Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was campaigning for Bernie Sanders at a jampacked beach-side rally last week when she took a moment to look beyond 2020.
“I know, and we all know, that this isn’t just about Bernie Sanders,” she said. “This is about a movement that has been decades in the making.”
Since endorsing him in October, Ocasio-Cortez has become a supercharged surrogate for Sanders in early-voting and delegate-rich states. As she’s drawn massive crowds alongside the Vermont senator in Iowa, Nevada, California and New York, progressive insiders and activists are increasingly whispering about Ocasio-Cortez inheriting the movement one day — and running for the White House with it behind her.
“The future of the Democratic Party is not Pete Buttigieg. It’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez,” said Will Rodriguez-Kennedy, president of the California Young Democrats, which has endorsed Sanders. “She has gripped the attention of fellow millennials across the country. The Green New Deal has changed the conversation on environmental action in the Democratic Party.”
While the two democratic socialists are hyperfocused on 2020, some political operatives see their joint appearances as also laying the groundwork for a possible Ocasio-Cortez bid one day, purposefully or not. They’ve shown that she can excite Democrats in critical early-voting states.
The largest crowds at any presidential candidate event this year featured Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez. The events have allowed Ocasio-Cortez to hone her stump speech, which is not focused solely on Sanders and often includes long passages about her progressive vision. In one instance, she gave a keynote talk at a Las Vegas town hall for the campaign — delivered in Spanish — without Sanders present.