Bernie Sanders Planning An Aggressive 2020 Campaign, Reports Say

Bernie Sanders has not officially said that he's running for President, but he's reportedly planning a much more aggressive campaign than what we saw in 2016 if he does.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders hasn’t officially said that he will be running for President again, but it’s sure sounding like he will:

An insurgent underdog no more, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is laying the groundwork to launch a bigger presidential campaign than his first, as advisers predict he would open the 2020 Democratic presidential primary season as a political powerhouse.

A final decision has not been made, but those closest to the 77-year-old self-described democratic socialist suggest that neither age nor interest from a glut of progressive presidential prospects would dissuade him from undertaking a second shot at the presidency. And as Sanders’ brain trust gathered for a retreat in Vermont over the weekend, some spoke openly about a 2020 White House bid as if it was almost a foregone conclusion.

“This time, he starts off as a front-runner, or one of the front-runners,” Sanders’ 2016 campaign manager Jeff Weaver told The Associated Press, highlighting the senator’s proven ability to generate massive fundraising through small-dollar donations and his ready-made network of staff and volunteers.

Weaver added: “It’ll be a much bigger campaign if he runs again, in terms of the size of the operation.”

Amid the enthusiasm — and there was plenty in Burlington as the Sanders Institute convened his celebrity supporters, former campaign staff and progressive policy leaders — there were also signs of cracks in Sanders’ political base. His loyalists are sizing up a prospective 2020 Democratic field likely to feature a collection of ambitious liberal leaders — and not the establishment-minded Hillary Clinton.

Instead, a new generation of outspoken Democrats such as Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and California Sen. Kamala Harris are expected to seek the Democratic nomination. All three have embraced Sanders’ call for “Medicare for All” and a $15 minimum wage, among other policy priorities he helped bring into the Democratic mainstream in the Trump era.

Acknowledging the stark differences between the 2016 and 2020 fields, Hollywood star Danny Glover, who campaigned alongside Sanders in 2016, would not commit to a second Sanders’ candidacy when asked this weekend.

“I don’t know what 2020 looks like right now,” Glover said before taking a front-row seat for Sanders’ opening remarks. “I’m going to support who I feel to be the most progressive choice.”

One of Sanders’ chief supporters from neighboring New Hampshire, former state senate majority leader Burt Cohen, acknowledged that some people worry Sanders is too old for a second run, although that’s not a major concern of his. Like Glover, he’s not sure if he’ll join Sanders a second time.

“There are other people picking up the flag and holding it high, and you know, it could be Bernie, but I think there are other people as well,” said Cohen, who did not attend the Vermont summit. “It’s not ‘Bernie or bust.’ That’s certainly not the case.”

Another high-profile Sanders supporter who was in attendance, Cornel West, described the Vermont senator as “the most consistently progressive one out there,” suggesting that some would-be 2020 candidates have adopted Sanders’ words, but maintained ties to Wall Street and “militarism.”

Still, West conceded that none of likely 2020 candidates “have as much baggage” as Clinton did.

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.

In addition to Sander and Warren, other names that have been mentioned over the past several weeks include Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar, Sherrod Brown, and Kamala Harris, former Secretary of Health and Human Services Julian Castro,Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke, and as I noted earlier today, former Vice-President Joe Biden. Other names that have been mentioned as potential 2020 candidates include New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, billionaire Democratic donor Tom Stever, and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. In other words, Democrats are potentially looking at a very crowded field in 2020. While some of these candidates will be taken more seriously than other, it’s also no doubt entered the mind of Sanders and those around him that the same excitement that fueled his candidacy in 2016 could end up transfering itself to another candidate or candidates and that it will be hard for them to capture lightning in a bottle a second time around.


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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. Stormy Dragon says:

    Putin’s check must have cleared.

  2. Gustopher says:

    Part of his appeal in 2016 was that he was the only alternative to Clinton. He won’t have that this time.

    I’m not looking forward to another season of BernieBros, but it’s not like we can prevent him from running. I mean, can we? Can we require that politicians seeking the Democratic Presidential nomination be Democrats?

  3. Michael Reynolds says:

    Good grief. Another Boomer who won’t let go.

  4. Jen says:

    If he runs as the Independent he is, more power to him. He can head straight to H-E-double hockey sticks if he tries to run as a Democrat.

    I won’t be voting for him.

  5. EddieInCA says:


    Just no.

    I will actively work against this in any way I can.

  6. Blue Galangal says:

    Sen. Sanders: GFY.

  7. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    unchecked arrogance.

  8. Facebones says:

    Bernie gives a good tub-thumper of a speech! Which makes for a good campaign! But that’s about all I can say for him.

  9. al Ameda says:

    again …. Trump, Biden, Sanders, Clinton, Warren, all of whom will be well over 70 on 2020. I’m tired of the whole lot.

    At this point, why not Generalissimo Francisco Franco, he’s still dead, right? How much more harm than Trump could he do? A Francisco Franco/Eva Peron Ticket might not win the popular vote but the Electoral College might still be a problem.

  10. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Bernie Sanders Planning An Aggressive 2020 Campaign, Reports Say

    He’d better be planning for an aggressive campaign against him, not the kid’s glove treatment he got from Hilary the last time around (How’s about those tax returns, Bernie?)

  11. Gustopher says:

    Bernie really seems to have engendered a whole lot of ill will in the past few years. I blame the BernieBros.

  12. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Michael Reynolds: At 77 and born in 1941, technically, he’s a “silent,” but the effect is the same. Both generations show a profound reluctance to stand down. It may be that earlier generations would have shown the same inclination if people had routinely lived into their late 70s and more 100 years ago, but we’ll never know for sure.

    I’m sure that if Republicans had realized that Democrats were going to live into their 80s, they would never have supported Medicare…

  13. JohnMcC says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Indeed. I imagine the R’s have a comprehensive volume of oppo stuff on Sen Sanders that would become available if there is not enough in the Dem’s file drawer. Honeymooning in Soviet Russia?

    He is too much like the stereotypical old lefties of a previous generation that excused Stalin’s terror.

    And if Pres Putin’s provocations continue to expand and threaten war this will all seem much worse.

  14. Franklin says:

    @Jen: If he runs as an Independent, he’ll siphon off votes during the General Election. I’d probably prefer he get wiped out in the primaries.

  15. Tyrell says:

    Does this mean that certain leaders of the Democratic party will be working their funny numbers voodoo thing again like they did in the last campaign? “Sanders wins, but falls further behind”

  16. Jen says:

    @Franklin: He wants the infrastructure that running as a Dem brings with it. He doesn’t *want* to do the incredibly hard work that comes with running as a national Independent candidate. Ballot access is a big deal, and only established parties have the infrastructure in place. He’s freeloading on the infrastructure without doing any of the work that actual Democrats do, like criss-crossing the country to raise money for the party.

    I’m not disagreeing with you on the siphoning of votes, but honestly I don’t think he would get that far if he did have to run as an independent.