“During this campaign, I’ve been doing in some cases three or four rallies a day, running all over the state — Iowa, New Hampshire, wherever,” Sanders told reporters outside his home in Burlington, Vt. “And yet I, in the last month or two, just was more fatigued than I usually have been. And I should have listened to those symptoms.”
Sanders visited a cardiologist Tuesday morning, and when he returned, he told reporters, “We’re gonna change the nature of the campaign a bit.”
“Probably not doing four rallies a day,” said Sanders, who had adopted a more furious campaign schedule than many of his much younger opponents.
Sanders, who has committed to releasing his medical records before the first primary votes but has not yet done so, said Tuesday he would provide the information at “the appropriate time.” Former vice president Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) — fellow septuagenarians who join Sanders at the top of most polls — have also committed to releasing their medical records.
Sanders met reporters outside his Burlington home where he has spent the past few days with family, making calls and recovering from a heart attack he suffered during a grass roots fundraising event in Las Vegas last week.
The 78-year-old felt chest pains last Tuesday night and was taken to a hospital, where doctors inserted two stents into a blocked artery. By Monday, he was back in Burlington, taking a walk with his wife, Jane, and addressing his campaign on a staff-wide conference call.
The campaign had not initially disclosed that Sanders had suffered a heart attack, acknowledging at first only that the stents had been implanted. Tuesday’s remarks were the first in which Sanders himself has been so open about what happened.
The senator from Vermont had been making more frequent campaign stops than almost any of his fellow Democrats, despite being the oldest candidate in the field. He had never spoken publicly about feeling increased fatigue, though it was clear he was maintaining a grueling pace.
Far from admitting he was tired, Sanders tried to demonstrate that despite his age he remained robust and vibrant. In late August, for example, he participated in a softball game with his campaign staffers in Iowa.
But he suffered occasional minor physical setbacks. Sanders cut his head on a shower door in March, and had to cancel a day of events when he lost his voice in September.
“If there’s any message that I hope we can get out there, it’s that I want people to pay attention to their symptoms,” Sanders said. “When you’re hurting, when you’re fatigued, when you have a pain in your chest — listen to it.”
Allies also say they hope Sanders will talk openly about his heart attack as a way to present a more human side, a departure for a candidate noticeably reluctant to talk about himself. In his remarks in recent days, as well as appearances with his wife, he seems to have begun that process.
In the meantime, the campaign has churned along even without campaign appearances by the candidate. On Monday, Sanders’s team rolled out a proposal to curtail the role of money in politics. On Tuesday, the campaign began airing $1.3 million in television ads in Iowa.
Later Tuesday, the Sanders team announced a series of endorsements from local officials in Nevada. And Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), a Sanders campaign co-chair, tweeted that Sanders “had a great call” with his campaign co-chairs.
Sanders’s hiatus from the trail mean the Democratic debate in Ohio next week is likely to be a crucial moment for his campaign. He will have had 14 days of rest between his procedure and the debate, when voters and rivals are likely to scrutinize his performance for any signs of fatigue or additional physical strain.