Obama's campaign manager: Bernie Sanders could be the Democratic nominee but won't beat Trump

Jim Messina was Barack Obama’s campaign manager in 2012. In a podcast hosted by ABC News’ Jonathan Karl, Messina says flatly that he believes Bernie Sanders cannot beat Trump in the 2020 general election:


“Can Bernie Sanders beat Donald Trump?” ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl asked Messina on the Powerhouse Politics podcast on Wednesday.

“No,” Messina responded.

“Why?” Karl asked.

“I think if you look at swing voters in this country they are incredibly focused on the economy,” Messina replied. “I think today you look at it and say that Bernie Sanders is unlikely going to be able to stand up to the constant barrage that is Donald Trump on economic issues.”

Despite being down on Sanders’ chances in the general, Messina does think he has a real shot of clinching the nomination this time out:

“If nothing else, he will definitely be one of the final two or three candidates who has a shot at the nomination,” Messina said.

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif, also made Messina’s list, as did former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke and former Vice President Joe Biden, who has not declared he’s running.

So that’s an interesting combination. He thinks Sanders is one of 3-4 who could win the nomination but that it would be a disaster in the general. Messina was a Hillary supporter in 2016 and ran a major PAC supporting her candidacy. Just days before the election in Novermber 2016, he predicted in the NY Times that her campaign was likely to win because of superior data handling.


Today, campaigns can target voters so well that they can personalize conversations. That is the only way, when any candidate asks about the state of the race, to offer a true assessment.

Hillary Clinton can do that. To my knowledge, Donald J. Trump, who has bragged that he doesn’t care about data in campaigns, can’t.

Obviously, that didn’t work out the way Messina expected and, like a lot of Hillary alum, he may hold a bit of a grudge at Bernie Sanders for running such a successful insurgent campaign. In other words, he may have personal reasons for saying this about Sanders, but he’s also someone who has been surprised by Trump before. Maybe he’s just learned something. And he’s right about the economy. It’s doing pretty well right now so the appeal of changing everything in favor of a Democratic Socialist model may be less appealing now than it was four years ago.

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