Bernie Sanders faces new questions about health, transparency after heart attack

October 8, 2019

This is bad news for Bernie fans. Bernie Sanders’ campaign is struggling to regain its footing after the socialist presidential candidate suffered a heart attack last week.

Sanders was already sliding in the polls behind his rival for the progressive constituency, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), when his health scare thrust troubling questions about his age into the open. The Sanders campaign has also struggled to respond to criticism that they withheld the diagnosis for three days.

Sanders campaign in doubt after heart attack

Sanders’ rival Joe Biden, who is 76, has long faced questions about his fitness for office amid a steady stream of gaffes on the campaign trail. Despite being older than Biden, the comparatively cogent Sanders seemed mostly untroubled by such doubts — until now.

Last week, Sanders began experiencing “chest discomfort” at a Las Vegas rally and was hospitalized for three days after having two stents placed in his heart to clear an arterial blockage. The health scare abruptly triggered questions about the dominance of septuagenarians in the Democratic primary.

The top candidates in the Democratic primary, Joe Biden, 76, Sanders, 78, and Warren, 70, are all in their 70s, a troubling reality for Democrats who are desperate for a candidate to beat Trump — who is not exactly known for a lethargic personality, despite being 73. Of those three, only Warren’s poll numbers have been consistently going up.

Sanders has now suspended campaigning indefinitely, but is expected to appear in the next Democratic debate on October 15.

His troubles have been compounded by criticism that his campaign was not forthright about disclosing the heart attack.

“It’s one of those things where the cover-up is worse than the crime,” said Andres Ramirez, a Nevada-based Democratic strategist and former vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee’s Hispanic Caucus. “I don’t think anybody would have cared if they said he had a heart attack, got out a few days later, and then everything’s good. There seemed to be a refusal or hesitance to say, ‘Bernie Sanders had a heart attack.’ … I think it’s less of an issue about his age and more of an issue of, ‘Hey, Bernie, you’re supposed to be the transparent candidate.’”

Can Bernie recover?

In recent polls, Sanders has slipped behind Warren — a comparatively moderate, but still zealous progressive — amid chatter that the Massachusetts senator could soon be the primary’s new frontrunner. Biden, the presumed frontrunner since April, has fallen in the polls after failing to inspire confidence with his inconsistent debate performances and constant gaffes. His involvement in the Ukraine scandal embroiling President Trump is not expected to help matters.

With Warren taking the lead, the Sanders campaign is pinning their hopes on a strong debate performance next week to assuage concerns about his fitness for office. The Sanders camp is also hoping that Sanders can use his health scare to connect with voters on a personal level and drive support for his signature policy, Medicare for All.

“Bernie will address it by having a strong debate performance, by being out on the trail, and showing that he’s more energized and has more fighting spirit than ever before,” said Rep. Ro Khanna, Sanders’ campaign co-chair. “I think that’s ultimately what will convince people that he has the fight in him.” Sanders himself projected positive thinking with a tweet after his hospitalization:

Sanders has said that he will release his medical records “at the appropriate time.” But it may already be too late.

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Matthew Boose

Matthew Boose is a staff writer for Conservative Institute. He has a Bachelor's degree from Stony Brook University and has contributed to The Daily Caller and The Stony Brook Press.