How A Sanders Candidacy Could Nudge Democrats To Left

Apr 16, 2014

As home to the nation’s first primary, New Hampshire is the place candidates go to explore their prospects for a presidential campaign.

And that was certainly this case this weekend, for Vermont’s junior Senator Bernie Sanders, as he tested the political waters at Saint Anslem College in Manchester, speaking to a crowd of a couple hundred people.

“It went over very well. He attracted a large crowd. There were a lot of folks who were just very eager to hear what he had to say,” said Chris Galdieri, Assistant Professor of Politics at Saint Anselm College. 

Senator Sanders is of course very progressive, and Galdieri says it’s unclear how he’d do with the general voting population.

“If he were to run in the Democratic primary, a lot would depend on what the rest of the field looked like. If Hilary Clinton is a candidate in 2016, there is definitely an opening for a candidate to the left of her. I think Sanders in particular would not be as worried about maintaining his viability,” Galdieri said. He noted that some candidates in the Democratic primary could pull their punches in order to not hurt their chances to become Vice President or to get a cabinet post after the election.

“I think Bernie Sanders would be much more willing to just put it all out there, go ahead with his very progressive economic message and let the chips fall where they may,” he explained, noting that Sanders is unlikely to get the Democratic nomination. Though Galdieri said he could nudge the party to the left, which might be Sanders’ best opportunity for a presidential campaign to influence policy.

But the question remains whether Sanders would choose to remain an Independent if he runs for president. Galdieri said if the senator chooses that path, he’ll be running against the “ghost of Ralph Nader.”

“I think after the 2000 election, where a lot of Democrats blame Ralph Nader for costing Al Gore the election, a lot of folks who might otherwise be sympathetic to him and to his message would find themselves becoming very hostile to him and his message,” he explained.

But will the weekend events push Sanders closer to running?

“I don’t think it will discourage him. I think when candidates come they get a really warm reception,” Galdieri said. “And again, with someone like Sanders, you’ve got a different set of calculations than you would have for Jeb Bush, from Marco Rubio, Martin O’Malley or someone like that. I think he has certainly not be dissuaded from running.”

Other candidates have also been testing the waters in New Hampshire. Listen to the interview to hear Chris Galdieri discuss some of the recent Republican visitors.