Bernie Sanders has long been a bit of an outsider among other Democrats, as the longest-serving independent in US congressional history, running on a platform that is a break from traditional center-left Democratic policies. On Friday night, he made that status even more distinct after essentially declaring himself at odds with party leadership.
The post, and the timing appear to be strategic. Posted a day before the Nevada caucuses, and on the same day reports emerged of Russian interference attempting to boost his campaign, Sanders reinforced his populist platform, framing his candidacy as an “us-versus-them” contest to voters in Nevada. Democrats were having none of his statements, filling Twitter with rebuttals and rebukes accusing him of dividing an already fractured political climate and a nomination race that seems obsessed with defeating Trump in the upcoming election.
Despite the conflict, the strategy appears to be working. Nevada voters have turned out in record numbers for the Democratic caucuses, with Sanders holding a dominant lead over the current second-place candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden. Centrist party officials and moderate candidates are becoming increasingly worried about Sanders, as the nomination race is entering a critical stretch where even the slightest signs of weakness could spell the end of their campaigns. South Carolina votes on February 29th, and after that a large number of states hold their primaries, with voters tending to consider previous results when picking their candidate.
Sanders is currently leading nationally in polling averages, with a large lead over the Biden, the next leading candidate.