BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — Bernie Sanders began the slow process of reintroducing himself to the 2020 campaign Tuesday, venturing outside his Vermont home briefly to say he’d been more fatigued than usual in recent weeks and was boneheaded for ignoring symptoms that might have foretold his heart attack last week. But he provided no hints on how he’ll restart his suspended White House bid.
“I must confess, I was dumb,” the 78-year-old Vermont senator said, speaking in soft, calm tones with his wife, Jane O’Meara Sanders, looking on behind him. “Thank God, I have a lot of energy, and during this campaign I’ve been doing, in some cases, three or four rallies a day all over the state, Iowa, New Hampshire, wherever. And yet I, in the last month or two, just was more fatigued than I usually have been. And I should have listened to those symptoms.”
Sanders’ campaign has said he will be at next week’s Democratic presidential debate in Ohio. It hasn’t commented on if or when he’ll resume campaigning before that — or what his next steps will be. NBC News announced it would air an “exclusive” interview with Sanders, his first since the heart attack, today.
His health problems come at a precarious time, since Sanders was already facing questions about being the oldest candidate seeking the White House, and has seen his recent poll numbers decline compared to 2020 rival Elizabeth Warren, his chief competitor for the Democratic Party’s most-progressive wing.
Sanders also recently shook up his campaign staff in Iowa and New Hampshire, which kick off the presidential nominating process.
Supporters privately conceded the timing of the heart attack — which came just as the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump was escalating — helped limit the political fallout. But they also acknowledge he will have to more directly address lingering health concerns then, if not before.
Last week began on a high note when Sanders announced he’d raised $25.3 million during the year’s third quarter, more than Warren and any other Democratic presidential hopeful. But word of that was overshadowed hours later, when Sanders was at a campaign event in Nevada, experienced chest discomfort and was taken to a hospital, where he was diagnosed with a heart attack.
Doctors inserted two stents to open up a blocked artery in his heart. Sanders left the hospital Friday and flew home to Vermont the following morning.
“It wasn’t a major heart attack. He had a minor heart attack. The stents will be extremely helpful in terms of blood flow. I assume he’ll be far more vigorous,” said RoseAnn DeMoro, a Sanders’ confidante and former executive director of National Nurses United. “Heaven help the opposition.”