The presidential campaign of former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel was a plan masterminded by a high school student in New York to inject anti-imperialist politics into the 2020 campaign—especially the Democratic debates. Given that Gravel wasn’t able to actually get into the debates, however, it appears at least one candidate with a similar following is looking for his endorsement.
According to Gravel campaign national press secretary Marlon Ettinger, the Gabbard campaign is “courting the endorsement” of Gravel, who previously ran for president in 2008. Ettinger told Splinter that the Gabbard campaign gave Gravel’s team tickets to both debates in Detroit earlier this week. (Ettinger was not at the debates.)
Ettinger added, however, that he’s spoken with other people in the campaign and “doesn’t think an endorsement is forthcoming,” although he noted he hadn’t spoken with Gravel about Gabbard. Earlier this week, former Gravel staffer Kate Kohn told Splinter in a DM that while the campaign hasn’t finalized an endorsement, “the Senator himself is a fan of Tulsi.”
Ettinger also had choice words for Gabbard. “Personally I don’t like Gabbard one bit, I think her anti-imperialism is phony, politically calculating, and not principled,” he said in an email to Splinter. He added that Gravel “likes what he’s seen of Gabbard, but I don’t think he’s seen much of who she actually is.”
Gravel’s campaign staff told ABC News yesterday that it would come to an end “in the next week or so,” and that Gabbard was one of the names under consideration, along with Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and author Marianne Williamson. “Those are all names themselves we’ve come to appreciate during this primary campaign, and having seen their performances in the most recent debates, the Senator has great admiration for them and is considering throwing his support behind any number of them,” treasurer Henry Magowan told ABC.
We’ve reached out to Gabbard’s campaign for confirmation that they’re courting Gravel’s endorsement, and will update when and if we receive a response.
Gabbard, who endorsed Bernie Sanders’ campaign in 2016 and resigned from her post at the Democratic National Committee in spectacular fashion before launching her own presidential bid this year, is an Iraq War veteran who was elected to Congress from Hawaii in 2012. While she’s won support from some on the left for her opposition to regime change in Syria, she’s been accused by others of being too close to Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, with whom she met with in 2017. She’s also faced criticism for her support of Indian leader Narendra Modi, who was the governor of the Indian state of Gujarat in 2002 when nearly a thousand Muslims were killed in a pogrom.
Gabbard also has a highly questionable record on LGBTQ rights dating back to her upbringing and days as a state legislator in Hawaii, during which she called activists “homosexual extremists.” Gabbard apologized for her anti-LGBTQ activism earlier this year, saying that she has changed her views.
During Thursday night’s debate, Gabbard landed one of the biggest punches of the night in a sharp rebuke of Sen. Kamala Harris’ record as a prosecutor. As of right now, however, Gabbard hasn’t met the threshold for cracking the next round of presidential debates, which are set to be held in September.
Update, 5:30 p.m. ET: After the publication of this story, Gravel campaign manager David Oks DMed a statement to Splinter emphasizing that no decision had been made yet. “We are in touch with several campaigns that would like to speak to Mike about an endorsement,” Oks said. “No decision has been made and no staff discussion has occurred. All comments by staff are made solely in their personal capacities.”