Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont and the runner-up in the 2016 Democratic primary, has officially launched his 2020 presidential campaign.
“I am writing to let you know I have decided to run for president of the United States,” announced Sanders in an email to supporters Tuesday morning. “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.”
In the statement, which mentions President Trump just twice, Sanders says that the campaign is not just about winning the nomination and presidency but “is about transforming our country and creating a government based on the principles of economic, social, racial and environmental justice. “
The 77-year-old senator gave Hillary Clinton an unexpected fight in the 2016 Democratic primary, winning 43 percent of the primary vote and over 20 contests. This announcement is coming earlier in the cycle than last time, when he declared on April 30, 2015.
Sanders faces a far different landscape than he did in 2016 when there were only a few other plausible candidates, most of whom dropped out of the race early, leaving him in a one-on-one contest with Clinton. Voters now have over a dozen options, many of whom who have adopted language and policies similar to Sanders’s 2016 platform, which featured a focus on income inequality and a “Medicare-for-all” program. There are also still open wounds for some Clinton supporters who hold Sanders responsible for her loss to Trump. Sanders has admitted that his age is a potential concern, as he would be 79 on Election Day 2020, the oldest ever by nine years.
But Sanders’s 2016 run also allows him a huge fundraising advantage in a splintered Democratic primary where many of the candidates have sworn off direct corporate donations. A New York Times analysis from earlier this month estimated that his list of 2.1 million online donors roughly equaled the total of every other Democratic hopeful combined. Former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas was second at 743,000, the only other candidate with over 350,000 donors. The Times analysis also found that Sanders donors were the most exclusive, with 87 percent giving only to him. In the 2016 cycle, Sanders raised $134 million in donations of $200 or less.
Last month a source with direct knowledge of Sanders’s plans told Yahoo News he was emboldened by early polls of the race that have consistently shown him as one of the top candidates in a crowded Democratic primary field. In particular, the source said Sanders was heartened to see numbers indicating he was one of the leading candidates among African-American and Latino voters, two groups he was perceived as struggling with in 2016.
At this early stage, however, Sanders, along with former Vice President Joe Biden, who has not announced a run of his own, are likely benefiting from a name recognition advantage over lesser-known candidates.
In his announcement, Sanders framed his 2020 campaign as a completion of his 2016 run.
“Three years ago, during our 2016 campaign, when we brought forth our progressive agenda we were told that our ideas were ‘radical’ and ‘extreme,’” wrote Sanders. “We were told that Medicare for All, a $15 an hour minimum wage, free tuition at public colleges and universities, aggressively combating climate change, demanding that the wealthy start paying their fair share of taxes, were all concepts that the American people would never accept.”
“Well, three years have come and gone. And, as result of millions of Americans standing up and fighting back, all of these policies and more are now supported by a majority of Americans. Together, you and I and our 2016 campaign began the political revolution. Now, it is time to complete that revolution and implement the vision that we fought for.”