Manchester, New Hampshire – Bernie Sanders’ campaign Manager Faiz Shakir aims to win the early-voting states, including Iowa and New Hampshire, but revealed in an interview with CBS News that the campaign has been building out its path to winning the nomination without taking the first-in-the-nation contests.
“Is there a path without New Hampshire? There is a path,” Shakir said. “You could do very well on March 3rd – California, Texas, Virginia, North Carolina – all those other states.”
On March 3, the voting day known as “Super Tuesday,” seventeen states and territories will be holding their primary elections. This includes California, which is worth twice as many delegates as the first four voting states combined.
The trove of delegates that night could be a lifeline for campaigns that don’t perform well in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, or South Carolina.
It’s why Sanders has made six trips to California — more than any other candidate. Shakir considers California, the home state of Democratic rival Senator Kamala Harris, to be “up for grabs.”
The Super Tuesday haul also includes the home state of Senator Elizabeth Warren: Massachusetts.
“Massachusetts is going to be an uphill fight,” Shakir admitted, adding, “I would assume and anticipate that Elizabeth Warren would want to compete for support in Vermont. The reason why you want to do that is you’re trying to reach a threshold, right? You’re trying to get your 15%. You’re trying to get your delegates wherever you can get them.”
Bernie Sanders’ seven-figure ad buy in New Hampshire, Shakir said, covers Portland, Maine and Boston media markets, targeting voters in both Super Tuesday states.
But focusing solely on March 3 would be a misguided strategy, says Sanders’ campaign manager.
“You can’t just spend a bunch of money on TV ads, à la Michael Bloomberg, and decide that ‘I’m going to parade in at the last moment and try to win this nomination by buying it,'” Shakir said.
At the same time, the Sanders campaign has reportedly earmarked $30 million on television advertising alone to reach untapped voters in the first four voting states, plus California. In the last month, Sanders has spent $830,000 in digital ads on Google and Facebook, according to the marketing agency ACRONYM. Of that, 14.2% of all Facebook ad buys target voters in California.
Shakir stressed that victories on March 3 potentially buoy a previously sinking campaign. And another upside to Super Tuesday, Shakir offered, is the opportunity to empower more diverse voting blocs that counterbalance the majority-white early states of Iowa and New Hampshire.
“The Democratic Party has intentionally moved the calendar in ways that compel you to campaign before a diverse audience,” he observed.
That diversity could play an important role in Sanders’ success. A large part of the campaign’s strategy includes minority outreach programs in unlikely areas, in Latino communities in Iowa and New Hampshire. It is also working to harness first-time, diverse voters, with Spanish-language ads in Nevada and California.
“In order for us to win, it will require a bunch of new people being engaged who do not call themselves likely voters in the polls right now. If they materialize, we will do well. If they do not, it will be a slog,” Shakir told CBS News.
Storming college campuses proves yet another part of the equation. According to the latest CBS News Battleground Tracker poll, Sanders maintains his leads with young people in Iowa, but trails Warren among these voters in New Hampshire.
The Sanders campaign has hired young part-timers to go to campuses across New Hampshire to organize and educate college students about a recently enacted state residency law. The controversial provision could make it harder for out-of-state students to vote in New Hampshire elections and is currently being challenged by the ACLU and New Hampshire Democratic Party in federal court.
“[College students] can overcome these registration barriers that are put into place.” Shakir said. “Obviously, we have some politicians in the state who have tried very hard to diminish the role and participation of young people.”
Path to Democatic nomination
Nationwide and across the early states, Sanders’ enjoys wide name recognition. Yet in New Hampshire, the progressive stalwart faces off with another household name: Elizabeth Warren.
“Sanders’ hope for building a coalition that could deliver him the nomination is progressive voters, who have to play a big part in that nationally and in New Hampshire,” University of New Hampshire political scientist Dante Scala told CBS News. “In order for that to happen, he has to put Warren behind him at some point — and some point early. Dividing progressives deep into the primary calendar is not a formula for gaining a majority coalition.”
The two senators from adjacent states have become so linked in fact, that some Sanders’ supporters have started pleading with him to distinguish himself from his longtime friend and Senate ally. Sanders has refrained from taking direct aim at Warren.
“Whatever messages we send out from this campaign have to reflect Bernie Sanders. It doesn’t make a lot of sense for us to be doing mudslinging and personal attacks that truly don’t reflect how he feels,” said Shakir.
And to those who call on Sanders to be be more aggressive about setting himself apart from Warren, Shakir points out that these voters are already “firstly for Bernie Sanders.” Shakir is confident that expanding that base will happen in good time.
“Everyone’s on their journey. Some of us are well ahead on our journey, and we have to be comfortable and open and welcoming on this campaign for people who are at different points in that journey,” Shakir said. “And everyone’s moving at their own rate and speed and pace.”
“We feel comfortable and confident in the candidate’s case,” he added.
The same notion was expressed by Sanders on Monday at a town hall in Salem, New Hampshire, when a supporter asked him how his base can reach out to supporters of President Donald Trump.
“Are there some of Trump’s supports who are racist and sexist? There are. Are we going to win them over? We’re not,” said Sanders. But there are some, he thinks, who could support him.
“But I think the majority of his supporters are probably people who are angry and disgusted at a political system that’s left them behind […] They’re saying, ‘Who stands up for us? Democratic leadership stand up for us? No.'”
Sanders told his supporters that they need to embrace Trump supporters, whom he says were lied to by the president.
“Our main point is to tell people all over this country that Trump is not only a liar, but he is fraud,” said Sanders.
Shakir contrasted the president with Sanders, whom he says has a consistent track record and personal authenticity. It’s a distinction Sanders hoped to highlight on the debate stage last week, but did not get the opportunity. They’re “really, really crappy debates,” said Shakir.
This is in line with the campaign’s belief that Sanders is suffering from biased media coverage. His supporters have coined the phrase “Bernie Blackout” to describe the lack of coverage they perceive.
For now, Faiz Shakir relishes Bernie Sanders’ media coverage.
“If they want to discount him, it makes our rise even easier, in the sense that it gets our volunteers more motivated and excited about him,” he said. “We feel very good about where we stand.”
Adam Brewster, Musadiq Bidar, Alex Tin, and Jennifer De Pinto contributed to this report.