Bernie Sanders is ready to help Democrats take control of the Senate.
The senator from Vermont is preparing a post-Labor Day blitz of campaign activity, according to three sources briefed on his plans, offering what Democratic leaders hope will be a late-in-the-race boost from the liberal icon to the party’s slate of Senate candidates.
In addition to attending campaign rallies, Sanders is also expected to raise money for individual candidates — including through the use of his vaunted list of small donors, according to one source close to the senator.
That list turned Sanders into a financial juggernaut during his underdog presidential campaign and has been of considerable interest to Democratic strategists, who think it could be a major source of money in down-ballot races.
Sanders’ effort will be the first time since his presidential run ended almost two months ago that he has helped Democrats as they try to win a majority in the Senate.
And unlike previous political forays, when the senator sent fundraising pitches on behalf of ideologically aligned candidates, this burst of activity is also expected to include more centrist Senate candidates locked in tight races against Republican opponents.
“Bernie Sanders has pledged to campaign aggressively for Democrats up and down the ballot after Labor Day, and I’m very confident he will follow through on his word,” said Jeff Weaver, the former manager for the senator’s White House campaign.
Democrats also say they are confident he will campaign with candidates — such as Ohio nominee Ted Strickland and Pennsylvania nominee Katie McGinty — who endorsed Hillary Clinton during the presidential primaries.
Democratic leaders believe that, in addition to the financial assistance, Sanders’ help will also rally his liberal base, especially the young voters who supported his candidacy in overwhelming numbers but are traditionally less likely to turn out to vote on Election Day.
“We are excited to have Sen. Sanders’ help and support as we work to win back the majority,” said Sadie Weiner, spokeswoman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
If Hillary Clinton wins the White House in November, Democrats need to win a net of four Senate seats to take control of the legislative body. That number increases to five if Donald Trump wins, though most party strategists concede that they have almost no hope of winning the Senate should Clinton lose.
Sanders’s assistance on the campaign trail, including to most centrist Democrats, should have been anticipated, those close to the senator say. Even incremental progress toward his progressive agenda would be blocked by a Republican-controlled Congress, they say, and the vacancy on the Supreme Court makes control of the Senate especially important.
“Anybody who’s surprised by this doesn’t have any right to be surprised, frankly,” one source close to the senator said.
Sanders has similarly pledged to support Clinton’s presidential campaign despite their spirited primary, including campaigning on her behalf on Labor Day.
Despite his plan to help the Senate Democrats win a majority, Sanders still intends to draw the line on support somewhere: He will not turn his donor list over to the DSCC.
Instead, according to a source, he will send his own fundraising pitches on behalf of candidates.
“Anybody who has given to Bernie in 2016 can be rest assured that their info won’t be turned over to the DSCC or any other arm of the Democratic Party,” the source said.