US senator Bernie Sanders is preparing to launch an even bigger presidential campaign than his first in 2016, according to his supporters and advisers.
Mr Sanders’ “brain trust” of loyalists and policy makers gathered for a retreat in Vermont over the weekend, with some speaking about his next presidential election campaign as an inevitability.
“This time, he starts off as a front-runner, or one of the front-runners,” said Mr Sanders’ 2016 campaign manager Jeff Weaver, who highlighted the senator’s proven ability to generate massive fundraising through small-sum donations, as well as a ready-made network of staff and volunteers.
He added: “It’ll be a much bigger campaign if he runs again, in terms of the size of the operation.”
Cornel West, another high-profile described Mr Sanders as “the most consistently progressive one out there”, before suggesting other would-be 2020 candidates have adopted the veteran senator's ideas.
However, the prospective 2020 Democratic field is likely to feature a collection of ambitious progressive leaders.
Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren, New Jersey senator Cory Booker and California senator Kamala Harris are expected to seek the Democratic nomination.
All three have embraced Mr Sanders’ call for “Medicare for All” and a $15 (£11.74) minimum wage, among other policy priorities he helped bring into the Democratic mainstream during the Trump era.
Burt Cohen, a Sanders supporter and former New Hampshire state senator, acknowledged that some people worry the politician is too old for a second run.
“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 Mr Cohen, who did not attend the Vermont summit. “It’s not Bernie or bust. That’s certainly not the case.”
Hollywood star John Cusack said Mr Sanders was “the only real progressive candidate out there… If he runs again, I’ll be on board.”
Danny Glover, another actor invited to the weekend summit, would not commit to a second Sanders candidacy.
“I don’t know what 2020 looks like right now,” Mr Glover said before taking a front-row seat for Mr Sanders' opening remarks in Vermont. “I’m going to support who I feel to be the most progressive choice.”
Despite all the signs pointing to a 2020 run, Mr Sanders has given himself a clear escape hatch. His wife Jane O’Meara Sanders said one question above all others would guide his decision: “Who can beat Donald Trump?”
Additional reporting by agencies
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