PITTSBURGH—So far, the 2020 election is playing out exactly as Bernie Sanders had hoped. And that has Sanders thinking with growing seriousness that this could very well end with his election as president.
Still, since some political observers and journalists haven’t wrapped their head around the reality that he could be more than a spoiler who kneecaps the party en route to a complicated convention and maybe another loss to Donald Trump, Sanders has been able to do this without the attention or scrutiny that anyone else with his poll numbers, fundraising, and crowds would face.
The campaign is moving toward its internal $280 million target and savoring polls that have Sanders just behind Joe Biden, who Sanders and his team expect will only go down once he gets in the race. The number of candidates keeps growing, lowering how many people it would take to come in first, beyond the 15 to 20 percent of primary voters who will stick with Sanders no matter what.
Aides say that Sanders is envisioning himself in the Oval Office, which has been guiding his decisions on both campaign operations and policy positions. Their assessment is that Americans want Medicare for all, but are just anxious that Sanders wouldn’t be able to manage that or any of the other big changes he’s promising. They believe that a tightly run campaign would demonstrate that he could run the country, too. (That’s a huge shift from his last run, which, even as it caught fire in the primaries, never reached a level beyond joking about making his 2016 campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, the ambassador to the Vatican). They’re also hoping that the intensity of the campaign counters the three main weaknesses they’ve identified: that Sanders is too old, that people are scared off by the prospect of “socialism,” and that they hold not being a Democrat against him.