The Slatest

Bernie Sanders Says Heart Attack Will “Change the Nature of the Campaign”

Bernie Sanders speaks to supporters at a rally.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks to supporters at a rally on Sept. 9 in Denver.
Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders admitted that how he runs his campaign will have to change after he suffered a heart attack last week on the campaign trail. The Vermont senator was hospitalized in Las Vegas for three days last week when he complained of chest pains during an event. Sanders had two stents inserted and returned home to Burlington, Vermont, over the weekend to recuperate. The episode appears to have changed the tenor of the hard-charging 78-year-old senator who winces at the personality contest involved in presidential politics.

“I think we’re going to change the nature of the campaign a bit,” Sanders told reporters. “Make sure that I have the strength to do what I have to do.” The admission that he would need to take his foot off the gas to protect his health is an unusual one for an American presidential candidate, as youth and vitality—no matter the candidate’s actual age—has long been a prized asset. That’s likely why the Sanders campaign downplayed the severity of health scare and attempted to stay on course with a message that nothing had changed for the uncompromising candidate known to set an unrelenting pace on the campaign trail.

Sanders’ comments from Burlington, however, where he said he had ignored warning signs of heart problems, appear more reflective about his role in the race. “We were doing, you know, [in] some cases five or six meetings a day, three or four rallies and town meetings and meeting with groups of people,” Sanders said. “I don’t think I’m going to do that.” What the Vermont senator’s candidacy looks like going forward will surely depend on his health, but a reduced schedule could hurt the operation’s ability to compete day to day. Sanders, however, has raised plenty of money and still inspires devotion from his base, which gives him plenty to run with in the tightly contested race at the top of the Democratic field against two other septuagenarian candidates in Joe Biden, who is 76, and Elizabeth Warren, who is 70.

Sanders acknowledges his health is something that voters will consider when assessing him as a candidate—or a potential president—but his campaign has gone to great lengths to reiterate that Sanders is still very much in the race and running to win. Campaign officials say Sanders’ first public appearance is expected to be next Tuesday’s debate in Ohio, after two weeks’ rest.