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Sanders surges as progressives flock to him over Warren

Something’s happening with Bernie Sanders that looked unlikely to many a few months ago: Progressive leaders and organizations are lining up behind him, not Elizabeth Warren, in the lead-up to voting.

Two groups run by young people — the Sunrise Movement, which seeks to combat climate change, and Dream Defenders, which advocates for people of color — endorsed him last week. He’s also won the backing of People’s Action and the Center for Popular Democracy, which together claim more than 1.5 million members, as well as three lawmakers in the so-called “Squad” and liberal-minded labor unions.

The consolidation of left-wing support is a remarkable turnaround for Sanders. In September, the Working Families Party became the first major national progressive group to endorse a candidate when it picked Warren — despite siding with Sanders in 2016. Warren was surging at the time, and looked poised to overtake Sanders as the leader of the progressive movement and a frontrunner for the nomination.

But now it’s Sanders with the wind at his back. The endorsements, on display here Sunday when Rep. Rashida Tlaib and the Sunrise Movement joined him for a rally attended by more than 900 people, are giving him a jolt of momentum weeks ahead of the Iowa caucuses and supplying him with fresh volunteers in key areas.

“I’m not surprised that Bernie is increasingly consolidating support,” said Waleed Shahid, an aide for the left-wing group Justice Democrats, which has not yet endorsed a candidate. “Many of his staff have backgrounds in community organizing, his 2016 campaign helped grow the progressive movement, and he received [Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s] endorsement, who is shaping the future of the progressive left in significant ways.”

The endorsements follow months of courting, which included the famously curmudgeonly Sanders meeting personally with organizations’ members, according to his aides and the groups.

A Sanders staffer said that they often encouraged leaders in those meetings to ask him a common refrain in movement politics: “What brought you to the work?” That prompted Sanders, who doesn’t often talk about his personal background, to open up about growing up in a paycheck to paycheck household and being a civil rights activist in his youth.

“They would hear him talk about the first time Bernie got arrested was fighting segregated housing and systemic racism in college,” said Analilia Mejia, Sanders’ national political director. “For many of these organizers, their activism began the same way as Bernie Sanders.”