How Bernie Sanders’ Heart Attack Changes the 2020 Presidential Race

Independent candidate Bernie Sanders’ heart attack suffered on the campaign trail last week thrusts a tough issue to the front of the 2020 presidential race: How old is too old to be president, CNN argues.

Sanders is the obvious focus of that question, after having two stents placed into an artery following a campaign appearance in Nevada – and being forced to pull out of a CNN-sponsored town hall on LGBTQ issues in California later this week.

But he’s not the only candidate in the Democratic field who will be affected by Sanders’ heart attack in the race. While Sanders, at 78, is the oldest candidate in the contest, former Vice President Joe Biden is 76, and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is 70.

If any of them were elected president next November, they would become the oldest person ever elected to a first term as president. The man whose record they would break? Donald Trump, who was 70 when he won in 2016.

Given that the three frontrunners for the Democratic nod are septuagenarians, the age/health question has been a low buzz in the race from the start. But with Biden, Warren and Sanders keeping schedules that would exhaust this 43-year-old in about a day’s time, there’s been little to hang those worries on, CNN adds.

That’s now changed — in a fundamental way. While Sanders and his campaign (and his supporters) are quick to downplay how serious (or not) this heart attack was for the Vermont senator, it’s hard to get away from this fact: Sanders, a 78-year-old man, had a heart attack that required surgery. While there are lots and lots of people who have this exact experience, most of them are not running for president. And no one disputes that being president — or even running for it — is a hugely stressful job.

Sanders, Biden and Warren have all previously pledged to release their medical records before the Iowa caucuses on February 3, 2020. “What health concerns, man?” Biden joked last month when asked about releasing his medical record. “You want to wrestle?”

The timeline for those disclosures – yes, for all three candidates — is likely to accelerate now. Because while it’s true that Sanders is the one with the current medical issues, the focus on health and age means that Biden and Warren have to assume they will be getting more questions about those subjects on the campaign trail, too.

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