How Will Bernie Sanders’ Health Scare Affect His Campaign?

If you’re confused about changes to Bernie Sanders’ campaign following his heart attack last week, you’re not alone.

A day after telling reporters he planned to scale back the intensity of his schedule, Sanders told NBC Nightly News on Wednesday that he “misspoke,” and that he plans to resume business as usual once his health is in order. “I said a word I should not have said and media drives me a little bit nuts to make a big deal about it,” Sanders said while sitting next to his wife Jane. “We’re going to get back into the groove of a very vigorous campaign, I love doing rallies and I love doing town meetings.”

Sanders told reporters on Tuesday that though he will continue actively campaigning, the “nature” of the campaign wouldn’t be as strenuous as it was before his health scare. “We were doing five or six meetings a day, three or four rallies and town meetings and meeting with groups of people,” he said. “I don’t think I’m going to do that.”

Last Tuesday, Sanders’ campaign announced it was canceling several events after the senator, 78, experienced chest pains during an event in Nevada. He was transported to a hospital, where it was revealed he had a blockage in one artery, and two stents were inserted. “Sen. Sanders is conversing and in good spirits,” senior adviser Jeff Weaver said in a statement. “He will be resting up over the next few days. We are canceling his events and appearances until further notice, and we will continue to provide appropriate updates.”

Two days later, Jane Sanders said that her husband was “up and about,” and confirmed that he still planned to participate in the next Democratic primary debate on October 15th. All seemed well.


But the next day it revealed that Sanders had actually suffered a heart attack, and some critics accused the campaign of being inadequately forthright about the senator’s health. Sanders pushed back against the pushback while speaking with NBC on Wednesday. “The first thing that we’re trying to do is understand what’s going on and not run to the New York Times and have to report every 15 minutes,” he said. “You know, this is not a baseball game. So I think we acted absolutely appropriately.”

It isn’t hard to understand why Sanders’ campaign would want to do all they could to tamp down concerns over his health. At 78, he’s the oldest candidate in the field of a primary in which concerns over age have abounded. Voters have also placed a premium on a candidate’s ability to beat Trump, who in 2016 had no qualms with indulging conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton’s health. Unfair as it may be, it isn’t hard to imagine Trump and Fox News making hay over Sanders’ health should he win the Democratic primary.

Voters seems concerned. An Economist/YouGov poll released on Wednesday found that Sanders’ “electability” had dropped 8 points in the past week, with 66 percent of Democratic voters saying his health is a “legitimate issue.” Sanders acknowledged this while speaking with NBC later that day. “It is a factor,” he said, “[but] so is what you’re standing for. You’re running for president, what do you stand for?”

On Thursday morning, Sanders reiterated what he stands for in a lengthy video relating that he is “feeling great” and looking forward to getting back out on the campaign trail.

“One of the things that went through my brain [when I was in the hospital] is what would have happened if I did not have the good health insurance that I have,” he said. “What happens if somebody had not health insurance who felt a pain in his or her chest and felt really sick, and said to themselves, ‘Do I really want to go to the doctor or hospital because I don’t have tens of thousands of dollars to pay for the medical bills I will incur?’ How many people have died because they don’t get to the doctor or hospital when they should?”

“We are going to win this struggle,” Sanders continued of the fight to bring socialized health care to America. “History is on our side. The function of health care is quality care for all, not billions in profits for the drug companies and the insurance companies.”

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