Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has not ruled out another run for the White House if President Biden decides not to run for reelection, according to a memo written by one of Sanders' top advisers.
"In the event of an open 2024 Democratic presidential primary, Sen. Sanders has not ruled out another run for president, so we advise that you answer any questions about 2024 with that in mind," Faiz Shakir, who was Sanders' campaign manager in 2020, wrote in the memo sent to allies on Wednesday.
The memo, first reported by The Washington Post and obtained by CBS News, is titled "Embrace the Attacks."
"As campaigning heats up in states across the country, your political opponents and their corporate-aligned allies will try to make you feel defensive about Sen. Bernie Sanders' support for your candidate," the memo says. "Our advice is to embrace the attacks."
CBS News reached out to Sanders' team, but has not yet received a response. Mike Casca, Sanders' spokesman, told The Washington Post, "While it's frustrating this private memo leaked to the media, the central fact remains true, which is that Senator Sanders is the most popular officeholder in the country."
It cites recent polling from YouGov that found Sanders is the most popular current office holder in the country and an NBC News poll that found his endorsement would make 71% of Democratic primary voters more likely to support a candidate. It also touts Sanders' recent work in the labor movement, including an upcoming trip to Staten Island on Sunday to support organizing Amazon workers and to Richmond, Virginia, to support organizing Starbucks workers.
Sanders was the last Democratic candidate to drop out of the 2020 presidential primary. In May 2020, Sanders told the Washington Post that the odds of him running for president again were "very, very slim."
"I think it's very, very unlikely that I'll be running for president ever again," Sanders said. "I think next time around you're going to see another candidate carrying the progressive mantle."
Some of the top names mentioned as potential future presidential candidates to run in the progressive lane are Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who recently wrote a New York Times op-ed about what Democrats should do to improve their midterm prospects, and Reps. Ro Khanna of California and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.
Pete D'Alessandro, who worked on Sanders' Iowa presidential campaigns in 2016 and 2020, suggested that Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley would be someone who progressives could rally behind.
"He is one of the most decent people in public life," D'Alessandro told CBS News. "He would be a very interesting progressive candidate to run."
But this may all be moot in 2024 if the 79-year-old president decides to run again. Mr. Biden told ABC News in December that he would run again if he's in "good health."
In a recent interview with "," Valerie Biden Owens, the president's sister and longtime adviser, said she wants her brother to run again in 2024, even though he would be in his 80s.
"I think he's the right person at the right time for the right job," she told "CBS Evening News" anchor Norah O'Donnell.
While many in the Democratic Party will be clamoring for Mr. Biden to make a decision, waiting until after the midterms is not out of the ordinary. While former President Donald Trump filed to run for reelection on Inauguration Day, former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush filed their paperwork in the spring of their third year in office.
Biden aides know that formally launching a reelection campaign triggers a suite of legal and logistical challenges that will require recalibration of day-to-day operations.
Shakir's memo indicates that Sanders will be involved in the 2022 midterms and is seeking advice about where the senator should be traveling. It also says that Sanders will be endorsing more candidates.
The memo also advises top Sanders allies on how to respond to questions about their support for Sanders. It instructs candidates who are questioned about accepting Sanders' endorsement, since he is technically an Independent and considers himself Democratic Socialist, to say that Sanders "is putting forward an extremely popular vision for the Democratic Party that will win back critical support that we have lost."
The memo gives advice on how candidates and allies should respond if asked about whether they'd support a Sanders challenge to Mr. Biden in 2024.
"Sen. Sanders is focused on helping Joe Biden have a successful presidency," the memo suggests as a response. "As Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, no one fought harder for the president's policy agenda than Bernie. He traveled to Republican Congressional Districts last summer to promote Build Back Better. Unfortunately, that legislation was stopped by corporate Democrats."
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