Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) is highly popular among Democratic voters, but his 2018 Senate challenger said he believes Sanders' "man of the people" persona is nothing but a gimmick, according to Fox News.
First-time candidate Jon Svitavsky claims to be far more anti-establishment — and socialist — than Sanders, saying he is "far more liberal."
“It’s shamefully arrogant when you’re more interested in being a celebrity than honoring your progressive agenda,” Svitavsky told Fox News about Sanders. “This wonderful, political ‘I am Robin Hood shtick’ can only last for so long.”
Svitavsky said he is planning to challenge Sanders in 2018, and claims to have enough name recognition within the state of Vermont to put up a decent fight.
Fox News reported that during a Tuesday interview Svitavsky blamed Sanders for Trump's victory, and claimed that after he damaged failed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's chances for the White House, slunk back to being an Independent.
“I hold him absolutely, centrally responsible for Donald Trump being president,” Svitavsky told NBC News. “That's my No. 1 issue.”
According to NBC News, Svitavsky claims that within hours of “soft-launching” his campaign, he had already received word of people who wanted to donate and volunteer for his campaign.
“There's a lot of anger out there in my party against Bernie,” Svitavsky said
Svitavsky believes the ongoing FBI investigation into Sanders, and his wife Jane have left the Vermont senator vulnerable. Jane Sanders faces potential fraud charges after she allegedly secured a $10 million loan under false pretenses from People’s United Bank in 2010 in order to purchase 33 acres of land for the now-closed Burlington College.
Rumors have circulated that Sanders used his political office to help his wife secure these loans, an allegation that Sanders has called an "absolute lie." Sanders has declined to say too much about the ongoing investigation, except to blame the accusations of fraud on Trump campaign heads.
Svitavsky told Fox News that in conjunction with the investigation, the election loss, and the fact that Sanders reportedly still has $3.8 million in various Senate accounts, opens a door of opportunity for him to seriously challenge Sanders as a phony. He also believes that his time opening homeless shelters across the state of Vermont has given him enough facial recognition, giving him strong grassroots support.
“I think that resonates,” Svitavsky said. “And I’m not unknown here. People might say I don’t have political experience but not that I’m insincere. … I’m far more liberal than Bernie, far more committed to making things happen.”
Sanders, however, remains one of the most popular politicians in America today. According to a Tuesday Morning Consult poll, Sanders ranks No. 1 with a 75 percent approval rating among nationwide voters. Among Democrats nationwide, an April Harvard-Harris survey found that Sanders enjoys an 80 percent approval rating. A March Fox News poll likewise found that Sanders was the most popular politician in America.
“He’s not a Democrat. That was a joke,” said Svitavsky of Sanders' White House bid.
While Sanders has given no indication that he will not run for his Senate seat again next year, he said during a radio interview on Thursday that he's not ruling at a 2020 bid for president. While Sanders, 75, has said he's not ruling out such a run, it's still too early for him to decide.