Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose insurgent 2016 presidential campaign reshaped Democratic politics, announced Tuesday he is running for president in 2020.
The 77-year-old self-described democratic socialist challenged Hillary Clinton in the Democratic presidential primary in 2016. He told Vermont Public Radio on Tuesday that he planned to again seek the nomination.
"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."
Sanders has earned a loyal following with his passionate defence of liberal proposals, including free college tuition and single-payer health care. But he will face off against several other Democratic candidates who also want to appeal to the party's base.
Still, Sanders's name recognition, fundraising prowess and passion for liberal policies makes him a top-tier 2020 presidential contender. He won more than 13 million votes in 2016, and opens his campaign with a nationwide organization and a proven small-dollar fundraising effort.
Sanders was asked Tuesday on CBS whether he believes the Democratic Party has come his way.
"I don't want to say that. Most people would say that," he said.
"You know what's happened in over three years? All of these ideas and many more are now part of the political mainstream," said Sanders.
Crowded field this time around
The question now for 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's far different from 2016, when he was Clinton's lone progressive adversary.
"We're gonna win," 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."
Sanders described his new White House bid as a "continuation of what we did in 2016," noting that policies he advocated for then are now embraced by the Democratic Party.
"You know what's happened in over three years?" he said. "All of these ideas and many more are now part of the political mainstream."
Sanders 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 won't have the state to himself.
California Sen. Kamala Harris, another Democratic presidential contender, was in New Hampshire on Monday, and said she'd compete for the state. She also appeared to take a dig at Sanders.
"The people of New Hampshire will tell me what's required to compete in New Hampshire," she told shoppers at a bookstore in Concord. "But I will tell you I'm not a democratic socialist."
Sen. Elizabeth Warren of nearby Massachusetts will be in New Hampshire on Friday.
One of the biggest questions surrounding Sanders's candidacy is how he'll compete against someone like Warren, who shares many of his policy goals. Warren has already launched her campaign and has planned an aggressive swing through the early primary states.
Shortly after announcing her exploratory committee, Warren hired Brendan Summers, who managed Sanders's 2016 Iowa campaign. Other staffers from Sanders's first bid also have said they would consider working for other candidates in 2020.
Apologized for staff abuses
The crowded field includes a number of other candidates who will likely make strong appeals to the Democratic base, including 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 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, 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 Booker at an event in Columbia, S.C., marking the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. In 2016, Sanders lost the South Carolina primary, which features a heavily black electorate, by 47 points.
U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is joined by Sanders at a campaign rally in Raleigh, N.C., on Nov. 3, 2016, just days before the election. Clinton would later criticize Sanders for not campaigning sooner for the Democratic ticket of Clinton and Tim Kaine. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)
Sanders also faces different pressures in the #MeToo era. Some of his male staffers and supporters in 2016 were described as "Bernie bros" for their treatment of women.
In the run-up to Sanders's 2020 announcement, persistent allegations emerged of sexual harassment of women by male staffers 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, Sanders apologized, 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," Sanders said Jan. 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."
Four years ago, Sanders was also criticized by Clinton and some of her supporters for not putting party first by urging his supporters to support the Democrat ticket after he was defeated in the primary process.
"He didn't get into the race to make sure a Democrat won the White House; he got in to disrupt the Democratic Party," she wrote in What Happened, her 2017 book about the campaign.
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