Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) launched his presidential campaign in Brooklyn, New York Saturday, declaring his bid is the best shot at beating President Donald Trump in 2020.
The Democrats in the 2020 race have taken varied approaches to President Trump, with some avoiding saying his name entirely, while others make implicit critiques of his presidency. Sanders has never shied from jabbing the president in stark terms, and during his speech at Brooklyn College, calling Trump “the most dangerous president in modern American history” who wants to “divide us up.”
The Vermont senator positioned himself in opposition to Trump administration policies from immigration to climate change. Beyond the issues themselves, Sanders, who grew up in the heavily Jewish neighborhood of Flatbush in a middle-class family, drew a stark contrast between himself and the billionaire in the White House who hails from Queens.
“I did not have a father who gave me millions of dollars to build luxury skyscrapers, casinos, and country clubs,” Sanders said. “I did not come from a family that gave me a two-hundred-thousand-dollar allowance every year beginning at the age of three. As I recall, my allowance was twenty-five cents a week.”
Sanders also said he “did not come from a family of privilege that prepared me to entertain people on television by telling workers, ‘You’re fired.’”
“I came from a family who knew all too well the frightening power employers can have over everyday workers,” he added.
More than 200 miles away in suburban Washington, President Trump reveled in his 2016 victory and said Republicans “need to verify it in 2020 with an even bigger victory.”
While Trump didn’t mention Sanders explicitly in a two-hour speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), he railed against the policies of “socialism” in a continued attempt to portray Democrats as out of touch with ordinary Americans. Sanders is a self-described democratic socialist.
“Socialism is not about the environment, it is not about justice, it is not about virtue. It is only about one thing – it is called power for the ruling class,” he told attendees. “We know the future does not belong to those who believe in socialism”
Sanders enters the race at a moment that bears little resemblance to when he waged his long-shot bid in 2016. Democrats have been mobilized by the election of Trump and are seeking a standard-bearer who can oust him from office. Many of Sanders’ populist ideas have been embraced by the mainstream of the Democratic party. The field of Democrats that he joins includes a number of liberal candidates such as Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and most notably Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who share similar sensibilities.
Earlier February, Sanders launched a second run for the White House, pledging to run a campaign focused on “transforming” the U.S. and “creating a government based on the principles of economic, social, racial and environmental justice.”
According to Sanders, part of his strategy to transform the country is to forward the policies laid out in the Green New Deal, which was unveiled by self-described Democratic-socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) in recent weeks. Appearing on ABC’s The View Friday, Sanders swatted away criticism surrounding the proposal, denying that it goes “too far” to take on climate change.
“We have, according to the best scientists in the world, we have 12 years to begin substantially cutting carbon emissions before there will be irreparable damage to the planet,” he added. I talked to some folks who were in Paradise, CA, remember the terrible, terrible fire that wiped out the whole community?”
Following his announcement to seek the presidency, Sanders popped six percentage points in a Morning Consult poll gauging support for 2020 Democrat presidential contenders. The polling company said Sanders’s jump in support was the “largest single-week shift for a candidate so far in Morning Consult’s tracking.”
Sanders, who now trails Biden in second place, spiked from 21 percent of the possible primary vote share to 27 percent.
Despite enjoying a jump in the polls, the Sanders campaign suffered early losses at key personnel, who are said to have exited over “creative differences.”
Strategists Tad Devine, Mark Longabaugh, and Julian Mulvey, who run the media consulting outfit Devine Mulvey Longabaugh notified Sanders they would be leaving his 2020 campaign after working on his 2016 bid against Democrat presidential rival Hillary Clinton.
“There were differences in a creative vision,” Longabaugh said in an interview with CNBC. “We want to leave on a very positive note, and we are proud of the work we’ve done on the campaign. It was just clear, however, that we weren’t in sync.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.