Bernie Sanders has seen himself on a mission since he started running for office in the 1970s, and he sees no reason to stop now. He’s thinks he’s dramatically changed the conversation over the past three years, and he feels he’s close to achieving his ultimate goal.
Plus, there’s Donald Trump.
When the president used his State of the Union speech on Tuesday to preview his own re-election campaign and warned against creeping socialism—Sanders was only encouraged. He’d love to take on Trump directly, and people around him think he’ll be able to use Trump’s threat to coalesce support in the primaries.
“Nothing unifies Democrats like being made a villain by Trump,” said one Sanders ally.
The Vermont senator has been huddling with staff in meetings and phone calls over the last few weeks, chewing over plans. Barring a surprise last minute change of heart, he will jump in for the 2020 race, convinced he can win, according to people familiar with his plans. His spokeswoman, Arianna Jones, did not return a request for comment on Sanders’s plans.
Last time, he didn’t get in until the end of April 2015. This time, the launch will be in February. He sees advantage in a much more crowded 2020 field. The left-leaning politics he campaigned on in 2016 have been broadly embraced in a progressive surge among Democrats, and Sanders has succeeded in diminishing the nominating power of so-called super delegates, the elected officials and party elders who help consolidate establishment power within the Democratic National Committee.
Sanders will likely announce an exploratory committee in the coming weeks, followed by a rally. One major early focus will be finding a campaign manager and other top-level staffers who are not white, and preferably not male, in light of his problems appealing to minority voters in 2016, and recent revelations of sexual harassment by lower level staffers in the 2016 campaign. Staff interviews have been quietly underway.
But a core team of advisers will return from 2016, spearheaded by his wife and closest adviser, Jane O’Meara Sanders.
Sanders has heard the argument that his stature would be diminished by running again if it doesn’t end with his winning the nomination. He’s heard the argument that he might split the progressive vote and allow a more moderate candidate to win, but that hasn’t moved him either. That’s not how Sanders thinks, people who know him point out.
“He understands what happens in the streets is what prompts actions in Washington,” said Vincent Fort, a former Georgia state senator who supported the last campaign and has been in touch with Sanders’ team about this campaign.