Earlier today CNN’s Manu Raju asked Rep. Dean Phillips what he thought about the possibility of Bernie Sanders winning the Democratic nomination. Phillips is a freshman Democrat from Minnesota who defeated a Republican incumbent in 2018.
Asked Rep. Dean Phillips, a freshman from a swing MN district and Klobuchar backer, if he thinks Bernie Sanders atop the ticket could have a disastrous impact on down-ballot races. “To be forthright, yes, I do. I think it would have some significant down-ballot effects.”
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) February 13, 2020
“There are probably 25-30 seats that absolutely would be impacted directly by having a self-avowed socialist at the top of the ticket. And I say that…you know….he's not a Democrat, you know, and that's something that I wish was better understood,” Phillips added
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) February 13, 2020
“South Carolinians don’t want socialism,” Cunningham said. “We want to know how you are going to get things done and how you are going to pay for them. Bernie’s proposals to raise taxes on almost everyone is not something the Lowcountry wants and not something I’d ever support.”
Asked if he would support Sanders if he becomes the Democratic presidential nominee, Cunningham rejected the question’s premise.
“Bernie Sanders will not be the nominee,” he said.
And just yesterday the Associated Press reported on the same concerns from more freshmen Democrats:
“I’m a proud capitalist,” said freshman Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, in pointed contrast with Sanders. McAdams, who is supporting former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and whose Salt Lake City district will be among the toughest for Democrats to defend, said having a liberal like Sanders atop his party’s ticket “would probably give me more opportunities to show my independence” from the party.
Another freshman from a competitive district, Rep. Tom Malinowski, D-N.J., said Democrats need a presidential nominee who “doesn’t scare all those future former Republicans more than Trump scares them.” And while acknowledging that Republicans plan to tar all Democrats with the socialist label, ”There’s one candidate for whom that would not be a lie.”
Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., who backs the candidacy of former Vice President Joe Biden, warned a group of Democratic voters this week in Carson City, Nevada, that with Sanders atop the ticket, “you’re not going to take back the Senate. There’s not any way, because everybody’s going to be tarred with the same brush. We will probably lose seats in the House.”
In private conversations, other Democrats are more succinct. One House Democrat said colleagues from swing districts are scared by the prospects of a Sanders nomination, while another said moderates are increasingly concerned that a Sanders candidacy would devastate their prospects for winning the White House and retaining the House. The lawmakers insisted on anonymity to describe private conversations.
Here’s Cillizza’s take on why Democrats are right to be nervous:
Cunningham is one of 31 House Democrats who hold seats in districts that Trump carried in the 2016 election, seats that Republicans are planning to spend heavily on as they try to win back the majority they lost in the last midterm election. (Republicans need to net 18 seats to regain the majority.)
That these majority-maker Democrats are already willing to speak publicly about their belief that Sanders could cost the party the House speaks to the level of concern his ongoing rise is creating among those who would have to share the ballot with the senator from Vermont.
It’s not just the White House that Sanders is likely to lose. Having him at the top of the ticket makes it likely that some freshman Democrats in red districts will lose their seats. And if we see a blowout of the kind Jeremy Corbyn suffered last December in the UK, Republicans could retake the House.
According to Roll Call, it has been 30 years since Republicans gained 20 seats in a presidential election year, but I think a Sanders nomination would change the dynamic. And clearly, that’s what a lot of House Democrats think too.