Apart from the battle for the presidency, at least 35 of the 100 seats in the Senate as well as all 435 seats in the House of Representatives will be up for election in November 2020. While Senator Bernie Sanders is gaining traction in the US polls and primaries, some Democrats worry whether his "socialist" agenda would alienate moderates and cost the party control of the House and an opportunity to regain the Senate.
Addressing the issue, the Los Angeles Times noted Tuesday that some Dems have taken a fresh look at former Vice President Joe Biden and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose message they find "less combustible".
According to Politico, the Republicans have already started to capitalise on the controversy by linking all the Democrats who threw their hats in the ring for the US Congress to Sanders' liberal policies including tax hikes and Medicare for all. For instance, Martha McSally, a Republican senator for Arizona castigated her Democratic contender for the Senate Mark Kelly as the "51st vote for all of Bernie’s wildest Soviet-style fantasies".
Mark Kelly is the 51st vote for all of Bernie’s wildest Soviet-style fantasies.— Martha McSally for U.S. Senate (@MarthaMcSally) February 15, 2020
This is why you can’t run around for a year taking three different positions (or no position) on every issue. Every vote in the Senate will matter. https://t.co/nNuQr23iAJ
For her part, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway has added fuel to the fire with her remark that Sanders "is not just the socialist standard-bearer" but the potential presidential nominee.
"Bernie Sanders has a tough road ahead of him because of the label of having 'socialist' policies", says Dr Zalmay Gulzad, professor at Harold Washington College in Chicago. "For example, his 'Medicare For All' does not resonate with people because they feel that their ability to choose a health care provider will be gone. The Democratic establishment is worried about his popularity with the middle-class youth and the blue-collar population because they fear of losing the election to Trump. Frankly, the Democrats do not have a candidate that has energised his base in this election".
To date, the Democratic establishment's attempts to propose a moderate alternative to Sanders have not borne fruit: Joe Biden is going down in the polls while Bloomberg's Wednesday night performance in Las Vegas was dubbed "weak" by the US media.
According to Dr Gulzad, Bloomberg's last minute entry into the elections "has further splintered the Democratic voters".
The academic warns against leaping to conclusions after Iowa and New Hampshire: "One will have to wait and see the election results from Nevada and South Carolina to determine Sanders' prognosis", he believes.
Nevertheless, he agrees that the Dems' anxiety over the influence of the "Sanders factor" on the elections to the US Congress is not completely unjustified: "It is a big problem for the Democratic Party and therefore a dilemma for its leaders", he says.
Dr Gulzad explains that on the one hand people will vote for their incumbent elected officials, but on the other, to increase their control in the Senate and keep the House is really a concern.
"It is hard to determine who could be the nominee but it will be very contentious and the base will find it hard to support the final candidate", the professor opines. "Donald Trump has a very good chance of being re-elected because of chaos in the Democratic Party".
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