WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG, AFP) - US Senator Bernie Sanders announced on Tuesday (Feb 19) he is running for president, launching a second bid for the White House after a surprisingly strong run for the Democratic nomination in 2016.
Mr Sanders, 77, made the announcement in a radio interview in his home state of Vermont. "I wanted to let the people of the state of Vermont know about this first," he said on Vermont Public Radio.
The independent Senator finished runner-up to Hillary Clinton for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.
"I think the current occupant of the White House is an embarrassment to our country. I think he is a pathological liar," Mr Sanders said in the radio interview. "I also think he is a racist, a sexist, a homophobe, a xenophobe, somebody who is gaining cheap political points by trying to pick on minorities, often undocumented immigrants."
Mr Sanders upended the party establishment by siphoning support from Democrats' liberal wing and young people, touching off a leftist movement that ushered progressives like freshman Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez into office in the November midterm elections.
His stronger-than-expected challenges to Mrs Clinton arguably weakened her ultimately unsuccessful general election candidacy against President Donald Trump.
Like Mr Trump, Mr Sanders was an outsider when the 2016 presidential primaries began, little known to the public at large and initially not given much of a chance against the Hillary Clinton machine. But he came close to pulling off the upset and ended up winning 23 primaries or caucuses against the better-funded Mrs Clinton.
Mr Sanders galvanised a broad coalition with his anti-Wall Street rhetoric and talk of a “political revolution.”
Though the oldest candidate in the field, Mr Sanders garnered passionate support among young liberals with his calls for universal health care, a $15 minimum wage and free public university education. He made the fight against income inequality, which he has called the greatest moral, economic and political issue of our times, the centerpiece of his insurgent campaign.
Mr Sanders starts his 2020 campaign with a long list of potential advantages, not least of which include a massive e-mail list of supporters, a proven track record of small-dollar fundraising, and veteran aides who three years ago helped chart a path to victory in key states like New Hampshire.
For all his successes three years ago, 2020 will be a very different campaign cycle. Many former Sanders supporters and aides are looking at other options in a diverse field of Democrats that could top 20 well-known names.
In a year when Democratic voters have signaled an increased desire for racial and gender diversity, Mr Sanders would be only the second straight, white man in the field.
"What I promise to do is, as I go around the country, is to take the values that all of us in Vermont are proud of - a belief in justice, in community, in grassroots politics, in town meetings - that's what I'm going to carry all over this country," Mr Sanders said.