Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 21 September 2019

Bernie Sanders is back but faces uphill battle in 2020 presidential race

The US senator joins 11 Democratic contenders

US senator Bernie Sanders announced on Tuesday a second run for presidency, joining a crowded arena with 11 other Democratic candidates.

"I am asking you to join me today as part of an unprecedented and historic grassroots campaign that will begin with at least a million people from across the country," Mr Sanders said.

Calling US President Donald Trump a “pathological liar, a fraud, a racist, a sexist, a xenophobe,” Mr Sanders pledged a “transformative” agenda for governance. “Based on the principles of economic, social, racial and environmental justice,” he said.

The Democratic Socialist continues to adhere to the grassroots movement that helped him challenge Hillary Clinton in 2016. But unlike 2016, 77-year-old Mr Sanders is no longer the new kid on the block and he is competing with 11 other Democratic candidates. All of them are younger and some share his same economic and anti-establishment message.

By Tuesday morning the hashtag #NeverBernie was trending in the US, next to #Bernie2020. And with Hillary Clinton’s name absent, so far, support for Mr Sanders appeared to have diminished.

Larry Sabato, a top US election analyst, noted the different vibe surrounding the senator’s second run. “Bernie retains intense support but his ‘16 votes also came from a large anti-Hillary reservoir. She’s gone and activists have a wide choice of candidates in ’20,” Mr Sabato tweeted. “Is Bernie being underestimated as in ‘16 or overestimated because of ’16?,”

Mr Sanders has also faced questions about sexual harassment conduct within his 2016 campaign staff and early polls show him trailing behind former Vice President Joe Biden by ten points.

Mr Biden, 76, is believed to also be readying himself for a presidential run and speaking to donors and democratic influencers to make his case as an experienced frontrunner among the pack. Questions about Mr Biden’s age are less likely to be raised with Mr Sanders, a year older, in the race.

Both Mr Sanders and Mr Biden - if he does decide to run - would share the stage with a diverse, young and energetic pool of Democratic contenders. Women candidates such as Senators Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar are already ahead in the number of states they have visited and hiring campaign staff.

Ms Harris, a former prosecutor and outspoken senator from California, is catching up with Mr Sanders in the polls. Another dark horse expected to make his decision soon, is former congressman and El Paso Democrat Beto O’Rourke. His unexpected close race against Senator Ted Cruz in the red state of Texas, ability to attract small donors and galvanise millennial voters, could prompt his run.

While the vote in the Democratic primaries does not start until January, the debates are due to kick off in June.

Updated: February 19, 2019 09:29 PM

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