Tags: 2020 Elections | berniesanders | heartattack | campaign | reset

Heart Attack Forces Sanders to Reset Campaign at Pivotal Moment

Heart Attack Forces Sanders to Reset Campaign at Pivotal Moment

Sunday, 06 October 2019 06:25 AM

Few audiences are more welcoming to Bernie Sanders than a pro-labor gathering. So his absence from a union forum in Los Angeles after a heart attack cast a shadow over his 2020 presidential bid.

As his rivals made a pitch for the influential Service Employees International Union’s support, Sanders was being discharged from a hospital in Las Vegas on Friday after experiencing chest pains on Tuesday night. Doctors inserted two stents into a blocked artery.

His Democratic competitors responded with a flurry of best wishes, praising Sanders’ energy and dedication to progressive values. But at the union forum, some activists were left wondering what comes next for Vermont senator, who turned 78 in September.

Sanders “not being here today could be a real hit for him,” said Joy’e Willman, vice president of SEIU Homecare local 99 in Portland, Oregon. “It shows a weakness. It’s a health issue. That could make people stop and think about whether to vote for him.”

The medical setback came at a pivotal moment for Sanders. Elizabeth Warren, his main progressive rival for the Democratic nomination, has pulled ahead of him in polls and now is statistically tied for first place with the longtime front-runner Joe Biden.

Off the Trail

It also forced Sanders off the road just as he was prepared to capitalize on an impressive $25.3 million haul in third-quarter fundraising -- more than any other Democrat -- in the hope of preventing Biden and Warren from making the primary a two-way contest.

The influx of funds, which brought his cash on hand to $33.7 million, was Sanders’ opportunity to grow his support in the polls above the mid-teens, where he stagnated all summer.

The heart attack also highlighted his status as the oldest of three septuagenarians who lead the Democratic field, including Joe Biden, 76, and Elizabeth Warren, 70. President Donald Trump, the likely Republican nominee, is 73. Voters know that while campaigning is stressful, being president is even more so.

Age and Health

“Age is definitely something that’s talked about among all candidates. And when we talk about age, we have to look at health issues and health concerns,” said Riley Talford, a member of SEIU local 521 in California.

Sanders is “strong, he goes hard,” said Talford. “But this is a little concerning.”

Sanders vowed Friday to return to work “after taking a short time off.” After his hospitalization his campaign canceled -- and then restarted -- a $1.3 million Iowa ad buy, and said he’d participate in the next Democratic debate on Oct. 15 in Ohio.

Many Sanders supporters want him to stay in the contest and fight.

“I love Bernie. I love his platform. There’s nobody that is more in step with our values than Bernie,” said SEIU member Rebecca Sandoval. “It’s important for him to stay in the race.”

The longer he stays in, she said, “the further toward progressive values the race will stay.”

‘Hoots and Hollers’

Part of Sanders’ challenge is that Warren appeals to many voters who backed him in 2016, offering a similar message of battling Wall Street and income inequality. She’s embraced his signature policy issue, Medicare for All, as she makes inroads with the party’s left wing, and is steadily rising in polls of Democrats nationally and in early-voting states.

SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry said Sanders’ heart incident won’t be a factor when it comes time for the union to endorse a candidate.

Henry said there were “huge hoots and hollers in the room” when Sanders’ name came up during the forum, signaling his support within the SEIU, the second-largest U.S. union with some 2 million members.

“My sense of our members is that because a million of them are health care workers, they’ve seen lots of people go through the procedure he’s gone through and get back to full living,” she said. More than a million Americans are fitted with stents each year to clear clogged arteries.

‘From the Heart’

Warren, asked about Sanders’ impact on the race so far, said he’s been “out there fighting from the heart for what he believes in, and he’ll be back doing that again very soon.”

“He’s tough,” she told reporters.

While Warren may attract some Sanders backers if he leaves the race, some of her allies believe his presence is helping her, by providing a buffer against Democratic centrists and donors who want to keep power away from the left. If Sanders were to exit, she’d become the principal recipient of those criticisms.

These people also prefer that Warren defeat Sanders fair and square, with no health problems tilting the playing field, to avoid legitimacy questions among left-leaning voters about having her as their standard bearer.

Carolyn Fletcher, a retiree who attended a Biden event this week in Reno, Nevada, said she wonders what a Sanders-like medical episode would mean for a prospective Democratic nominee’s ability to defeat Trump.

“I’m just scared to death that he’s going to win,” she said of the president.

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Few audiences are more welcoming to Bernie Sanders than a pro-labor gathering. So his absence from a union forum in Los Angeles after a heart attack cast a shadow over his 2020 presidential bid.As his rivals made a pitch for the influential Service Employees International...
berniesanders, heartattack, campaign, reset
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2019-25-06
Sunday, 06 October 2019 06:25 AM
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