While top Democrats are terrified that Sen. Bernie Sanders might win the Democratic primary, top Republicans are reportedly champing at the bit to see a self-described Democratic Socialist go up against incumbent President Donald Trump.

“If we can run a race against a person that’s an out-of-the-closet socialist and promoting socialist ideas, it’s a great contrast for us,” GOP Senate Majority Whip John Thune of South Dakota said in an interview with Politico.

“It would be good for us to have a nominee like that,” said Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), who is up for reelection next year and sounded downright giddy about the prospect of Sanders representing Democrats at the top of the ticket.

Trump and Senate Republicans have reportedly designed their 2020 strategy around Sanders and the rising tide of socialism in particular, and they will attempt to label every Democrat running as a socialist.

Sanders is trailing former Vice President Joe Biden in most early polls, but top Republicans reportedly believe Sanders can win.

“A lot of people think that in that crowded field, he could break out,” Thune said.

The strategy shows Republicans are much more comfortable talking about Sanders and tying other Democrats to his brand of socialism than they are in defending this year’s meager legislative agenda. But Republicans could be making the same mistake Democrats made four years ago, when Trump launched his presidential campaign and they began salivating over the prospect of a Senate sweep.

That misunderstanding of Trump’s appeal is now the subject of repeated examination by Democratic politicians and strategists.

“I would suggest they underestimate me at their own peril and I hope they do,” Sanders said in an interview. Republicans are unlikely to run on their own forward-leaning agenda, he added, “So they have to figure out some boogeyman that they think they can run against.”

While some Republicans are salivating at the thought of running against a socialist, others aren’t so confident.

“It is entirely possible that the American people would vote for an avowed socialist,” Cruz said. “We are a closely divided country. If Bernie were the nominee, he could win.”

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