Sunday 9 December 2018

Bernie Sanders eyes 'bigger' 2020 bid for US presidency

Senator Bernie Sanders (Charles Krupa/AP)
Senator Bernie Sanders (Charles Krupa/AP)

Steve Peoples

US senator Bernie Sanders is laying the groundwork to launch a bigger presidential campaign than his first in 2016.

Advisers are predicting he will open the 2020 Democratic presidential primary season as a political powerhouse.

A final decision has not been made, but those closest to the 77-year-old self-described democratic socialist suggest that neither age nor interest from a glut of fellow progressive presidential prospects would dissuade him from undertaking a second shot at the White House.

As Mr Sanders' brain trust gathered for a retreat in Vermont over the weekend, some spoke openly about a 2020 presidential tilt as if it was almost a foregone conclusion.

He was defeated in his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016 by Hillary Clinton, who went on to lose to Donald Trump in the election.

Mr Sanders' 2016 campaign manager Jeff Weaver told The Associated Press: "This time, he starts off as a front-runner, or one of the front-runners," highlighting the senator's proven ability to generate massive fundraising through small-sum donations, as well as his ready-made network of staff and volunteers.

Mr Weaver added: "It'll be a much bigger campaign if he runs again, in terms of the size of the operation."

Amid the enthusiasm, there were also signs of cracks in Mr Sanders' political base. His loyalists are sizing up a prospective 2020 Democratic field likely to feature a collection of ambitious liberal leaders - and not the establishment-minded Hillary Clinton.

Instead, a new generation of outspoken Democrats such as Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren, New Jersey senator Cory Booker and California senator Kamala Harris are expected to seek the Democratic nomination.

All three have embraced Mr Sanders' call for "Medicare for All" and a 15 dollar (£11.74) minimum wage, among other policy priorities he helped bring into the Democratic mainstream in the Trump era.

Acknowledging the stark differences between the 2016 and 2020 fields, Hollywood star Danny Glover, who campaigned alongside Mr Sanders in 2016, would not commit to a second Sanders candidacy when asked about it this weekend.

"I don't know what 2020 looks like right now," Mr Glover said before taking a front-row seat for Mr Sanders' opening remarks in Vermont. "I'm going to support who I feel to be the most progressive choice."

One of Mr Sanders' chief supporters from neighbouring New Hampshire, former state senate majority leader Burt Cohen, acknowledged that some people worry Mr Sanders is too old for a second run. Like Danny Glover, he's not sure if he will join Mr Sanders a second time.

Another high-profile Sanders supporter who was in attendance, Cornel West, described the Vermont senator as "the most consistently progressive one out there", suggesting that some would-be 2020 candidates have adopted Mr Sanders' words, but maintained ties to Wall Street and "militarism."

However, Mr West conceded that none of likely 2020 candidates "have as much baggage" as Mrs Clinton did.

Reuters

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