Democrats ‘very nervous’ says Sanders as he campaigns on Warren’s home turf

<span>Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Bernie Sanders is campaigning to beat fellow progressive senator Elizabeth Warren in her home state of Massachusetts on Super Tuesday, which would be a huge blow to her candidacy if successful.

Sanders made his case on the Boston Common on Saturday to 13,000 supporters stirred up by the cold and the soundtrack – Revolution by Flogging Molly. Echoing across the nation’s oldest public park was the call and response of “Not me, us”.

The Democratic establishment is getting “very nervous about our campaign”, he said. “Tonight they’re going to turn on the TV and find that 10,000 people came out to the Boston Common, and they’re going to become even more nervous.”

Warren was elected Massachusetts senator in 2012 and re-elected in 2018. While Sanders is concentrating on winning the delegate-rich states of California and Texas on Super Tuesday, he has also been campaigning for lower delegate states such as Virginia and Massachusetts, which has 91 up for grabs.

A win for Sanders in the state would not just bring in delegates, but deal a huge blow to Warren, who – of the remaining seven major candidates – is ideologically closest to him, and would likely cement his position as the progressive frontrunner.

A WBUR poll last week found Sanders was the choice of 25% of likely Democratic primary voters, with Warren in second place at 17%.

Sanders told the crowd he beats Trump in 65 out of 70 national polls, and covered a variety of policy topics, including income inequality, housing, climate change, and health care. He promised to raise the wages of teachers to $60,000 a year, create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and instill criminal justice reforms like ending cash bail.

Warren’s team is counting on its early organizational investment in the contests to come: a staff of more than 1,000 spread across 31 states, including in the major Super Tuesday battlegrounds. To sustain her campaign, Warren is relying on a prodigious small-donor fundraising operation, an enthusiastic base of supporters, and relatively high favorability ratings.

Among other groups getting nervous, he said, are “Wall Street” the “drug companies, “insurance companies” and the “military industrial complex”. A recent New York Times interview with dozens of Democratic party officials found overwhelming opposition of handing Sanders the nomination if he falls short on the majority of super delegates needed to win.

Sanders dedicated Friday and Saturday to Massachusetts, following a new WBUR poll showing that his lead had grown to 25% , ahead of Warren’s 17% in the state. Only five months ago, Warren held a 20% lead over the Vermont senator, but that appears to have fallen away. Sanders is the current Democratic leader in delegates, with more than 50.

<span class="element-image__caption">Bernie Sanders leaves the stage after delivering a speech during his rally in Boston, Massachusetts.</span> <span class="element-image__credit">Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters</span>
Bernie Sanders leaves the stage after delivering a speech during his rally in Boston, Massachusetts. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Warren is not giving up home turf easily, but she is noticeably absent from the Bay State this weekend, with campaign events in South Carolina, which voted decisively for former vice-president Joe Biden on Saturday, as well as Arkansas and Texas, which cast their votes on Super Tuesday with 12 other states in the biggest night of the election cycle bar election days itself.

Warren has cast herself as the progressive candidate who can unite the party, and her supporters believe there is a double standard at work – that Warren, as one of the last remaining women in the race, is hurt by a fixation on electability and that she is held to a higher standard on policy, despite having an arsenal of plans to combat the climate crisis, break up big tech, cancel student loan debt and create a Medicare for All healthcare system.

On Friday, House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, of Massachusetts endorsed Warren, calling her the “best candidate to take on Donald Trump on the economy”. Her campaign surrogates, including Representative Ayanna Pressley and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey held canvass kick offs Saturday morning, as dozens of canvasses were planned across the state.

When asked following the CBS News Democratic debate if she can count on her home state to back her, she declined to give a definitive answer. “Look, I’m out here making my case to everybody all across the nation and I’m so deeply grateful to the people in my home state who helped me beat an incumbent Republican back in 2012.”

Sanders has both the Nevada caucus and New Hampshire primary under his belt, and a near tie with Buttigieg in the Iowa caucuses, making him a current frontrunner.

On Friday, he drew around 5,000 people to Springfield in Western Massachusetts and told the crowd: “I’m here tonight to humbly ask for your support”.

Sanders picked away at hometown issues, including support for affordable housing, saying nationwide “18 million families should not have to pay 50% of their income for housing. That’s insane”. He also promised to build up to 10m units of affordable housing.

Nick Woods, a human services worker, spends time in what he calls “oppressed communities”. He says while Warren has done great things for the state, “Sanders is the one who can go toe to toe with Trump in November – that’s what the polls say.”

Currently in his mid-40s and under the weight of 100,000 of student loan debt, he’s also hopeful about Sanders’ higher education policies, which include eliminating student loan debt for everyone, not just lower income families as Warren pledges. “It effects where I live, what I can afford, the food I eat, the healthcare I buy-– everything,” he said of the debt.

For South Boston’s 17-year-old Nico Iannecone, Sanders will be the first candidate for president that he plans on voting for in November. Medicare for All and “getting money out of politics” are big issues for him. He’s claimed to have shifted business man Andrew Yang’s former supporters to join the Sanders camp. Iannecone said he wouldn’t consider a vote for Warren.

“Elizabeth Warren is like Bernie Sanders for rich people. She’s like diet Bernie,” he said, adding that he feels her support for Medicare for All has not been consistent, and that she accepted money from billionaire supporters during her Senate run. “I’ve just been disappointed,” he said.

Jessie McLaren was listening, with her eight-year-old daughter Maple perched on her shoulders. McLaren, 48, is a single mother with over $43,000 of student loan debt and intends to vote for Sanders.

She said she loves Warren, but is casting her vote for Sanders because “Bernie is more electable against Trump, the predator”.

The endorsement of the week for Warren may have come from the Boston Globe editorial board, which flip-flopped after urging her not to run for president in 2018. Then the publication ran a column saying that Sanders’ “raid behind her political lines is an affront to his Senate colleague, supposed friend, and left-wing ally. Any advantage he gains would come at the cost of her dignity.”

The Warren campaign says it has the support of about 150 elected officials across the state, including Representative Joe Kennedy III. At an event last week, Kennedy dismissed comments of Warren losing her state.

“I believe in her. I think the people here believe in her. I expect she’s going to have a great day here, and I think she’s going to have a great day across the country.”

Lauren Gambino contributed to this report