Bernie Sanders is returning to in-person campaigning for the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March, heading to the battleground states of New Hampshire and Michigan to promote Joe Biden and soothe any lingering tensions between the Democratic Party’s progressive and centrist wings.
Spokesman Mike Casca said the Vermont senator will hold a socially distanced outdoor rally on Saturday in Lebanon, New Hampshire, which will be capped to keep crowds from growing too large.
On Monday, Mr Sanders will host a drive-in rally in Macomb County, Michigan — a Detroit suburb that voted Republican in 2016 and was instrumental in clinching the White House for President Donald Trump.
Yes, the world has changed with this pandemic, but we must all do the best that we can to create a historic turnout and get rid of Donald Trump. pic.twitter.com/VgIL1LZMlk
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) October 1, 2020
Mr Sanders ended his presidential primary campaign in April and endorsed Mr Biden days later, as both candidates worked to promote party unity that largely eluded Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Some of Mr Sanders’ senior advisers and supporters later formed joint taskforces with their counterparts from Mr Biden’s camp to hammer out agreements on major policy issues that were reflected in the Democratic Party platform.
High-ranking Sanders campaign leaders have formed two action committees to promote Mr Biden, despite Mr Sanders personally opposing outside money in politics.
It comes as Mr Trump – newly diagnosed with Covid-19 – has increasingly sought to paint Mr Biden as beholden to progressive activists and the “radical left”.
Mr Biden, who won the primary largely as a moderate, says he wants to build a broad coalition of support from all Democrats and as many Republicans as possible — but does not support some of Mr Sanders’ most progressive ideas.
That includes not embracing fully government-funded health care under a “Medicare for All” plan, or a sweeping package of climate change-fighting measures known as the Green New Deal.
He has said he “beat the socialist”, referring to Mr Sanders, and, amid criticism from Mr Trump about embracing some of Mr Sanders’ policies during the first presidential debate in Cleveland on Tuesday, the former vice president noted: “Right now, I’m the Democratic Party.”
Even before his scheduled trips, Mr Sanders spent months staging virtual town halls and other events around the country on Mr Biden’s behalf.
Since the Democratic convention in August, he has held more than a dozen online rallies, targeting voters in Kentucky, West Virginia, Iowa, Wisconsin, Colorado, Texas, Vermont, Pennsylvania and Michigan, as well as virtual events focused on Latino and rural voters.
All told, those events are said to have attracted five million views of clips and livestreams.