As Bernie Sanders weighs a 2020 run, he will be engaged in serious damage control this week. On Wednesday, Sanders will meet with female staffers from his 2016 campaign who have complained in recent media reports of having endured sexual harassment from male colleagues, reports BuzzFeed. Women also were angry to learn that men were paid more. Beyond this particular issue, however, the 77-year-old Sanders is facing a wave of skeptical press coverage about his 2020 prospects. Details and developments:
- Critical piece: A lengthy Boston Globe story is a good example of the coverage. "Has the fire Berned out?" is the first sentence. The gist is that while Sanders gets credit among supporters for moving the Democratic Party "ideologically" on issues such as Medicare-for-all and a $15 minimum wage, some suspect "the party has moved past him personally."
- Troubling stat: When the liberal Daily Kos published a poll last week of 2020 contenders, Sanders came in fifth. (Elizabeth Warren was first.) Sanders was consistently No. 1 in 2016. The problem for him, Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas tells the Globe, is that unlike in 2016, "the mantle of 'progressive' can be carried by any number of candidates."
- One big hit: A New York Times story collected sexual harassment complaints from several women on the 2016 campaign, along with a defense by Sanders that hasn't sat well: Asked if he knew about such complaints, he said, “I was a little bit busy running around the country trying to make the case.”
- Another: A young woman who worked for Sanders in 2016 accused Robert Becker, who ran Sanders' Iowa campaign, of forcibly kissing her. Becker has denied the allegation. The woman came forward to Politico because she says Becker recently contacted her as part of his preparation for a 2020 Sanders campaign. "This can’t happen in 2020," says the unnamed woman. "You can’t run for president of the United States unless you acknowledge that every campaign demands a safe work environment for every employee and volunteer.”
- Key staffing moves: Politico reports that Sanders is in talks to bring in the media production company, Means of Production, that helped Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez rise to national prominence. He also has agreements from two key members of his hugely successful grass-roots fundraising operation from 2016 to return. The moves suggest Sanders is gearing up for a run—and he would have a formidable digital team in place if that happens.
- Demographic trouble: A new analysis at FiveThirtyEight sees trouble for Sanders in a key demographic. Millennials who supported him in 2016 appear to be abandoning him for younger alternatives such as Beto O'Rourke or Kamala Harris. It suggests that young voters who embraced him in 2016 "were mostly just looking for an alternative to Clinton," and now they have more options.
- Don't run, Bernie: Columnist Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Daily News is a huge Sanders supporter who writes this: Sanders "absolutely should NOT run for president again." (Basically, for all of the reasons mentioned above.) Bunch hopes Sanders plays a big role in shaping the race as the "spiritual and intellectual leader of the movement that he's built over half a century." But running again will only tarnish his legacy, writes Bunch.
- Run, Bernie: Sanders should run, writes Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone. He seems to be the only candidate ready to take on traditional backers of the Democratic Party such as Wall Street, Silicon Valley, and big pharma. "Whether it’s now or later, whoever takes on those interests is going to take a hell of a beating," writes Taibbi. "That Sanders seems willing to be that person seems reason enough to embrace another run."
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