2020年1月9日 星期四

On Politics: Larry David’s Nightmare

He might be impersonating Bernie Sanders for a long time to come.
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By Lisa Lerer

Politics Newsletter Writer

Hi. Welcome to On Politics, your guide to the day in national politics. I’m Lisa Lerer, your host.

Larry David as Bernie Sanders, Saturday Night Live, 2019Will Heath/NBC

Larry David has a message for his political doppelgänger, Bernie Sanders: Drop out, already!

“I thought when he had the heart attack that was going to be it — I wouldn’t have to fly in from Los Angeles. But, you know, he’s indestructible! Nothing stops this man,” the comedian, who has memorably impersonated Mr. Sanders for years, told Stephen Colbert. “If he wins, do you know what that’s going to do to my life? It’ll be great for the country, terrible for me.”

Sorry to curb your enthusiasm, Larry. But Mr. Sanders is doing prettaayy, prettaayy good in the Democratic race. (See what I did there?)

Polling released this week of Iowa and New Hampshire voters shows Mr. Sanders in a virtual three-way tie with Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg in the first nominating contests.

It’s a remarkable political revival for Mr. Sanders, one that even some of his closest advisers admit they couldn’t have predicted. Remember, less than four months ago, the 78-year-old had a heart attack. It was the kind of perilous health situation that traditionally would doom a presidential candidate, particularly one who was already facing questions about his age.


Not Mr. Sanders. In the final weeks before the Iowa caucuses, he’s not just surviving but thriving. His surge can be attributed at least in part to the decline of his chief liberal rival, Elizabeth Warren, who’s seen some of her support — particularly among younger voters — drift over to Mr. Sanders. His post-hospitalization endorsement from Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York also helped.

Perhaps Mr. Sanders’s political durability shouldn’t be all that surprising. In a volatile field, his support has always been characterized by its steadiness.

As he did in 2016, he draws large crowds to his events, packed with voters wearing all kinds of Sanders swag. In surveys, his supporters are significantly more likely than those backing other candidates to say they’ve definitely made up their minds to vote for him. Far more of them say they are “enthusiastic” about his candidacy, too.

But the question for Mr. Sanders in this race has never been whether he has a core of passionate supporters. It’s whether he can expand beyond them. His floor is high. But if he wants to win the nomination, his ceiling is what matters.


It’s worth pointing out another notable number in the New Hampshire poll published today by Monmouth University: 21 percent. That’s the amount of support Mr. Sanders would get if the race were narrowed to the top seven candidates, the survey found. But it’s also his level of support in a four-candiate contest, indicating that he’s not positioned to pick up much support if lower-polling candidates quit the race.

Sanders aides disagree, saying they would benefit from a hypothetical exit by Ms. Warren, or for that matter by Andrew Yang and Tulsi Gabbard, who have won support from some younger voters and disaffected Democrats who might otherwise go with Mr. Sanders.

Mr. Sanders’s campaign has also said that he picked up 300,000 new donors in the last three months of 2019, which his aides say shows he is expanding his base of supporters. (He will also get some extra attention on Friday morning, when he is scheduled to appear with Mr. David on NBC’s “Today” show, Sanders aides said.)

They also believe that “winning begets winning.” Once candidates start winning primaries and caucuses, it will reshape the race, lending major momentum to whoever emerges victorious in those early-voting states.


At a time when so many Democrats are focused on electability, they argue, nothing makes a candidate look more like a winner than, well, actually winning a contest.

I suspect they’re right: Results in the early states generally do change the balance of the primary.

Whether those dynamics shift in Mr. Sanders’s favor, however, remains to be seen.

Drop us a line!

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The week in impeachment

Congress has returned from its holiday break, and impeachment is back — sort of. Here’s a look at where things stand right now, from our colleagues at the Impeachment Briefing newsletter.

  • We’re in impeachment purgatory. Last year ended with a bang, as the House voted to impeach President Trump on two charges: abuse of power and obstruction of the inquiry. But 2020 is off to a slow start. The next step, a trial in the Senate, can’t begin until Speaker Nancy Pelosi formally hands over the articles of impeachment. She has delayed doing so in an attempt to negotiate with Senate Republicans over what the trial will look like, though the tactic hasn’t yet won the Democrats any concessions, and some in her party are starting to get antsy.
  • Senator Mitch McConnell is in control. We took a deep dive into Mr. McConnell’s tactics in Wednesday’s newsletter — the majority leader is a shrewd political operator who rarely squanders an advantage. With impeachment moving to the Republican-controlled Senate, he now gets to decide what shape the trial takes, whether new witnesses or evidence can be introduced, and even whether the Senate can immediately vote to acquit Mr. Trump.
  • John Bolton said he was willing to talk, if subpoenaed. As President Trump’s former national security adviser, Mr. Bolton would have firsthand knowledge of the president’s Ukraine dealings, and other witnesses have testified that he strongly objected to the pressure campaign. Democrats are eager to force votes in the Senate trial on whether or not to call witnesses like Mr. Bolton. (We spoke to Peter Baker this week about what Mr. Bolton might say.)

You can sign up for the Impeachment Briefing newsletter here.

… Seriously

Here’s the perfect gift for politics-obsessed chess masters. (The symbolically empty podiums for the future Democratic nominees are a nice touch.)

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