But not the only one facing Democrats this mid-winter of their malcontents. They have a fragile House majority to protect in the fall, and a Senate minority with a golden opportunity to take control of the upper chamber. If the top of the ballot pits a mainstream Democrat against Donald Trump, Democrats feel confident about their down-ballot chances.
If, however, the party nominates an old socialist crank as its standard-bearer, bye bye Beltway, say Democrats in both chambers. Roll Call talked with a few very anxious members in the House about their prospects, and found out that the damage is already being done:
Even before Sanders won the New Hampshire primary Tuesday, as expected, and came in a close second in the Iowa delegate tally to Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, there were Democrats saying that nominating the senator from Vermont could threaten their House majority. They feared having the self-proclaimed democratic socialist at the top of the ticket could complicate efforts to win over the independents and moderate Republicans they need to win reelection.
“If it becomes a race between socialism and capitalism, yes, absolutely,” the majority is in danger, Minnesota Rep. Dean Phillips said. Phillips has endorsed his home-state senator, Amy Klobuchar, who finished third in New Hampshire.
Republicans were eager to tie vulnerable Democrats to Sanders. On Wednesday, the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with House GOP leadership, highlighted a report from The Hill in which Reps. Elaine Luria of Virginia and Haley Stevens of Michigan said they would support the eventual nominee, Sanders included.
“Elaine Luria was never a moderate and her decision to pledge her support to a socialist for President should make that as clear as day,” CLF spokesman Calvin Moore said in a statement.