The surprise endorsements are a political coup for Sanders, 78, who has been fading in the polls and faced growing questions about his age and health. Before Tuesday’s Democratic debate, he had been sidelined from the campaign trail for two weeks by a heart attack.
“We’re looking forward to Saturday,” said Corbin Trent, a spokesman for Ocasio-Cortez. Sanders teased the rally at Tuesday night’s presidential debate, saying he would have a “special guest” appearing with him in New York.
In a statement, Omar said she had worked closely with Sanders on several policy initiatives, including a measure to cancel student debt and another to provide year-round school meals.
“Bernie is leading a working class movement to defeat Donald Trump that transcends generation, ethnicity, and geography,” Omar said.
Sanders campaign manager Faiz Shakir said the congresswomen could excite younger voters.
“You’ve heard Senator Sanders talk a lot about [how] the revolution is going to happen when you have a lot of young people get involved in the process,” Shakir said. “And you have a couple individuals here who I think have a unique ability to inspire young people, so we’re excited about the direction of this campaign.”
The endorsements could be a blow for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who, like Sanders, is running on a platform of sweeping liberal change and who has emphasized her role as a female pioneer. Ocasio-Cortez had worked as a volunteer organizer for Sanders’s 2016 presidential bid; she was recruited to run for Congress in 2018 by Justice Democrats, a group that grew out of the Sanders campaign.
Few figures hold as much sway in the party’s liberal wing as Ocasio-Cortez, whose 2018 primary win over then-Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) sent political shock waves across the country and made her an overnight star. Sanders recently was spotted meeting with Ocasio-Cortez in Vermont.
Her backing was a sought-after prize in the Democratic primary, and it was widely assumed that she would endorse either Sanders or Warren, the most liberal figures in the contest.
Ocasio-Cortez plans to appear with Sanders at a Bernie’s Back rally Saturday in Queens, just outside the boundaries of Ocasio-Cortez’s congressional district.
It was not immediately clear what the other two members of the Squad — Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) — planned to do. Media representatives for the lawmakers did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
President Trump has attacked the members of the Squad, at one point suggesting they should “go back” to their own countries — even though they are American citizens — and has sought to make them the face of the Democratic Party. He recently held a rally in Omar’s district.
Sanders and Warren have been battling for the support of the women, holding individual meetings with them, co-sponsoring their legislation and wishing them well on social media. On Tuesday, Sanders unveiled legislation with Omar to enact a universal school meals program.
All four members of the group were elected to the House in 2018.