President Donald Trump has been privately obsessing over the popularity of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and the apparent appeal of socialism, a new report claims.
The Daily Beast reported that President Trump has been repeatedly asking advisers about how Sanders is doing in the polls and how the two might fare in head-to-head matchups, especially in critical battleground states. The report added that Trump, while disdaining socialism and mocking Sanders in public statements, has privately told advisers that it may be difficult to run against it in 2020 due to its populist appeal.
The report noted that Trump told donors at a private fundraising event that there may be voters who love Trump, “but many people love free stuff, too.”
Trump has begun talking more about Sanders publicly, saying both on Twitter and at a rally in Milwaukee this week that the Vermont senator is “surging” in polls. Trump also waded into an intraparty squabble between Sanders and Elizabeth Warren after the two campaigns traded barbs this week. Warren affirmed a report that Sanders had told her a woman could not win the presidency, which Sanders denied. Trump said that he believed the denial from Sanders.
Trump also made some overtures toward Sanders in 2016, which many interpreted as an attempt to sow division within Democratic voters. He reportedly fed into conspiracy theories that the Democratic primary was rigged against Sanders, and at one point even offered to debate Sanders when Hillary Clinton would not agree to a debate late in the primary, when she held a significant lead in delegates. Trump later purportedly backtracked.
Crooked Hillary can't even close the deal with Bernie – and the Dems have it rigged in favor of Hillary. Four more years of this? No way!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 20, 2016
The Trump campaign pushed back against the report from The Daily Beast, saying that Trump is not worried about any of the potential Democratic opponents.
“We have no preference among the Democrat candidates because President Trump would beat any of them handily,” Tim Murtaugh, communications director for Trump’s reelection campaign, told the outlet. “Over the last year, the campaign has engaged various Democrats when the opportunities have presented themselves. In Sanders’ case, his surge in the polls coincided with his emergence as the chief apologist for the Iranian regime. We needed to point out that he would be dangerous as president since he made clear he would appease terrorists and terror-sponsoring nations.”
While Sanders has risen in polling in recent weeks, the polling aggregator FiveThirtyEight still puts former Vice President Joe Biden as the front-runner to win the nomination. Sanders is seen as having one-in-four odds to win the primary.