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Democrat 2020 hopefuls eye coveted Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez endorsement

Ben Riley-Smith
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 29, has four million Twitter followers despite being in Congress just five months - UPI / Barcroft Media

She is the great young hope of America’s Left-wing, an articulate and impassioned progressive whose policies have gained traction and Twitter feed is followed by four million. 

Now Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 29-year-old first-time congressman from New York, is seeing her newfound political clout manifest in a new way – a race for her endorsement. 

With two dozen Democrats seeking their party’s presidential nomination, the support of Ms Ocasio-Cortez is being seen as a way to win over the young, energised voters who will help shape the race. 

Chief among the contenders are Bernie Sanders, the independent 77-year-old senator from Vermont, and Elizabeth Warren, the former academic now representing Massachusetts in the Senate

Both have made tacit acknowledgement of Ms Ocasio-Cortez’s influence in public in recent weeks – whether for policy reasons, or for political gain, or both. 

Earlier this month, Mr Sanders appeared alongside Ms Ocasio-Cortez at an office table where they discussed the importance of reducing credit card interest rates. 

At the end of the 25-minute video, shared on social media and viewed by more than half a million people, the pair patted each other on the back warmly and smiled. 

Last month, Mr Warren wrote a 180-word ode to Ms Ocasio-Cortez for Time Magazine when the latter was named in its top 100 most influential people. 

“A year ago, she was taking orders across a bar. Today, millions are taking cues from her,” Ms Warren wrote of the congresswoman’s remarkable political rise. “And she’s just getting started.”

Those two are not the only Democratic hopefuls vying for an endorsement, it appears. Politico reported that both senator Kirsten Gillibrand and former housing and urban development secretary Julian Castro have made “overtures”. 

The enthusiasm is understandable. The Democratic Party’s progressive base appears fired up for change and many candidates hoping to win the right to take on Donald Trump are leaning its way. 

Government-funded health care for all, a $15 minimum wage and bold action on climate change have been widely adopted by the field ahead of the first debate in June and the first primary vote next February. 

Ms Ocasio-Cortez, who last year shocked the political establishment by ousting a 10-term Democrat in her own party to take his seat, has become the progressive movement’s most recognisable star. 

That was underscored this week as Joe Biden, the former US vice president who is polling top and running on a centrist ticket, was forced to defend his climate change stance after Ms Ocasio-Cortez dismissed it as “middle of the road". 

Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic senator for Massachusetts, has developed a reputation for standing up to Wall Street Credit: AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

Mr Sanders is best placed to win the endorsement race. Ms Ocasio-Cortez worked on his 2016 presidential campaign, identifies like him as a democratic socialist and shares many of the same policy beliefs. 

Ms Warren has also laid out a left-wing platform taking on Wall Street and redistributing wealth but makes clear she remains a believer in capitalism. 

Asked recently about an endorsement by a CNN reporter, Ms Ocasio-Cortez said: “What I would like to see in a presidential candidate is one that has a coherent worldview and logic from which all these policy proposals are coming forward.

"I think senator Sanders has that. I also think senator Warren has that.”

And, the questioner followed up, would she consider endorsing Mr Biden? Ms Ocasio-Cortez turned and walked away without a definitive answer.