MANCHESTER, N.H. – Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang says it’s “inappropriate” for 2016 presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to be “commenting directly” about her party’s current contenders for the White House.
And the tech entrepreneur and 2020 longshot, who has seen his campaign soar in recent months, said that if he doesn’t win the Democratic nomination, he’d “be open to” serving as running mate.
Yang made his comments while taking questions from reporters Tuesday evening in Hollis, N.H., and Wednesday morning after headlining ‘Politics and Eggs,’ a must stop for White House hopefuls campaigning in the first-in-the-nation presidential primary state.
His swing through the Granite State comes days after Clinton firmly inserted herself into the 2020 campaign – arguing without evidence that Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii is a “Russian asset,” and mocking President Trump’s direct interactions with foreign leaders.
Gabbard, in a blistering video released over the weekend, suggested that Clinton had “smeared” her as payback for the Hawaii congresswoman’s endorsement of Sanders in the marathon 2016 Democratic presidential primary battle.
The former first lady, senator from New York and secretary of state, and the first major-party female presidential nominee has remained in the spotlight after winning the 2016 national popular vote but losing the election and the White House to Trump. And she’s served as a longtime foil for Republicans.
But her comments and actions in recent days have elevated her relevance in the 2020 campaign to a new level – renewing questions about her role in the race for the White House and sparking some speculation that she still has ambitions to mount a third bid for president.
Yang said that “nominees of the party from past cycles remain very important figures in the party, in that Hillary would have a lot of value to add.”
But he then emphasized that “she's not a candidate and it strikes me as a little bit inappropriate for her to be commenting directly about candidates since we're all Democrats. And you think that she’d be neutral unless she decided to endorse a particular candidate.”
On health care, Yang announced that “we’re going to release a detailed health care plan in the days ahead.”
And specifically on the "Medicare-for-all" proposal introduced in the Senate by Sanders and backed by Warren, Yang said: “I support the spirit of what Bernie is trying to accomplish. I do think that outlawing private insurance in a very short period of time is a bit too disruptive, and I would not do it.”
He reiterated that “I've been on the record for a long time saying that there would be a role for some private insurers in my plan. I think most private insurers will disappear if we do a good enough job with the public plan, but that there would be some companies that genuinely do add value and adapt to the new circumstances.”
As Yang arrived in New Hampshire, his staff in the state was in the process of expanding. Yang’s team in the crucial early-voting state stood at around 15 at the beginning of the month, but a senior adviser told Fox News they planned to add at least 10 new hires by the end of October or early November.
Yang’s campaign has been fueled by his unconventional style and his push for what he calls the ‘Freedom Dividend,’ a universal basic income system that would pay all adult Americans $1,000 per month. The plan would help Americans cope with the loss of jobs due to the increased impact of automation and artificial intelligence.
Asked if he’d be open to serving as the Democratic Party’s running mate if he fails to win the nomination, Yang told Fox News “my goal is to solve the problems of the 21st century. I believe the best way I can do that is as president. But if it's in some other capacity, I'd be open to that. The goal is really just to make sure that this country is in a condition that I'm proud to pass along to my kids.”
Yang, along with many other of the Democratic presidential candidates, has disavowed outside super PACs as he pledges to combat the influence of dark money in politics. But a new group – called the Math PAC – has vowed to raise and spend at least $1 million in support of Yang’s campaign.
Yang told Fox News and CBS News that “I know very little about the Math PAC, genuinely.”
“I'm not going to try and dissuade them, because we have the rules that we have. After I'm president, I'm very happy to repeal Citizens United and try and do away with super PACs entirely. But given the rules that we have right now, my goal is to compete and to win and so I'm not going to dissuade private citizens from trying to help,” he added.
Yang’s come a long way since the early days of his campaign, when the outsider and first-time candidate was the longest of long shots. He said he now feels like he’s being taken seriously by the Democratic establishment
“I've been thrilled by the momentum that the campaign has gotten; certainly we might have started as something of a newcomer/outsider, but I feel like I'm becoming more and more part of the establishment, as we get more support,” he noted.
But there continue to be moments when the candidate – who’s qualified for all of the presidential primary debates to date – is snubbed by the mainstream media.
His supporters, known as the Yang Gang, have started a trending hashtag on Twitter dubbing what they are calling unfair coverage of the candidate a #YangMediaBlackout. The latest example they cite is The Weather Channel, which did not invite Yang to participate in their climate change special set to air Nov. 7.
“Another mystery, given that by any objective standard, I am either fourth, fifth or sixth in this race. And so why would you invite, I believe, nine candidates or ten candidates and not invite Andrew Yang? I do not know. I have a very extensive climate change plan. I like the Weather Channel just as much as the next American,” Yang told Fox News when asked about the lack of an invite.