Andrew Yang Says Supporters May Go to Sanders in Iowa Caucus

(Bloomberg) -- Andrew Yang said he won’t be surprised if his voters end up supporting Bernie Sanders in later rounds of the Iowa caucus voting -- a development that could strengthen Sanders’s already-surging campaign in the state.

Speaking at a Bloomberg News reporter round table in Des Moines, Yang said there is an “overlap” between his supporters and those of the progressive Vermont senator.

“I think that Bernie and I do have a lot of overlap in support so it wouldn’t be surprising to me if many of our supporters head in that direction,” he said.

Andrew Yang Says Supporters May Go to Sanders in Iowa Caucus

At Monday’s caucuses, Iowans will conduct a first round to pick their favorite candidate. Any candidate who falls short of the required support can direct his or her supporters to back a rival in a second round.

Yang said that several candidates -- whom he would not name -- have reached out to his campaign about supporting them.

The first-time candidate is currently polling in Iowa at just 3% in the Real Clear Politics average of polls, with Sanders breaking through in Iowa, New Hampshire and California. With so many Democrats in contention, even Yang’s small cadre of supporters could tip the balance in one of the early contests.

Yang argued that his signature campaign proposal for a universal basic income of $1,000 a month to every adult would help rebuild struggling communities in Iowa, pouring tens of billions of dollar into the economy and creating 40,000 new jobs.

To fund it, he proposes using a value-added tax, a consumption tax that most developed countries use that has long been considered a non-starter in the U.S. But Yang said he could overcome concerns about its effects by designing it to affect the wealthy more.

“You can tailor a VAT so that it falls more heavily on things like artificial intelligence and yachts and luxury watches and less heavily on diapers and toilet paper and eggs,” he said.

Yang’s strong online fund raising has allowed him to outlast 16 candidates, including three senators and three governors. And he’s done well enough in other polls that he earned a place on the stage at most of the primary debates, including the February debate in New Hampshire.

Andrew Yang Says Supporters May Go to Sanders in Iowa Caucus

Yang criticized former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg for not trying to qualify for the debates under the Democratic National Committee’s rules, saying that Bloomberg could meet the donor threshold quickly if he wanted to.

He argued that Bloomberg was skipping over an important part of presidential campaigns, which is engaging with voters and making them feel as if they were a part of the effort.

“I think Mike is missing a massive opportunity to get the American people to invest in him,” he said.

In recent days, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar and progressive allies of Elizabeth Warren have also argued that Bloomberg should be on the debate stage, saying that his absence is allowing him to evade tough questions from his rivals.

Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.

Pressed about the diversity of his campaign staff, Yang declined to give any specifics, but said that it does not match the demographic diversity of the country as a whole.

“I would say that we almost certainly do not hit those marks,” he said.

The campaigns of Warren, Sanders and Pete Buttigieg have said that about 40% of their full-time staff are people of color, according to Politico. Biden told NPR that he has “the most diverse staff” of any campaign but declined to release specific numbers.

On other topics:

  • Yang said that the government should develop a list of people at risk of getting coronavirus and check in with them regularly until they are past the incubation period, even if that feels “heavy handed.”
  • He criticized Sanders’ and Warren’s plans for wide student debt forgiveness, favoring a narrower approach that would forgive loans after 10 years for people who pay 10% of their income each year. He said broader debt forgiveness plans risk casting Democrats as a party that just helps highly educated voters.
  • Yang said the Democratic Party had changed its focus to issues that made it more attractive to wealthy people. “Last I checked, the Democratic Party is supposed to be the party of the working class,” he said. “I’m not sure why the Democratic Party seems to be speaking a different language.”

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