Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was in campaign mode Friday night in Bloomington, Indiana where thousands of people heard him direct some harsh words toward the current occupant of the White House.
“Now Trump, he’s a very, very tough guy,” Sanders told his audience of over 3,000 people. “He’s a very, very strong guy when he tears little children at the border from the arms of their mothers. What a tough guy. But he ain’t such a tough guy when he has to deal with Putin … He is not such a tough guy when he has to deal with his billionaire friends in Saudi Arabia, who just tortured and murdered a courageous journalist.”
Sanders kicked off his nine-state campaign blitz which he timed to preceed the midterm elections which are slightly more than two weeks away.
Many in attendance at the rally wore T-shirts from Sanders’ 2016 campaign, and they were wildly enthusiastic about everything he said. They cheered when he repeated his standard proposals on student debt, health care and the minimum wage. And they jeered whenever the senator criticized Trump in mocking tones.
Could this be the beginning of another presidential campaign for Sanders?
There is no question that in many ways the 2016 campaign was very successful for the Vermont senator and he now owns one of the largest and most coveted email lists of progressive voters and donors in the country.
He also has a national profile with name recognition that most of his potential 2020 rivals do not have. And if Friday’s rally is any indication, he can still draw big crowds of his progressive followers.
In his pre-midterm blitz Sanders has appearances scheduled in the early 2020 nominating states of Iowa, Nevada and South Carolina. Thus many people think this tour is a way for him to jumpstart his next presidential campaign.
His appearances in Indiana and California are also significant since Sanders won the Indiana primary in an upset in 2016, and California has more delegates than any other state.
Sanders’ 2016 campaign manager Jeff Weaver, who is still his closest political adviser, has said that even he does not know for sure whether the senator will run again in 2020.
But Weaver was there Friday night and, seeing the large crowd of enthusiastic supporters, said, “From my perspective, this is an auspicious start.”
Since the 2016 election Sanders has visited over 30 states and raised almost $2 million for Democratic candidates.
“Back in the 2016 primaries, just prior to that, people almost thought we were conspiracy theorists,” said Laurie Cestnick, a former Sanders campaign volunteer and founder of Occupy DNC Convention, which held dozens of protests during the 2016 Democratic National Convention.
Now, she said, “I think the awareness of Sanders is just there, where it wasn’t before … I think he has a far greater chance.”
Since Sanders ran in 2016 the Democratic Party has shifted to the left, which is probably due to his influence. If he runs in 2020 however, he will face many more competitors than just Hillary Clinton. Some people estimate there could be 12 – 15 Democrats who run for president in the next primary season. And there is no guarantee that even far-left progressives within the party will choose Sanders over other rivals.
Charles Chamberlain, Democracy for America’s current executive director, said his members’ support for Sanders is “definitely strong,” he added, “Will he be the choice of our membership for the presidential race? I think that’s an open question.”
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.