Is Sanders' Senate Re-Election Bid Kicking Off His 2020 Presidential Campaign?

Jan 24, 2018

It's now less than 10 months before the November election and still we're not sure Sanders will be seeking re-election to a third term.

Though, in an interview with New Hampshire's Concord Monitor in October 2017, he did say he plans to run as an independent.

Now, it's widely believed that Sen. Bernie Sanders will seek re-election in November.

When asked about his political plans for 2018, for months, Sanders has had this reply:

"I think the people of the state of Vermont do not want never-ending campaigns and if I run — and there is a good chance that I will — we're going to run a very strong grass roots campaign," say Sanders. "But I think people want to see their elected officials deal with the real issues facing them."

Is Sanders being coy about running or is there something else going on?

If he chooses to run, his Senate campaign will likely receive a lot of national attention as a possible launching pad for a second presidential campaign in 2020.

Ted Kohn, a political science professor at Norwich University, thinks the Sanders campaign is carefully crafting its re-election message with an eye towards the next presidential cycle.

"Every word that Bernie Sanders says is going to receive such scrutiny and attention that I'd like to think this is Bernie Sanders and his team trying to get the message right," said Kohn.  

Kohn says it's also likely that Sanders will attempt to expand his influence in the Democratic Party during the 2018 cycle.

One of the ways Sanders could do this, Kohn says, is by campaigning for Democratic congressional candidates around the country as part of the Democrats effort to win back the House and Senate.

"Bernie Sanders would absolutely be a rock star from California to Florida if he showed up on stages for Democratic candidates,” said Kohn.

Sanders has said that if he decides to seek re-election he'll run as an independent and not a Democrat. Kohn says this situation raises questions about Sanders' commitment to the national Democratic party.

"Sanders seems to be re-entrenching himself as an independent but these sort of things are going to be very difficult to live with as he once again looks for the institutional support of the Democratic Party," said Kohn.

Kohn says the relationship between Sanders and the Democratic National Committee was further strained when the Sanders campaign refused to turn over important information from the millions of people that gave money to his presidential bid.

"It's not just about donor lists but it's also about data that could aid Democratic candidates at the state level and local level," said Kohn.

Republican party officials were not available to comment about any plans to run a candidate against Sanders in November.

But previously, they've said that it's very unlikely that they will field a candidate and that they would prefer to target their financial resources on state legislative races.