Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is quieting critics who questioned whether he could recapture the energy of his upstart 2016 campaign, surpassing his rivals in early fundraising and establishing himself as an indisputable front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Less than two months into his second White House bid , no other declared candidate in the crowded Democratic field currently has amassed so many advantages: a $28 million war chest, a loyal and enthusiastic voter base and a set of clearly defined policy objectives.
That puts Sanders on markedly different footing than during his first White House run, creating new challenges for a candidate whose supporters relish his role as an underdog and an outsider. He now carries the weight of high expectations and will face heightened scrutiny over everything from the cost and feasibility of his government-funded policy proposals to his tax returns, which he has not yet released. He initially blamed “mechanical issues” for the delay, and his campaign now says he wants to wait until after the April 15 tax filing deadline to fulfill his promise to release a decade worth of returns .
Sanders has largely embraced his new front-runner status. More than any other candidate, he draws explicit comparisons with President Donald Trump in his campaign remarks, previewing his approach to a general election faceoff with the incumbent Republican. Behind the scenes, Sanders is also building out a larger, more diverse campaign operation, responding to criticism that his 2016 organization skewed too heavily white and male. Campaign officials say the 2020 campaign staff — roughly 100 people and growing — is majority female and 40 percent people of color.
Sanders owes some of his fast start to the fact that he never really stopped running for president after the 2016 campaign. Our Revolution, the political group Sanders launched after the campaign, has collected information on voters and held events in early voting states since the last election. Sanders was also active in the 2018 midterms, throwing his support behind progressive Democratic candidates across the country, though many were defeated.
“He spent 2018 lifting up progressives all over the country,” said Rebecca Katz, a progressive Democratic consultant. “Even though many of them did not win, it was appreciated, it was movement building and it was a different calculation than most politicians make.”
My daughter getting a hug from our next President, Senator Bernie Sanders! At almost 11 years old, she doesn’t see his age as an issue, or scared of the words democratic ‘socialist’, she sees an opportunity for herself to go to college, obtain healthcare, and earn a living wage! pic.twitter.com/feigsHFqRZ
— NaTasha Jasmine (@NaTaShaLuvzU) April 7, 2019
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