Jan 23, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Dean Phillips tries to rally Bernie voters

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Rep. Dean Phillips is working to get supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders' earlier presidential campaigns to support his longshot primary bid against President Biden by tapping into their distrust of the Democratic National Committee.

Why it matters: Phillips' campaign has become increasingly explicit in the run-up to Tuesday's New Hampshire primary where Sanders, who supports Biden's re-election, won the past two contests in 2016 and 2020.

Driving the news: The Phillips campaign recently sent text messages to former Sanders campaign supporters that said "ATTN: Joe Biden DNC attack on NH primary is retribution for NH supporting Bernie," according to a copy of the message obtained by Axios. "Stand with us against this MAGA-style political vendetta."

  • Phillips' campaign confirmed to Axios that they sent the message.
  • Top Phillips aide Jeff Weaver, who managed Sanders' 2016 bid and was a top adviser in 2020, told Axios: "It couldn't be clearer. They're punishing states that were bad for Joe Biden. The calendar is cleverly arranged to help him."
  • Biden finished fifth in the 2020 Democratic New Hampshire primary.

Of note: Phillips told reporters at a Bloomberg event Monday that he believes the Democratic Party establishment undermined Sanders' 2016 primary against rival candidate Hillary Clinton and argued they were trying to do the same to him.

  • "I thought Bernie Sanders was just a sore loser — I didn't pay much attention to it. There's no question what I've discovered makes what he said the truth," he said.
  • "I understand how this party operates, and it is nefarious and I think it is dangerous, and I think it is a hypocrisy of democracy."

Between the lines: Phillips has also tried to court Sanders voters by embracing Medicare for All and other progressive policy positions in recent weeks.

  • His campaign has run ads in the state about his daughter's battle with cancer and how that informed his recent embrace of Medicare for All.
  • Phillips and Weaver are betting there is residual anger among Sanders supporters from the 2020 primary when Sanders was rolling through the early primaries before the field consolidated and endorsed Biden.

Reality check: In most New Hampshire polls, Phillips is in the single or low double digits.

  • Biden is not on the ballot in New Hampshire after the state went ahead of his preferred contest of South Carolina–which resurrected his candidacy in 2020.

Go deeper: Dean Phillips' lonely campaign cuts deeper at Biden's age

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