Bernie Sanders launches 2020 US presidency bid in crowded Democratic field: All you need to know

Bernie Sanders, that 2016 prophet of US left-wing populism, now 77, launched his second campaign for US president early Tuesday but this time as a heavyweight candidate rather than an underdog in an already crowded Democratic field that is being assessed on one outsized metric: Can you beat Donald Trump? In fact, 20 per cent of Republican primary voters support a challenger to Trump according to brand new weekly polling.

Bernie Sanders launches 2020 US presidency bid in crowded Democratic field: All you need to know

File image of US senator Bernie Sanders. AP

With rock star style campaign rallies, Sanders kicked up the whiff of revolution back in 2016. “Feel the Bern” became his supporters’ anthem and when Hillary Clinton won the nomination, it also proved that left wing insurgency could only go so far. Some of Sanders' fiercest backers never voted for Clinton, preferring to sit out instead. Today, you have a 2020 field that is packed with contenders who are campaigning on platforms similar to Sanders’ 2016 campaign. His message isn't so shiny anymore at a time when beating Donald Trump tops Democratic voters' agenda.

Sanders has more than just name recognition in a crowded field, he propelled a grassroots movement that took him to unexpected heights in 2016. He raised more than $100 million from donors giving less than $200 during the 2016 run; that kind of already known donor base can be powerful while walking away from traditional, big money donors.

“We’re gonna win”, says Sanders. His confidence is powered by data from the 2016 primaries. In 2016, Sanders outperformed Clinton with young voters and voters who live in rural areas. He won primaries in states with sizable white populations like Michigan and Wisconsin — states that Clinton lost to Trump in the general election to Trump. Sanders and team are convinced that his appeal to independent voters, the white working class and people of color could play kingmaker in a general election.

"I think the current occupant of the White House is an embarrassment to our country," Sanders said. "I think he is a pathological liar ... I also think he is a racist, a sexist, a homophobe, a xenophobe, somebody who is gaining cheap political points by trying to pick on minorities, often undocumented immigrants.”

Opponents, especially the Trump team, is going to paint Sanders as an extremist. Sanders responded early with this not-so-radical rebuttal: “Someone wants to call me a radical? O.K., here it is. I believe that people are entitled to health care. I believe that people are entitled to get the best education they can. People are entitled to live in a clean environment. People are entitled to have decent paying jobs. That’s what I believe.”

Sanders’s team is watching Beto O’Rourke very carefully, much more than they are any other candidate. O’Rourke appeals to many of the same types of voters that Sanders leans on. In poll after poll, electabiliy trumps ideology for the 2020 race and Sanders’ poll promises may not count for much against the prospect of simply beating Trump, even if voters disagree on ideology.

Although Biden has not yet jumped in the ring, he receives 29 per cent of the vote in a Morning Consult  poll, conducted weekly. Bernie Sanders is a close second followed by Kamala Harris. Biden leads in early primary states Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina or Nevada. Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders are consistently the top choices for the Democratic nomination. Among the top 5 candidates, Bernie Sanders has the youngest average aged voter (41), while Biden has the oldest (52).

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Updated Date: Feb 20, 2019 00:57:45 IST

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