Time For Bernie To Hang Up The Gloves?

After a heart attack that has kept him out of the campaign for a week, it may be time for Bernie Sanders to pack it in.

Just about a week after the cardiac incident that took him off the campaign trail, which his campaign later disclosed to have been a heart attack, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders said that the incident will lead him to re-evaluate his approach to campaigning:

BURLINGTON, Vt. — Senator Bernie Sanders, in a striking concession for a leading presidential candidate, said on Tuesday that he planned to slow down his pace on the campaign trail after suffering a heart attack a week ago, and acknowledged that voters would likely consider his health when deciding whether to support him.

“I think we’re going to change the nature of the campaign a bit,” Mr. Sanders told reporters after a visit with a local cardiologist. “Make sure that I have the strength to do what I have to do.”

Mr. Sanders’s remarks stood in sharp contrast with comments in recent days from his campaign advisers, who have insisted that the Vermont senator was neither changing course nor easing his trademark intensity as a result of the heart attack.

Given Mr. Sanders’s influential role in the Democratic race, not only as a top candidate but also as a driving force in policy debates, his decision to pull back campaigning injects new uncertainty into the contest — both for the future of Mr. Sanders’s candidacy and the possible ramifications for other contenders.


Mr. Sanders has been campaigning almost nonstop when not carrying out his Senate duties in Washington, D.C., a pace that he pointedly noted on Tuesday.

“We were doing, you know, in some cases five or six meetings a day, three or four rallies and town meetings and meeting with groups of people,” Mr. Sanders said. “I don’t think I’m going to do that.”
“I think we’re going to change the nature of the campaign a bit,” he added. “Make sure that I have the strength to do what I have to do.

Asked to clarify what he meant when he said the campaign would change, he replied: “Probably not doing four rallies a day.”

Sanders was speaking outside his home in Burlington, Vermont where he had returned after spending several days in the hospital in Las Vegas and he acknowledged ignoring what were likely warning signs about his condition:

Sen. Bernie Sanders, off the campaign trail and resting at home until next week’s Democratic debate, said Tuesday he had been “dumb” to ignore symptoms that might have foretold the heart attack he suffered a week ago and he urged others not to make the same mistake. He also admitted that he will have to reduce the number of campaign events he holds a day because of his health.

“During this campaign, I’ve been doing in some cases three or four rallies a day, running all over the state — Iowa, New Hampshire, wherever,” Sanders told reporters outside his home in Burlington, Vt. “And yet I, in the last month or two, just was more fatigued than I usually have been. And I should have listened to those symptoms.”

Sanders visited a cardiologist Tuesday morning, and when he returned, he told reporters, “We’re gonna change the nature of the campaign a bit.”

“Probably not doing four rallies a day,” said Sanders, who had adopted a more furious campaign schedule than many of his much younger opponents.

Sanders, who has committed to releasing his medical records before the first primary votes but has not yet done so, said Tuesday he would provide the information at “the appropriate time.” Former vice president Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) — fellow septuagenarians who join Sanders at the top of most polls — have also committed to releasing their medical records.

In this first public statement since the heart attack, Sanders seemed subdued from his usual self, something likely attributable to both his continuing recovery and the apparent realization on his part that the grueling nature of a political campaign may be just a bit more than he can handle this time around. As it stands, the Senator is 78 years old and would be in his early 80s at the end of a hypothetical first term. Having a heart attack at what are still the early stages of the campaign could be a signal from his body that he’s not really up for this. Additionally, the fact that he’s had one heart attack puts him at significant risk of having another in the future. While one hopes that the Senator will have many more years ahead of him, the fact is that he is not a young man and this heart attack just brings that home.

There hasn’t been enough time since we learned of his heart attack at the end of last week to know for sure what impact this will have on Sanders’ campaign. Many of his most loyal supporters will likely brush it off and continue to cheer him on. Other voters, though, may start to question the wisdom of back Sanders when there are other comparable candidates who are basically part of the same progressive wing of the part that he is. The most obvious choice for Sanders supporters looking to change loyalties, of course, would be Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who is 70 years old herself but who seems to have endless bounds of energy and no known health issues, Other candidates that these supporters could look to include Kamala Harris and even Pete Buttigieg, who is among the youngest candidates in the race. As I said, one wishes the best of health to Senator Sanders but this heart attack could be a sign that its time to hang up the gloves.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, Politicians, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook


  1. Blue Galangal says:


  2. Jen says:

    His daughter-in-law, age 46, passed away the day he returned to Vermont; she had just recently been diagnosed with cancer.

    This is a lot for any person to deal with in such a short span of time. I wish him the best of health, and hope that he does what is right for him and his family.

  3. michael reynolds says:


  4. Pylon says:

    I hope he does. And if so it will be interesting to see where his supporters go – to the candidate closest in policy (Warren) or in gender (Biden). I suspect I will dislike the answer.

  5. mattbernius says:


    And if so it will be interesting to see where his supporters go – to the candidate closest in policy (Warren) or in gender (Biden). I suspect I will dislike the answer.

    Ib4 Kylopod on this one. According to past polling, it probably will be Biden. I pondered this very topic about two weeks ago and my man KP was there with the receipts (or in this case a link to an article like this one – https://thehill.com/hilltv/what-americas-thinking/430261-sanders-biden-seen-as-most-popular-second-choices-for-dem ).

  6. PJ says:

    Should he? Yes.
    Will he? No.

  7. PJ says:

    The most obvious choice for Sanders supporters looking to change loyalties, of course, would be Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who is 70 years old herself but who seems to have endless bounds of energy and no known health issues

    Sanders supporters are busy thrashing her.
    She isn’t pure enough.
    She accepts money from billionaires.
    She will not tax the rich enough. (They all seem to forget that there’s no chance in h*ll that Sander’s plan every would become reality.)
    And so on.

    She’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

  8. wr says:

    @mattbernius: “According to past polling, it probably will be Biden. ”

    I understand the thinking, but the fact is that as Bernie’s numbers have been shrinking the last couple of months, Biden’s have as well — the only one showing real growth is Warren…

  9. liberal capatalist says:

    I agree: Bernie’s folk would be natural Warren backers, if Bernie said so.

    This would put Biden in a distant #2

  10. EddieInCA says:


    Full stop.

  11. EddieInCA says:

    @liberal capatalist:

    Except for the misogynistic Bernie Bros that showed their true colors in 2016. I very much doubt that part of the Bernie coalition will coalesce around Elizabeth Warren.

  12. Scott F. says:

    @liberal capatalist:
    I fully expect Sanders to stick it out through the next debate, but I also expect the inevitable physical frailty he would show after a bodily trauma like a heart attack to play poorly on national TV.

    The smartest thing Bernie could to is name the successor to his vision. It would give him some credit for any of his ideas coming into policy.

  13. Anonne says:

    He will probably be stronger now that he has the stents put in. There are millions of people who have stents in and have lived long and productive lives for years after. He has had the craziest campaign schedule, doing in one week what Biden does in three, and probably twice as much as most of the rest of the field. And he pretty much hasn’t stopped campaigning since 2016, going on Perez’s unity tour and what not. No, he doesn’t need to stop just because of that.

    He’s got pretty good genes, it seems. Look how much he was doing with a clogged artery. I’m sure most will disagree but this isn’t an echo chamber. At least, it shouldn’t be.

  14. Sleeping Dog says:


    I’ve heard Warren called a neo-liberal by some on the fuzzy fringe. And thank god she’s not pure enough.

  15. Sleeping Dog says:

    Eventually he’ll be strong. One thing that we or he don’t know as of yet, is how his body will react to the anti-rejection drugs that he’ll be taking for up to a year. Some stent patients take them in stride, while others find them quite debilitating till the body adapts.

  16. EddieInCA says:


    He’s got pretty good genes, it seems. Look how much he was doing with a clogged artery. I’m sure most will disagree but this isn’t an echo chamber. At least, it shouldn’t be.

    Yeah. I disagree. But I’m a Never-Bernie (to a point. I’d vote for him over Trump without even thinking about it), so I’m biased.

  17. Cris Ericson says:

    This is some kind of “Karma”.
    (1) In 2018 U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders
    ran against a Primary Election opponent
    in the Democratic Primary,
    a woman of color (Black)
    named Ms. Folasade Adeluola,
    and Bernie Sanders
    showed his true colors
    by refusing to debate her
    in the Primary Election.

    (2) He will still be a U.S. Senator if he loses the
    Presidential race, so he might as well
    continue at his own pace.

    (3) People in Vermont are not happy with
    U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders
    for stating live on television in a
    2012 U.S. Senate debate
    that the F-35 Strike Fighter Jets
    had “no nuclear component”,
    which was not true.
    The F-35 jets, now based in
    the most populated neighborhood
    in the most populated county in Vermont,
    are in fact designed to be dual capable
    to carry nuclear bombs.
    Some Vermonters are disgusted
    with U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders.

  18. Pylon says:

    @mattbernius: That is my suspicion as well (not sure why it’s downvoted). I think his support seems left wing but is more personality based. He appeals to college aged kids (particularly men). His liberal policies are mostly aimed in that direction.

  19. CSK says:

    @Pylon: Because Sanders is grumpy grandpa with a heart of gold.

  20. Pylon says:


    I should have been clearer. I want Sanders to quit the race because (a) he’s not healthy; and (b) it’s good for the party. Not because I think he’s a bad person who shouldn’t be a candidate at all.

  21. CSK says:

    @Pylon: I should have been clearer. I was commenting, semi-facetiously, on Sanders’ appeal to male college students.

  22. DrDaveT says:

    @Cris Ericson:

    a woman of color (Black)

    Dang. You just can’t make this stuff up…

  23. Kylopod says:

    @mattbernius: I wonder, though, if voters who abandon Sanders due to an age-related medical issue would be disproportionately likely not to drift to the nearly-as-old Biden.

    Additionally, I’ve long suspected that the main factor in these “second choice” polls isn’t ideology or gender or anything else specific about any of the candidates beyond simple name recognition. Up to now, Biden and Sanders have been the best-known of the candidates. People responding to these polls tend to gravitate toward candidates they’ve heard of and are familiar with. Warren is currently experiencing a big surge (she just bypassed Biden on RCP a couple of days ago), and that should give her the kind of attention needed to acquire the name recognition of the other two.

  24. Gustopher says:

    If he dropped out, I don’t know what he would do with himself. He likes to campaign. A man needs a hobby, and his is scolding people.

    Scolding people is his most endearing quality.

  25. Gustopher says:

    @Kylopod: It’s a very old poll too. About the only purpose it now serves is to point out that second choices might not match your expectations.

  26. Kylopod says:


    It’s a very old poll too.

    Morning Consult’s most recent poll still shows Biden as the top second choice for Sanders voters; however, Sanders is no longer the top second choice for Biden voters, Warren is.

  27. Essumergosum says:

    I have never been a fan of Bernie, so that disclaimer needs to be stated. My major reason has been his age, but my second reason ranks right up there with the age factor.

    He doesn’t have any or knows anything about foreign policy (experience) and it seems he didn’t do much about that in the interim between campaigns. After Trump, who knows nothing about FP, we need someone who is at least interested in it and perhaps has read up on it.

    He also doesn’t seem to have been learning how things get done in government, to know how his policies would be put into action. He has been decidedly uninformed on that in the past.

    The cranky old man personna may work in the Senate, but not in the oval.

    As to who would be named his successor, I don’t know, but given his hard left policies, I don’t think it matters. Most will never be enacted.


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