Sanders camp quietly pushes Ro Khanna presidential bid: Report

Politico says top progressives are encouraging Indian American lawmaker to run in 2024 if Joe Biden doesn’t seek reelection

Top figures from Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign are privately encouraging Indian American congressman Ro Khanna to run for president in 2024 if Joe Biden doesn’t seek a second term, according to Politico.

However in an interview with the publication focused on politics, Khanna made clear that he had no intention of challenging Biden and expressed strong support for his reelection. But he did not close the door to 2028.

“I’m not running in 2024,” Khanna was quoted as saying. “I fully expect the president to run and intend to support him strongly.”

“If for some reason he didn’t, that would be very disappointing, but there are a number of other candidates who I think I could get behind who would make sure that the Democrats beat Donald Trump.”

As for a race beyond that, he said that “after the ’24 cycle will be a time where America will start to look to the future.”

Read: Indian-American Ro Khanna named to emerging biotechnology body (March 18, 2022)

Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ former presidential campaign manager, and Mark Longabaugh, a senior adviser to Sanders during his 2016 bid, have both urged Khanna to consider a campaign in the event Biden declines to run again, Politico reported citing a person familiar with their discussions.

The talks between Khanna and current and former Sanders advisers offer a window into the hushed, behind-the-scenes conversations that Democrats are having in the event that Biden doesn’t seek reelection, the publication said.

They also demonstrate that a key part of Sanders’ brain trust is looking to Khanna, a close ally to the Vermont senator, as his heir apparent, it said.

“I think Ro would be a very effective candidate,” Longabaugh told Politico stressing that he was only referring to a scenario in which Biden did not run again in 2024.

“This guy has a message that’s very powerful. … Ro is basically saying, ‘Is there a way in which we can reconstruct the economy so that all of the wealth is not just being generated on the East Coast, West Coast, or out of my congressional district?’” he was quoted as saying.

Khanna has long operated like someone interested in running for president, Politico said noting he’s spent considerable time in the early-voting states campaigning with Sanders as a co-chair of his 2020 presidential bid.

Khanna has also leveraged his connections in Silicon Valley to bring technology jobs to the early presidential states.

The three-term congressman, according to Politico, cuts a unique profile: The 45-year-old is a die-hard liberal who happens to also represent the startup paradise of Silicon Valley.

He calls himself a “progressive capitalist” and envisions a future in which America’s eroding democracy is strengthened by spreading well-paying technology jobs across the heartland.

Khanna’s supporters believe that he would begin a presidential race with a significant portion of Sanders’ political infrastructure and likely become a top contender for progressive voters, according to Politico.

“I think he would have tremendous appeal among people who supported Bernie. I do, absolutely, 100 percent,” Weaver was quoted as saying.

“He has a thoughtful take on the economy, which I think a lot of working-class people that Democrats have had difficulty reaching would hear.”

Politico said Weaver and every other Democratic strategist interviewed for the story, stipulated that they were talking about Khanna’s future in the context of Biden not seeking a second term.

Allies of Khanna, who is the son of Indian immigrants, think he could tap financial support in the Indian American community and appeal to immigrants of all stripes, it said.

Indian Americans — one of the fastest-growing immigrant groups in the country — have been working diligently in recent years to increase their political clout, and Khanna has developed close relationships with Indian American leaders, the publication noted.

“Ro has a clear vision of both protecting America’s status as a multiracial democracy and bringing economic opportunity from the coasts to every corner of the country,” Neil Makhija, executive director of the civic group Indian American Impact, told Politico.

Read: Half of Americans Doubt Biden Will Run in 2024, WSJ Poll Shows (March 15, 2022)

“Since Covid and the changing nature of remote work, an honest, realistic economic message for rural America is possible and the kind of critical message we need from a national leader.”

Politico said Weaver and Longabaugh would not discuss their conversations with Khanna.

Beyond them, a handful of other key figures in Sanders’ orbit hope that, if Biden declines to campaign for a second term, Khanna will run for president in 2024 or in future years, Politico said.

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