Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders is open to running for president in 2024 if President Biden declines to seek reelection, according to a campaign memo a top political adviser distributed to allies on Wednesday that was shared with The Washington Post.
“In the event of an open 2024 Democratic presidential primary, Sen. Sanders has not ruled out another run for president, so we advise that you answer any questions about 2024 with that in mind,” says the memo from Faiz Shakir, a close Sanders adviser who was his campaign manager when he ran in 2020.
The memo was shared by a person with direct knowledge of its contents on the condition of anonymity because it was not released publicly, and confirmed by a second person with direct knowledge of the contents.
Shakir did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“While it’s frustrating this private memo leaked to the media, the central fact remains true, which is that Senator Sanders is the most popular officeholder in the country,” said Sanders spokesman Mike Casca, when asked for comment. Casca and the memo based that assertion on a recent poll.
Still, many Democrats see Sanders as a polarizing figure whose socialism label and association to Democratic candidates could hurt in the general election, particularly in swing areas, dragging down candidates.
Not long after he ended his 2020 campaign, Sanders said during a Washington Post Live event in May of 2020 that the likelihood of him running for president again was “very, very slim.” Biden has said he intends to run for reelection, but cautioned last year that he had “never been able to plan … four years ahead, for certain.”
The note about 2024 comes at the very end of the memo from Shakir, titled “Embrace the attacks,” which mostly advises campaigns supported by Sanders on how to address criticism and questions they could receive over his support.
“As campaigning heats up in states across the country, your political opponents and their corporate-aligned allies will try to make you feel defensive about Sen. Bernie Sanders’ support for your candidate,” writes Shakir.
He adds, “Our advice is to embrace the attacks.”
The memo also provides an update on the senator’s endorsement and travel plans. “Sen. Sanders is interested in endorsing more candidates and we’d love your help identifying potential target races,” says the memo. It also welcomes recommendations on where to travel.
The 80-year-old Sanders has long been active in midterm campaigns and has tended to endorse more liberal candidates. Among others this year, he is supporting Jessica Cisneros, a 28-year-old immigration lawyer who is challenging Rep. Henry Cuellar, of Texas, in a May Democratic primary runoff. He is also backing state Rep. Summer Lee, a candidate for Congress in Pennsylvania.
The memo provides some proposed responses to hostile inquiries. “We do understand that corporate-backed campaigns will try to make Sen. Sanders’ endorsement controversial, especially in a Democratic Primary, so here are some answers to frequently asked questions,” it says.
“Sen. Sanders is an independent and an avowed Democratic Socialist. Why are you accepting his endorsement?” is one the questions that could come up, Shakir writes.
The proposed answer, according to Shakir, is, “Sen. Sanders is putting forward an extremely popular vision for the Democratic Party that will win back critical support that we have lost. In fact, Bernie wants to build power for the working class and take on the corporate socialism that our political system currently favors.”
Another question the memo suggests could come up: “Will you support Sanders if he challenges Biden in 2024?”
The proposed response: “Sen. Sanders is focused on helping Joe Biden have a successful presidency. As Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, no one fought harder for the president’s policy agenda than Bernie. He traveled to Republican Congressional Districts last summer to promote Build Back Better. Unfortunately, that legislation was stopped by corporate Democrats.”