2016 repeats itself for Bernie Sanders….
When Joe Biden was asked last week at an Iowa town hall if he was running a better campaign than Hillary Clinton had in 2016, it highlighted a question on the minds of some Democrats: Is Biden this cycle’s Clinton?
The question is becoming more significant as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) gains traction.
Weeks away from the Iowa caucuses, Biden remains the front-runner with Sanders as his most compelling competitor.
While the much bigger field of candidates and strong campaigns from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg make the 2020 primary different than the one four years ago, Democrats are also seeing some parallels. And some would just as soon avoid them.
“No one wants deja vu. And the big fear is that it will be just that,” said one Democratic strategist who has worked on recent presidential campaigns but is uncommitted to a candidate in this cycle.
Biden, like Clinton in 2016, is seen as the safe candidate by a number of strategists, and the most likely to appeal to general election swing voters.
The former vice president “is going to be cast as the third iteration of an institutional-establishment candidate,” said Basil Smikle, a former aide to Clinton who also served as the executive director of the New York State Democratic Party.
Sanders and his supporters then and now argue Democrats would make a mistake by going safe and establishment over the candidate with grassroots energy….
When Bernie Sanders attacked Joe Biden recently, the former vice president dismissed his former Senate colleague with a contemptuous brush-off.
“You guys expect me to take Bernie’s comments seriously? Come on,” Biden told reporters as he left an Iowa campaign event last week. “I don’t respond to Bernie’s ridiculous comments.”
But that’s Biden’s public posture.
Both in tactics and rhetoric, there are growing signs he takes his rival very seriously — and that he increasingly views Sanders as his most formidable opponent in Iowa and beyond.
The Biden campaign has specifically courted the endorsement of community leaders in Iowa who backed Sanders in 2016. They’ve sought to combat Sanders’ recent habit of rolling out star surrogates like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez with their own A-list surrogates. And last week, Biden’s five-day Iowa bus tour heavily concentrated on the eastern part of the state — the biggest regional battleground between the two candidates because of its concentration of working-class voters.
“They have to start forcing Bernie to address some of his obvious challenges,” said Simon Rosenberg, founder of the New Democrat Network and a senior strategist for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2018. “The gloves-off strategy didn’t work for Clinton, and it isn’t going to work this time either.”