Bernie Sanders Drops A 2020 Hint

To the surprise of absolutely nobody, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders hints that he's thinking of running for President in 2020.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is currently running for re-election, a race he is expected to win easily, but he won’t promise that he’ll serve for the full six years if he’s re-elected:

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) declined to pledge to serve a full six-year term if he is reelected this November, as is expected.

“Right now, my focus is on the year 2018, but if you’re asking me to make an absolute pledge as to whether I’ll be running for president or not, I’m not going to make that pledge. The simple truth is I have not made that decision. But I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I may not run. I may. But on the other hand, I may not,” he said at a forum Monday night in Vermont.

“If I’m elected president of the United States? Mmm. Probably impossible to be a senator and a president at the same time. So the answer to that is probably no. But I haven’t made that decision as to whether I’ll run … If I run and win, the likelihood is I will not be Vermont’s senator” he responded when asked again if he would commit to serving a full term.

Sanders ran against Hillary Clinton in 2016 for the Democratic presidential nomination. Though he lost, he lit a fire underneath the progressive wing of the party.

Should Sanders run in 2020, he would likely join a crowded Democratic field.

Sanders himself has visited crucial states in a presidential campaign such as Iowa, New Hampshire and North Carolina.

The fact that Sanders is considering a second run at the White House is hardly surprising, of course. In many respects, he hasn’t really scaled back his national presence in the media and on the campaign trail from what it was during the 2016 campaign. This year, of course, he has concentrated on traveling to states where candidates that support his agenda and the so-called “progressive” wing of the Democratic Party notwithstanding the fact that he is not officially a member of the Democratic Party and has, as he has done in the past, turned down the nomination of the Vermont Democratic Party and run solely as a so-called independent even though his voting record is as much in line with the Senate Democratic Caucus as the most loyal member of that party. Throughout all of these visits, though, it has been clear that Sanders has been trying to keep himself in the national conversation in the Democratic Party as he ponders whether or not he will actually run in 2020, when he would be 79 years old and 83 years old at the end of a hypothetical first term in office in the event he actually won the election. Sanders, of course, isn’t the only potential Democratic candidate for President running for re-election who is leaving the door open to the idea of running. One month ago, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren said she would weigh her options regarding a 2020 bid after the 2018 election, which she will win easily over her Republican opponent.

As with Warren, 2020 is Sanders’ best and last shot at becoming President. He is, as I noted above 77 years old and would be 79 when running for President, 83 at the end of a hypothetical first term, and 87 at the end of a second term. He is older than any of the other potential candidates, including Warren and former Vice-President Joe Biden. If he does want to run, either for a realistic shot at the nomination or for the purpose of advancing his agenda, then this would be his last hurrah. At the same time, though, he and Warren would obviously be competing for the same cohort of voters in the so-called “progressive” wing of the party. Additionally, the race could get more complicated for Democrats if other Democrats that appeal to the same wing of the party get in the race. Both California Senator Kamala Harris and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, for example, have made no secret of their own desire to run for President, and both are openly appealing to the same wing of the party that Warren and Sanders would be competing for. Other candidates that could potentially seek the nomination, such as New York Senator Kristen Gillibrand, who has claimed she has no intention of running at this timeNew York Governor Andrew Cuomo, and Wisconsin Senator Amy Klobuchar, also seem likely to try to make appeals to the “progressive wing” of the party. With so many potential candidates appealing to that wing of the party, that could arguably split the vote on that side of the party sufficiently that it would give a huge advantage to a candidate that appeals to more mainstream Democrats as well as the white, working-class voters that ended up picking Trump over Clinton in 2016. That, of course, naturally brings up the name Joe Biden as well as others.

In any case, whether he decides to run or not, the idea that Sanders is thinking about running isn’t really a surprise, and the fact that he didn’t commit to serving out his full term isn’t likely to hurt him with Vermont voters.

FILED UNDER: 2018 Election, 2020 Election, Congress, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    I’ll get down-votes for this…like I did when I said the same thing in the Clinton thread…but if Sanders wants to run then both him and Clinton need to attend a kick off dinner at the Saudi Consulate in Turkey.

    I’m a native Vermonter, I’ve met Bernie, I love Bernie.
    Having said that; there is no way Bernie is ever going to get elected in these United States and he needs turn his ego down several notches and think about what is good for the country, and not just what is good for Bernie.

  2. MarkedMan says:

    Whenever I get frustrated with the blind negative reaction people have to Hillary Clinton, I sit myself down and remind myself of my own blind negative reaction to Bernie Sanders. And in that vein I well refrain from filling (this) comment up with a list of reasons I feel Bernie deserves that reaction.

  3. al Ameda says:

    Please … go … away

  4. Kathy says:

    It’s a little sad he needs an ego boost so late in life.

  5. Jen says:

    His ego is massive. I’ve had enough of that from the current WH occupant. I know all politicians suffer from this to a certain extent, but Sanders…just NO. He needs to stop this nonsense.

  6. gVOR08 says:

    I don’t understand the economics of running for president, but judging from the number of people who do it, it’s apparently a good living. It’s also a good way to publicize yourself and maintain influence. I don’t begrudge Sanders doing what pretty much any politician would do in his position. And if it helps promote the Democratic wing of the Democratic party, it’s all good.

    If he actually runs, the primaries will determine whether he can succeed, as they did last time. I’ll wait for things to develop and, as always, vote in the primary for whichever Dem I judge has the best shot in the general. In the meantime, I’ll abstain from the ‘Oh gawd, not follies.

  7. Blue Galangal says:

    @gVOR08: I don’t mean to sound obstreperous, because I respect you and your commentary, but how do you see that he benefits the Democratic Party? I don’t see any benefits accruing from his consistent presence; rather, he seems to be a thorn in the side of national candidates (esp. in terms of sucking the air out of the room) and his actions regarding substantial policy debate resemble nothing so much as a “nonpolitical” county sheriff throwing spikes down to blow out the tires of any kind of Democratic initiative. It’s not that I blame him for Democratic timidity, but I think he helps keep them in that timid box because he gets so much attention for doing/saying so little.

  8. gVOR08 says:

    @Blue Galangal: Thanks for the kind words, mutual. Serendipitously, Paul Krugman had a piece on my concern yesterday. Seemingly every national pundit, and if you read the linked Hertel-Fernandez, Millenberger, Stokes “opinion” piece, most Dem staffers, believe the U. S. is a center-right nation. As I’ve commented here for years, we are not. Bernie helps demonstrate that Dems can go left. My theory is that Dems can make a case, as they are now with health care, that they’re actually helping Trump voters while showing Rs are actually harming them and lying about it while dancing to the Koch Bros tune.

  9. Tyrell says:

    @Blue Galangal: I have a good opinion of Sanders especially his handling of the Federal Reserve and how they managed to lose trillions of dollars. Most other politicians won’t touch the powerful FR.
    Bernie got flim-flammed in the primaries by the party leaders. He was the bump in the yellow brick road to the coronation.
    Word has that now he is mad because he did not get a “package”.

  10. MarkedMan says:

    Bernie is
    a) Not a Democrat
    b) Has not one single successful initiative to his name in all his years as a Senator
    c) Didn’t help a single other Democrat while he was running, except to briefly campaign for someone running against Wasserman Schultz, who he viewed as a personal enemy
    d) Stirred up a large percentage of his supporters with nonsense about how he would have won the primaries except for super delegates (as a reminder he lost by every single measure except caucuses, which comprise a few very low population states.)
    e) Spent the two plus years sent he gained a national voice using it to champion the cause of… nothing. Except Bernie 2020.
    f) The one thing he has accomplished is, as usual, all about Bernie. He has convinced the Dems to reduce the power of super delegates because (see item d, above). So now that we have living proof in the form of Trump that Parties need an emergency eject button if a catastrophic candidate is nominated, Bernie has successfully turned the Dems policy into the fiasco that is the Republican policy.

  11. Ben Wolf says:

    @MarkedMan: How does it not bother you to lie like this? About anyone.

    Sanders’ tour will begin Oct. 19 in Bloomington, Indiana, where he will rally support for Democratic congressional candidate Liz Watson, who is challenging Republican Rep. Trey Hollingsworth.

    He will also appear on Oct. 19 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to campaign for gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer, who is running against Republican Bill Schuette. Schuette has been endorsed by Trump.

    Sanders will help Our Revolution SC rally support on Oct. 20 in Columbia, South Carolina, for Democratic gubernatorial candidate James Smith. While Smith welcomes Sanders’ help, some Democratic leaders have said they believe the senator could do more harm than good in the conservative state. Smith is running against Republican Gov. Henry McMaster.

    The senator will campaign Oct. 20 in Sioux City, Iowa, and Oct. 21 in Fort Dodge and Ames, Iowa, for J.D. Scholten, the Democrat challenging Rep. Steve King, who is known for his extremely conservative stands on immigration.

    He will campaign for Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on Oct. 22.

    He will rally in Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona, on Oct. 23 for gubernatorial candidate David Garcia, who is challenging Republican Gov. Doug Ducey.

    Additionally, he’ll rally for Democratic Rep. Jared Polis in Boulder and Ft. Collins, Colorado, on Oct. 24.

    Sanders will campaign for Rosen in Las Vegas and Reno, Nevada on Oct. 25.

    In California, Sanders will support Democratic congressional candidates Ammar Campa-Najjar and Mike Levin on Oct. 26 in San Diego. Campa-Najjar is challenging embattled Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter, who has been indicted on fraud and corruption charges. Hunter has declared his innocence. Levin is running against Republican Diane Harkey for the open seat now held by retiring GOP Rep. Darrell Issa. Sanders will also campaign for Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee In Oakland on Oct. 27.

  12. MarkedMan says:

    @Ben Wolf: I think you missed this part:

    Didn’t help a single other Democrat while he was running,

    If that wasn’t clear enough, I meant that while he was running for President in 2016, he didn’t help anyone. After he dropped out his only major effort was for the one candidate I mentioned and even that appeared to be half hearted. Of course, now that he is running again in 2020, suddenly, for the first time in his entire career, he is helping a few people that he feels it is strategically important to support, for his candidacy. He has done nothing to help the Democratic Party as a whole.

    I don’t appreciate being called a liar. As frequent readers of this comment section know, I have been wrong, and when it was pointed out, I admitted it. I have not ever lied in this section. And in this case, I wasn’t even wrong. It was your mistake in misreading what I had written.

  13. Gustopher says:

    He should start his campaign for the Democratic nomination by becoming a Democrat.

    I like Sanders. I think he’s too old, and I don’t think he can win, but I like him. I don’t think he understands the Democrats’ coalition, and he’s particularly tone deaf to minorities, but I like him.

    He’s a good voice to have on the national stage, talking explicitly about class and economic justice, and putting forward a very liberal worldview.

    I will not vote for him in our primary, nor will I caucus for him in our caucus (we have both in Washington).

  14. Ben Wolf says:


    If that wasn’t clear enough, I meant that while he was running for President in 2016, he didn’t help anyone.

    Did your mother tell you it was ok to lie, then compound the lie with another lie?

  15. MarkedMan says:

    @Ben Wolf: Now you are just embarrassing yourself. What was the lie, exactly?

  16. Kylopod says:

    @Tyrell: You constantly complain about the Democratic Party’s leftward lurch, yet you like Bernie Sanders. Interesting combo.

  17. Stormy Dragon says:

    I take it Putin’s check cleared.

  18. Gustopher says:

    Eh, I’m in a safe state… I wouldn’t vote for Bernie Sanders in the general election either. Between his annoying game with the Democratic Party, and the BernieBros, I don’t want to reward that.

    If I was in a swing state, I’d have to vote against the Republican as strategically as possible, but in a safe state? Nah.

    Surely there will be some crazy person on the ballot even more pure than Bernie.

  19. MarkedMan says:

    @Kylopod:This makes sense though. I’ve been noticing that Tyrell’s frequent reminisces about the good old days seems to only bring up celebrities and incidents that are well known to later generations. Kind of the definition of Bernie Sanders.

  20. Scott says:

    I know I’m being arbitrary and dogmatic but I don’t want any baby boomer or older to run. We have screwed up enough. The 55 and under crowd need to run the country and we need to go quietly into the night.

  21. PJ says:


    Eh, I’m in a safe state… I wouldn’t vote for Bernie Sanders in the general election either. Between his annoying game with the Democratic Party, and the BernieBros, I don’t want to reward that.

    If I was in a swing state, I’d have to vote against the Republican as strategically as possible, but in a safe state? Nah.

    Surely there will be some crazy person on the ballot even more pure than Bernie.

    With Sanders on the ticket, would there be any safe states?

  22. Blue Galangal says:

    @gVOR08: Thank you for the Krugman link. I see the point, generally speaking: moving that darned Overton window back to the left (or at least back to the “center right,” as it were. And before Bernie got into salty territory (his ego really seemed to be involved; even when people like Obama pointed out he was hurting rather than helping, he wouldn’t let it go) I welcomed the conversations about college costs, etc., and I was pleased to see my son’s friends taking more of an interest in the political landscape. But…

    @Gustopher: …as you pointed out, Gustopher, he could start by becoming a Democrat if he wants to run as a Democrat. And he could have put aside his ego at being defeated by HRC (fairly) in the primaries to rally together against Trump if what he really wanted was to move ahead with the (at the time) “lesser of two evils.” But, like Jill Stein, he did not seem to want to do that. He did not throw his support in for Hillary or other Democrats and he kept saying things that Trump and the Republicans could use to sow division and doubt, and it’s not like he’s stupid or senile: he knew what he was doing and how it would be used against HRC/ the Democrats.

    When I ran across political discussions between HRC and Bernie supporters during the primary and later the general election season, there was not a lot of light to be seen between some of those Bernie supporters and the #GamerGate/MRA types. There was a lot of misogyny, a lot of mansplaining, etc., and it left a bad taste in my mouth. So if the question we keep relitigating is Could Bernie have siphoned off some of Trump’s support? Regrettably, yes – I think he could have, and I think it’s clear why he could have.

  23. Guarneri says:

    Free beer, and Depends, for everyone !!!!!

  24. An Interested Party says:

    Free beer, and Depends, for everyone !!!!!

    Starting with you, no doubt…

  25. Eric Florack says:

    Everything I need to know about Bernie Sanders I learned from Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

  26. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Eric Florack:

    Everything I need to know about Bernie Sanders I learned from Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

    Everything you need to know about Florack you can learn by going to his website and searching the “N” word.
    I’ll save you the trouble…he’s an old white, incredibly racist, fool.

  27. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Eric Florack:

    Everything I need to know about Bernie Sanders I learned from Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

    Solzhenitsyn was a critic of the Soviet Union and communism and helped to raise global awareness of its Gulag forced labor camp system.
    Besides being an abject racist, you are just plain dumb.

  28. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Eric Florack:
    You never read Solzhenitsyn. In fact, you don’t read books. You’re just parroting a line you imagine will make you seem clever.

  29. Tyrell says:

    @Kylopod: Sanders is not afraid to take on the powerful Federal Reserve. Others will not go there.

  30. al Ameda says:

    @Eric Florack:

    Everything I need to know about Bernie Sanders I learned from Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

    Everything we need to know about Donald Trump we can learn from Vladimir Putin