Bernie Sanders ‘feeling good’ after treatment for blocked artery

US presidential candidate will take part in next Democratic debate, his campaign says

Democratic senator Bernie Sanders: He has pursued a blistering campaign schedule often characterised by multiple stops a day. Photograph:  Hilary Swift/The New York Times

Democratic senator Bernie Sanders: He has pursued a blistering campaign schedule often characterised by multiple stops a day. Photograph: Hilary Swift/The New York Times


US presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who was treated on Tuesday for a blocked artery after experiencing chest pain, will participate in the fourth Democratic debate on October 15th, his campaign said on Thursday.

Mr Sanders (78) was taken to a hospital while in Las Vegas for campaign events, and had two stents inserted to clear the blockage.

He had cancelled campaign events until further notice, but an aide said the senator from Vermont would be back in time for the debate featuring 12 of the top candidates for the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican president Donald Trump in 2020.

“He will be at the debate,” a campaign spokeswoman said.

Mr Sanders thanked supporters for their good wishes on Wednesday, and wrote on Twitter that he was “feeling good”.

The insertion of stents – tiny, wire-mesh tubes – to open blocked heart arteries is a relatively common procedure. In general, recovery can be as quick as a few days.

Mr Sanders’s hospitalisation is likely to intensify the focus on age in the Democratic race, in which much of the public debate has centred on policies such as healthcare and immigration. The three leading Democratic candidates, as well as the president they are vying to challenge, are all in their 70s. One of those Democrats, Joe Biden (76), has drawn his own age-related scrutiny because of his sometimes rambling discourses and uneven answers in debates.

Medical records

Mr Sanders has largely avoided scrutiny of his age and his health. But he and his rivals will now be under increasing pressure to release detailed medical records as Democratic voters try to settle on the best candidate to take on Mr Trump, who is 73.

Mr Sanders, Mr Biden and senator Elizabeth Warren, who is 70, have all said they would release their records before the first voting starts in February. When Mr Sanders returns to the campaign, he may find what was already his biggest challenge – finding new converts to his mission – to be even more difficult.

“I do think this makes it harder for him to persuade new supporters to come into his column because this will at least be in the back of people’s minds,” said Erik Smith, a long-time Democratic strategist.

The setback with his health also comes amid something of a political slump for Mr Sanders in his second run for the presidency. He has continued to raise substantial amounts of money from his dedicated supporters – on Tuesday, his campaign celebrated an impressive third-quarter fundraising haul of $25.3 million (€23 million) – and has remained among the top three contenders in the primary.

But he has been unable to expand his base beyond those enthusiasts. In recent weeks, he shook up his staff in Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two nominating states, in an effort to jump-start his candidacy as Ms Warren passed him in some polls.

Mr Sanders’s campaign said on Wednesday that he began experiencing chest pain during a campaign event on Tuesday night in Las Vegas, where he had travelled for a series of appearances. He had visited an outdoor memorial dedicated to victims of the city’s 2017 mass shooting and had hosted a grassroots fundraiser at the Shiraz restaurant.

Asking for a chair

The restaurant’s owner, Raja Majid, said in a phone interview on Wednesday that Mr Sansders had spoken to a crowd of about 250 people. As Mr Sanders began taking questions from the audience, he asked a staff member for a chair, an unusual request from a candidate who typically stands or paces onstage. “It’s been a long day here,” he said.

Mr Sanders had been due to travel to California and Iowa later this week. His allies quickly downplayed his procedure. RoseAnn DeMoro, a former leader of a nurse’s union and long-time Sanders surrogate, said “there are numerous presidents who have had heart problems and heart problems far worse” than what Mr Sanders experienced Wednesday.

Yet many Democratic voters have expressed discomfort with nominating a candidate in their 70s. A Pew survey in May indicated that only 3 per cent of Democratic voters believed the best age range for a president to be in was in their 70s. Forty-seven per cent of those surveyed said they preferred a president in their 50s.

“I’m not an ageist, and I never have been, but as I get older I realise the limitations of getting older, and I can’t even begin to imagine the strain of being president of the United States, ” said Steve Horner (68), a retired special education teacher from Las Vegas who travels with a portable oxygen unit to help him breathe.

“I think it does matter,” added Mr Horner, who said he had not picked a candidate yet. Others acknowledged that age was an issue, but not the preeminent one. “Would I prefer someone who is younger? Yes, but it’s not our top thing,” Elizabeth Bennett (54) said at a gun safety forum in Las Vegas.

Image of good health

On the campaign trail, each of the three septuagenarian Democrats has sought to project an image of good health, with Ms Warren making a point to jog to the stage of her campaign events and Mr Biden running through parades.

The one-time captain of his high school track team, Mr Sanders has done the same. He has pursued a blistering campaign schedule often characterised by multiple stops a day, and has been loath to take time off from the trail. He pitched in the softball game his campaign staged over the summer on Iowa’s “Field of Dreams”, and his aides have released other images of him playing catch or basketball.

During his first presidential run, Mr Sanders released a letter from his doctor declaring that he was in “very good health”. The letter stated that Mr Sanders had suffered several ailments during his life, including gout and diverticulitis. The letter also said Mr Sanders had normal readings for blood pressure, pulse and blood count and that he had no history of cardiovascular disease. – Reuters/New York Times