(Bloomberg Politics) — Bernie Sanders, an independent U.S. Senate from Vermont, said Wednesday that he will seek the Democratic nomination for president in 2016, setting up a progressive challenge to frontrunner Hillary Clinton.
“People should not underestimate me,” Sanders told the Associated Press. “I’ve run outside of the two-party system, defeating Democrats and Republicans, taking on big-money candidates and, you know, I think the message that has resonated in Vermont is a message that can resonate all over this country.”
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Sanders, 73, would become the most high-profile socialist candidate for president since Norman Thomas made six bids last century. In a February speech, Sanders said he would “run to win” if he entered the race, and he could force Clinton to reckon more seriously with the left wing of the party.
Clinton, who served as President Barack Obama’s top diplomat after losing to him in the 2008 primary, announced her candidacy April 12. Sanders plans to enter the race today, then hold a rally in Burlington in May, a person familiar with his plans told Bloomberg on Tuesday after Vermont Public Radio first reported the news.
Sanders is poised to run on the same message that many supporters of Sen. Elizabeth Warren hoped she would deliver: that the “billionaire class,” as Sanders calls it, has too much, and the government needs to work for the middle and lower classes. Corporations and Wall Street will be his key targets.
“I don’t want to be too dramatic here, but I happen to believe that the business model of Wall Street is fraud and deception,” Sanders said during the February speech at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
Sanders has funded campaigns throughout his career primarily with small individual donations, and he often bemoans the influence of corporate and Wall Street money in politics. His aversion to big-dollar fundraising raises questions about whether he can collect cash at the level necessary to complete with Clinton.
Sanders’ team hopes to raise at least $50 million before primary voting begins early next year to establish that he is a serious candidate, Bloomberg reported in March. He has started hosting $1,000-a-plate fundraisers in cities such as Austin, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Clinton finance director Dennis Cheng has said her campaign aims to raise at least $100 million for the primary, CNN reported in April, citing a person present at the donor briefing where Cheng spoke.