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Sunday 20 October 2019

Bernie Sanders running for president in 2020

The 77-year-old will face off against several other Democratic candidates who also want to appeal to the party’s base.

Bernie Sanders (Andrew Harnik/AP)
Bernie Sanders (Andrew Harnik/AP)

By Juana Summers, Associated Press

Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, whose insurgent 2016 presidential campaign reshaped Democratic politics, has announced he is running for president in 2020.

“Our campaign is not only about defeating Donald Trump,” the 77-year-old self-described democratic socialist said in an email to supporters.

“Our campaign is about transforming our country and creating a government based on the principles of economic, social, racial and environmental justice.”

An enthusiastic progressive who embraces proposals ranging from Medicare for All to free college tuition, Mr Sanders stunned the Democratic establishment in 2016 with his spirited challenge to Hillary Clinton.

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Hillary Clinton was challenged by Mr Sanders in 2016 (Victoria Jones/PA)

While she ultimately became the party’s nominee, his campaign helped lay the groundwork for the leftward lurch that has dominated Democratic politics in the Trump era.

The question now for Mr Sanders is whether he can stand out in a crowded field of Democratic presidential candidates who also embrace many of his policy ideas and are newer to the national political stage.

That is far different from 2016, when he was Mrs Clinton’s lone progressive adversary.

But there is no question that Mr Sanders will be a formidable contender for the Democratic nomination.

He won more than 13 million votes in 2016 and dozens of primaries and caucuses, and opens his campaign with a nationwide organisation and a proven small-dollar fundraising effort.

“We’re gonna win,” Mr Sanders told CBS.

He said he was going to launch “what I think is unprecedented in modern American history”: a grassroots movement “to lay the groundwork for transforming the economic and political life of this country”.

And he could be well positioned to compete in the nation’s first primary in neighbouring New Hampshire, which he won by 22 points in 2016.

But he will not have the state to himself.

California senator Kamala Harris, another Democratic presidential contender, was in New Hampshire on Monday and said she would compete for the state.

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Kamala Harris is also a Democratic presidential contender (Elise Amendola/AP)

She also appeared to take a dig at Mr Sanders.

“The people of New Hampshire will tell me what’s required to compete in New Hampshire,” she told shoppers at a bookshop in Concord.

“But I will tell you I’m not a democratic socialist.”

Senator Elizabeth Warren, of nearby Massachusetts, will be in New Hampshire on Friday.

One of the biggest questions surrounding Mr Sanders’s candidacy is how he will compete against someone like Ms Warren, who shares many of his policy goals.

Ms Warren has already launched her campaign and has planned an aggressive swing through the early primary states.

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Elizabeth Warren at an organising event in Las Vegas (John Locher/AP)

Shortly after announcing her exploratory committee, Ms Warren hired Brendan Summers, who managed Mr Sanders’s 2016 Iowa campaign.

Other staff from Mr Sanders’s first bid have also said they would consider working for other candidates in 2020.

The crowded field includes a number of other candidates who are likely to make strong appeals to the Democratic base, including Ms Harris and senators Cory Booker, of New Jersey, Amy Klobuchar, of Minnesota, and Kirsten Gillibrand, of New York.

The field could also grow, with a number of high-profile Democrats still considering presidential bids, including former vice president Joe Biden and former Texas representative Beto O’Rourke.

While Mr Sanders had been working to lay the groundwork for a second campaign for months, it was unclear whether he will be able to expand his appeal beyond his largely white base of supporters.

In 2016, Mr Sanders notably struggled to garner support from black voters, an issue that could become particularly pervasive during a primary race that could include several non-white candidates.

Last month, he joined Mr Booker at an event in Columbia, South Carolina, marking the Martin Luther King Jr holiday.

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Cory Booker during a campaign stop in Portsmouth, New Hampshire (Charles Krupa/AP)

In 2016, Mr Sanders lost the South Carolina primary, which features a heavily black electorate, by 47 points.

Mr Sanders also faces different pressures in the #MeToo era.

Some of his male staff and supporters in 2016 were described as “Bernie bros” for their treatment of women.

In the run-up to Mr Sanders’s 2020 announcement, persistent allegations emerged of sexual harassment of women by male staff during his 2016 campaign.

Politico and The New York Times reported several allegations of unwanted sexual advances and pay inequity.

In an interview with CNN after the initial allegations surfaced, Mr Sanders apologised but also noted he was “a little busy running around the country trying to make the case”.

As additional allegations emerged, he offered a more unequivocal apology.

“What they experienced was absolutely unacceptable and certainly not what a progressive campaign – or any campaign – should be about,” Mr Sanders said on January 10 on Capitol Hill.

“Every woman in this country who goes to work today or tomorrow has the right to make sure that she is working in an environment which is free of harassment, which is safe and is comfortable, and I will do my best to make that happen.”

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