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Sanders seeks ‘bigger’ 2020 bid despite some warning signs: AP

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
In this file photo taken on November 28, 2018, US Senator Bernie Sanders speaks to reporters at the US Congress. (AFP photo)

US Senator Bernie Sanders is preparing to launch a bigger presidential campaign than his first, as advisers predict he would open the 2020 Democratic presidential primary season as a political powerhouse, rather than an insurgent underdog.

A final decision has not been made, but close advisers to the 77-year-old self-described democratic socialist from the state of Vermont suggest that neither age nor interest from a glut of progressive presidential candidates would discourage him from attempting a second run for the presidency, The Associated Press reported Monday.

As Sanders’ advisers gathered for a conference in the state of Vermont over the weekend, some spoke openly about a 2020 White House bid as if it was almost inevitable, according to the report.

“This time, he starts off as a front-runner, or one of the front-runners,” Sanders’ 2016 campaign manager Jeff Weaver told the AP.

“It’ll be a much bigger campaign if he runs again, in terms of the size of the operation,” Weaver added, underscoring the senator’s proven ability to generate massive fundraising through small-dollar donations and his ready-made network of staff and volunteers.

Amid the enthusiasm, however, there were also signs of cracks in Sanders’ political base.

His loyal voters are examining a prospective 2020 Democratic field likely to feature a collection of ambitious liberal leaders, instead of the establishment-minded Hillary Clinton, who beat Sanders in 2016 to become the Democratic nominee for president.

A new generation of outspoken Democrats such as Senators Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris are expected to seek the Democratic nomination.

All three have embraced Sanders’ call for “Medicare for All” and a $15 minimum wage, among other policy priorities he helped bring into the Democratic mainstream during Donald Trump’s presidency.

One of Sanders’ chief supporters from the neighboring state of New Hampshire, former state senate majority leader Burt Cohen, acknowledged that some people worry Sanders is too old for a second run.

“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 Cohen.

Another high-profile Sanders supporter who attended the conference, Cornel West, described the senator as “the most consistently progressive one out there.”

West, a political activist and philosopher, suggested that some would-be 2020 candidates have adopted Sanders’ words, but maintained ties to Wall Street and “militarism.”

Perhaps the most important member of Sanders’ network, wife Jane O’Meara Sanders, said Democrats may be embracing Sanders’ “bold progressive ideas” on health care and the economy in some cases, but there’s need to go further on issues like climate change, affordable housing and student debt.

When asked by the AP if Sanders could win in 2020, she said “every single poll” showed that Sanders would have beaten Donald Trump two years ago.

Sanders has repeatedly attacked Trump over his policies, accusing him of moving the US into a more authoritarian mode and calling him a “fraud” for breaking his campaign pledges.

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