Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will endorse Sen. Bernie Sanders for president, the Washington Post reports.
Sanders hinted at the endorsement during Tuesday’s Democratic presidential debate, when he plugged a “special guest” set to appear with him at a rally in Queens, New York, on Saturday. The rally, billed as “Bernie’s Back,” will be a bid to reassure voters that the senator, who recently suffered a heart attack, is as ready as ever to campaign for—and serve as—president. An endorsement from one of the most prominent progressive voices in Congress, a beloved leader among young Democrats, will serve well as evidence that the Sanders campaign isn’t petering out with the recent blow to the candidate’s health.
Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, who is, like Ocasio-Cortez, a rising star on the left and a favored villain on the right, endorsed Sanders Tuesday night. “Bernie is leading a working class movement to defeat Donald Trump that transcends generation, ethnicity, and geography,” she said in a statement. Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan reportedly plans to do so as well.
Ocasio-Cortez’s backing of Sanders helps settles a period of speculation about how the left side of the Democratic Party might align itself in the presidential race. Her choice was not exactly a surprise, ideologically or organizationally: Before she unseated a long-serving Democrat from the congressional seat she now holds, Ocasio-Cortez was a volunteer organizer for Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign; the organization that recruited her to run in the first place, Justice Democrats, was founded by Sanders campaign leadership. But some observers wondered whether Ocasio-Cortez might strategically throw her weight behind Sen. Elizabeth Warren after the two ate lunch together in March. If she had, she would have had hell to pay among Sanders diehards and democratic socialists—her most loyal supporters and political allies.
Instead, she’ll offer a show of momentum for Sanders. Former Vice President Joe Biden still leads the Democratic presidential polls, with Warren close on his tails; Sanders is in a comfortable third place. Though he leads the pack in fundraising, Sanders hasn’t yet seen any major, steady growth in polling support for his candidacy this cycle. Meanwhile, Warren, his closest ideological peer, has seen a significant spike in her polling numbers in recent weeks. With a few high-profile endorsements, Sanders is declaring he’s in the race for the long haul. If progressive voters who were considering Warren follow Ocasio-Cortez’s lead, his campaign may have the room for growth it needs to keep him there.