LITTLETON, N.H. – Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, told reporters Monday he couldn’t predict what kind of impact a Joe Biden presidential bid would have on his standing in the 2016 Democratic primary.
But his supporters in New Hampshire had a clearer answer when asked if the vice president could steal votes from the liberal standard-bearer: Not a chance.
“If you’re going to vote in this election for Bernie, I don’t think you have a Plan B,” Kathy Paul, a Democrat from Vermont, told CBS News when asked about a potential Biden candidacy. “I don’t have a Plan B. Most people don’t — not if you’re voting for Bernie. Because that’s it. That’s the only change there would be.”
Biden is considering a third presidential bid and has spent several weeks calling potential donors and supporters, including meeting with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a hero to the progressive grassroots. He also got the green light to mull a presidential bid from President Obama during a lunch Monday, CBS News Correspondent Julianna Goldman reported.
But Sanders said that regardless of the vice president’s decision, his strategy to run an “issues oriented campaign” will remain the same.
“If he decides to get in – as I have done up to now, I will run an issue oriented campaign,” he told reporters after a town hall in Conway, one of three events in New Hampshire. “Joe’s views, I suspect — well, I know — are different on a number of issues than mine.”
“Will it help or hurt me? Will it help or hurt Hillary Clinton? I just don’t know,” Sanders mused.
Barbara Bosen, a New Hampshire Democrat who was one of hundreds to attend Sanders’ second event of the day in Berlin, was more blunt. She said a Biden presidency would essentially be a third term for Mr. Obama — something that gives pause to liberals like herself. “I’ve only seen him in the vice presidency and he’s gone along with what Obama has done. He’s of the same mindset,” Bosen said.
“I think people are ready for more of a change in America,” she continued. “Corporate America is way out of control and I think people are fired up about it and I think Bernie will go a long way with that.”
Sanders himself said so much (with a disclaimer), taking a dig at a possible Biden candidacy.
“This is not a comment on Joe,” he said, “but the bottom line is people understand that there is something profoundly wrong today with establishment politics. And we need some bold leaders to resurrect the middle class to address income and wealth inequality.”
Kate Savage of Jefferson, New Hampshire, who attended the Berlin town hall, said Sanders “is for the people, he is the people.”
“Bernie’s message is being heard loud and clear,” she said. “People wouldn’t react that way to Biden. He’s friendly and nice enough but he hasn’t been super visible during his vice presidency.”
Sanders did acknowledge that there is an opening for Biden with support for Clinton appearing to recede in the polls. He called the vice president a “formidable candidate,” but said he wasn’t sure who would benefit politically from a Biden presidential bid.
Dissatisfaction with Clinton — who, for now, is Sanders’ primary obstacle to winning the Democratic primary — was clear from the voters who attended the day’s events. For Sanders supporters in New Hampshire on Monday, the former secretary of state is not much better than a Republican.
“The Republicans are the clown car. And if you vote for Hillary, clown car still makes it,” said Lisa Robinson, another Vermonter in attendance at Sanders’ Littleton town hall.