In Brief

Bernie Sanders ‘frontrunner’ for 2020 Democratic nomination

Supporters says the veteran senator is preparing to launch an ‘even bigger’ bid for the White House than 2016

Bernie Sanders is preparing to launch a second bid for the White House in 2020, with supporters and advisors suggesting he would start the presidential primary season as the Democratic frontrunner.

The veteran senator from Vermont came from virtual obscurity to within a whisker of the Democratic nomination in 2016, losing out to Hillary Clinton in a contenious and at times brutal primary campaign.

“When Sanders launched his campaign in May 2015, 76% of Americans had either no opinion of him or had never heard of him. Now, the nation – like the world – is waiting to see what the 77-year-old leader of the American left decides to do next,” writes Lauren Gamnino for The Guardian.

The Associated Press says “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 progressive presidential prospects would dissuade him from undertaking a second shot at the presidency”.

“This time, he starts off as a front-runner, or one of the front-runners,” Sanders’ 2016 campaign manager Jeff Weaver told AP, pointing to his proven ability to generate massive fundraising through small-donations and his ready-made network of volunteers and staffers.

However, as high-profile supporters and policy advisors met in Vermont over the weekend, “amid the enthusiasm… there were also signs of cracks in Sanders’ political base”, says Time Magazine.

Where he ran in 2016 as the outsider candidate against the establishment Clinton, this year the prospective 2020 Democratic field is likely to feature a collection of ambitious liberal leaders such as Senators Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris.

All three of these have embraced his calls for “Medicare for All” and a $15 minimum wage.

“There are other people picking up the flag and holding it high, and you know, it could be Bernie, but I think there are other people as well,” said Burt Cohen, a Sanders supporter and former New Hampshire state senator who acknowledged that some people worry the politician is too old for a second run.

With as many as two dozen Democrats mulling a White House bid, the primary looks set to be a battle for the future soul of the party, with hard-left candidates battling it out with those from the centre such as former vice-president Joe Biden, businessman Michael Bloomberg and Texan congressman Beto O’Rourke.

The loss of several high-profile candidates who ran on a Sanders-style progressive platform in last month's midterm elections has “set off a debate on the left about how progressives might win outside the most liberal enclaves and whether the movement might be better served by a 'fresh face' for 2020”, says Gambino.

Despite all the signs pointing to a 2020 run, “Sanders has given himself a clear escape hatch”, says The Independent.

His wife Jane O’Meara Sanders said one question above all others would guide his decision: “Who can beat Donald Trump?”

Sanders' team has repeatedly pointed to polls which show he would have beaten Trump in a head-to-head two years ago, but the senator himself recently suggested that he would step aside if he believes another candidate has a better shot at denying the sitting US president a second term.

“There are no clear indications from Sanders or those closest to him, however, that he currently has that belief,” says AP.

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