Sanders, Warren Battling for AOC’s Prized Endorsement

May 29, 2019 Updated: May 30, 2019

News Analysis

WASHINGTON—She doesn’t command a huge war chest or legions of devoted volunteers beyond her New York congressional district, but Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) has something else that is worth its weight in gold: the power of her endorsement.

At the moment, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) are prime contenders in the crowded field of Democratic presidential nomination-seekers to receive what to this point in the campaign looks like 2020’s most coveted endorsement.

By all appearances, Sanders, 78, ought to be the hands-down favorite for Ocasio-Cortez’s blessing. After all, she worked for him in his losing 2016 primary campaign against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Several former Sanders 2016 campaign veterans also moved over to support Ocasio-Cortez’s successful 2018 primary against 10-term incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.), a traditional liberal who, at the time, was a member of the House Democratic leadership.

There’s also the fact that Ocasio-Cortez teamed up with Sanders earlier in May on a proposal to cap credit card interest rates at 15 percent. The proposal represents the first time the two jointly developed and introduced a legislative measure.

At the same time, however, Ocasio-Cortez was careful to compliment both of the senators, telling CNN that what she “would like to see in a presidential candidate is one that has a coherent worldview and logic from which all these policy proposals are coming forward. I think Sen. Sanders has that. I also think Sen. Warren has that.”

Warren, who turns 70 next month, has been campaigning for Ocasio-Cortez’s endorsement in recent weeks, including penning a laudatory description of her as a “fearless leader,” as the young congresswoman was named one of Time Magazine’s Top 100.

“A year ago, she was taking orders across a bar. Today, millions are taking cues from her. She reminds all of us that even while greed and corruption slow our progress, even while armies of lobbyists swarm Washington, in our democracy, true power still rests with the people. And she’s just getting started,” Warren wrote.

The eventual winner won’t be known for months, but there is no doubt among Democratic campaign strategists interviewed by The Epoch Times on May 29 that the competition will continue to intensify.

That’s because Ocasio-Cortez is “widely viewed as the future of the progressive wing of the Democratic party,” observed strategist Christian Hanley, who hosts the “Keep it in Perspective” podcast.

She’s too young to seek the Oval Office herself, but “her endorsement of a candidate would give that (invariably older) candidate a stamp of approval from a rising generation that will succeed him or her in office,” Hanley said.

Joe Biden, who turns 77 this year, may be the most interested observer of the competition between Sanders and Warren, because whoever gains Ocasio-Cortez’s nod may well get a leg up on becoming the Democratic left’s main primary challenger to the former vice president.

Biden dominates the latest Quinnipiac University Poll with 35 percent of Democratic voters, followed by Sanders at 16 percent and Warren at 13 percent.

But Warren has been moving upward in recent weeks as Sanders has lost ground. An Ocasio-Cortez endorsement could either revive the lagging Sanders effort or boost Warren into a commanding position as the alternative for progressive Democrats to Biden.

Strategist Max Burns thinks Warren has an advantage because, while “Sens. Sanders and Warren have both been leading liberal voices in the Senate,” it’s only Warren who “can point to tangible legislative and political results. That’s something I’m sure rates highly with AOC.”

And whoever Ocasio-Cortez ultimately favors, Burns said, her “supporters make up the new organizing base of the party, and if even a fraction of them break for her endorsed candidate, that’s a flood of fresh donors and volunteers vaulting her candidate ahead of a crowded field.”

Burns is a strategic communications specialist for the Glover Park Group, a Washington-based Democratic communications firm, as well as for Facebook and Change.org.

Similarly, strategist Kevin Chavous sees an advantage for Warren, noting that “Sanders has an organizational advantage because he ran in 2016, and his base exists largely on the far left.”

But Biden’s entry in the primary has pushed Sanders’ poll standing down, so “failing to secure AOC’s endorsement would be a big blow to his campaign.”

For Warren, according to Chavous, “an endorsement from AOC, a proud Democratic Socialist who has become the face of the new, dynamic congressional Democrats, would allow Warren to paint herself as further left than Sanders when appealing to his base.”

Whichever way Ocasio-Cortez goes, “her decision probably does more damage to the candidate who does not receive her blessing than Biden himself,” added Chavous, who is an attorney, anti-poverty activist, and president of the District of Columbia Young Democrats.

Contact Mark Tapscott at mark.tapscott@epochtimes.nyc.

RECOMMENDED
TOP VIDEOS