a little lately.

Although, in fairness to her, so has the entire party.

Maybe something’s going on behind the scenes. Or maybe she’s reluctant to travel lately and gladhand crowds because of coronavirus. (As I say, she’s been tweeting about it a lot.) Or maybe she’s concluded Bernie’s not great for her brand? That seems counterintuitive because of his success in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada but this answer at his press conference yesterday is noteworthy:

Sanders has underperformed on youth turnout the entire campaign thus far, an alarming fact for a candidate whose bread and butter is supposed to be young voters. Twentysomething progressives are the group that’s supposedly going to sweep him to the presidency this fall against Trump by showing up in numbers so fantastically huge that they’ll offset any underperformance among black voters, suburbanites, and working-class whites. The most famous twentysomething progressive in the country is AOC herself, a charismatic young radical poised to inherit Bernie’s movement once he finally retires. If anyone can deliver DSA dipsh*ts for him by whipping them up on the trail in historic numbers, she can. Allegedly.

But she hasn’t. And maybe, after watching him underperform with that group early, she concluded that the poor showing was starting to damage her own political image. She doesn’t want to be known as someone whose hold on her alleged core constituency is weaker than everyone thought when she’s eyeing a run for Senate or president in the next decade. So possibly she backed off, hoping that if Biden underperformed with the young again on Super Tuesday — and he did — that he’d take the fall for it rather than her. Something to watch going forward.