WASHINGTON (AP) — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said Tuesday that he will seek the Democratic presidential nomination again, a decision that will test whether he can still generate the progressive energy that fueled his insurgent 2016 campaign.
“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 such as “Medicare-for-all” and free college tuition, Sanders stunned the Democratic establishment in 2016 with his spirited challenge to Hillary Clinton. 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 Sanders is whether he can stand out in a crowded field of Democratic presidential candidates who also embrace many of his policy ideas and who are newer to the national political stage. That’s far different from 2016, when he was Clinton’s lone progressive adversary.
Still, there is no question that 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. He opens his campaign with a nationwide organization and a proven small-dollar fundraising effort.
“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.
Trump told reporters that Sanders ran a great campaign in 2016 but that he believes the senator “missed his time.”
“I like Bernie,” Trump said, noting Sanders’ criticism of free trade. “The problem is he doesn’t know what to do about it. We’re doing something very spectacular on trade.”
Sanders goes into the campaign with several advantages, including the name recognition he earned from his last run. In a sign of the enthusiasm surrounding his campaign, Sanders raised $3.3 million on Tuesday from 120,000 individual donors, according to a person familiar with the campaign who wasn’t authorized to publicly disclose the early numbers and spoke on condition of anonymity.
That’s more than double the $1.5 million haul Sen. Kamala Harris raised in the first 24 hours of her campaign. The California Democrat was the biggest fundraiser in the race so far.
Sanders could also be well-positioned to compete in the nation’s first primary in neighboring New Hampshire, which he won by 22 points in 2016. But he won’t have the state to himself.
Harris 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.”
FILE - In this Jan. 30, 2019, file photo, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. Sanders, whose insurgent 2016 presidential campaign reshaped Democratic politics, announced Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019 that he is running for president in 2020. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)
FILE - In this Nov. 27, 2018, file photo, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks about his new book, 'Where We Go From Here: Two Years in the Resistance', at a George Washington University/Politics and Prose event in Washington. Sanders, whose insurgent 2016 presidential campaign reshaped Democratic politics, announced Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019 that he is running for president in 2020. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)