Sen. Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign said Tuesday that it senses an "air of desperation" from the Democratic and corporate establishment as Sanders' 2020 primary opponents intensify their attacks in a last-ditch effort to stop—or at least slow—the Vermont senator's momentum before the South Carolina primary and Super Tuesday, when 1,357 delegates are up for grabs.
Billionaire businessman Michael Bloomberg's campaign attempted to use made-up quotes as a way to smear Sanders as a friend of despots. Former Vice President Joe Biden, looking to stop Sanders from overtaking him in South Carolina, falsely accused the Vermont senator of trying to thwart Obama's 2012 reelection. Pete Buttigieg debuted a television ad assailing Medicare for All with insurance industry talking points.
"We're building a movement to win this election and transform this country. A corporate-funded think tank whose day has come and gone is no match for millions of people working in communities across the country."
—People for Bernie
These aggressive attacks on the Democratic frontrunner over just the past 24 hours likely represent a preview of what's to come in Tuesday night's Democratic debate, the final time the candidates will face off before the South Carolina primary on Saturday and Super Tuesday on March 3.
Jeff Weaver, a senior adviser to the Sanders campaign, said the wave of attacks from rival candidates indicates the Vermont senator is in the driver's seat and centrist Democrats are getting nervous about their ability to slow him down.
"You've got candidates, you've got super PACs, all piling on to stop Bernie Sanders," Weaver told the Associated Press. "They know he has the momentum in the race."
CNN reported Tuesday that following Sanders' landslide win in the Nevada caucus, which cemented the senator's status as the frontrunner, "the Democratic establishment and the party's sizable moderate wing are increasingly anxious over his steady march to the presidential nomination—yet they lack any sort of cohesive plan to stop him."
"In interviews with more than two dozen Democratic lawmakers, aides and strategists, a picture has emerged of a diffuse and unfocused front against Sanders, built far more on talk than action," CNN reported. "Moderate Democrats are also pinning their hopes of stopping Sanders in South Carolina on Biden."
The Big Tent Project, a Democratic organization, "has sent hundreds of thousands of mailers bashing Bernie Sanders to black voters in South Carolina who voted in the state's 2016 primary," according to Axios. The Big Tent Project is a 501(c)(4) organization, meaning it is not required to disclose its donors.
In a memo published Saturday, the Wall Street-funded think tank Third Way pleaded with Sanders' Democratic rivals to stop squabbling with each other and instead "take the fight to [Sanders] at the next debate."
"You are almost out of time—Sanders could take a nearly insurmountable delegate lead on Super Tuesday," Third Way warned, suggesting several lines of attack against the Vermont senator. "We believe it is imperative that one of you emerge as the nominee."
People for Bernie tweeted in response to the the Third Way memo that the Sanders campaign is "building a movement to win this election and transform this country."
"A corporate-funded think tank whose day has come and gone," the group added, "is no match for millions of people working in communities across the country."