The grouch stands again

Bernie Sanders © Rex Features
Sanders: the real deal

Bernie Sanders has entered the race for US president. Matthew Partridge reports.

There was little doubt that Bernie Sanders, who raised $230m in funding largely from grassroots sources the last time he ran for US president, “would post big fundraising numbers if he ran again”, says Shane Goldmacher in The New York Times.

After announcing his candidacy last Tuesday, he then raised $5.9m over the next 24 hours, “nearly 20 times what senator Elizabeth Warren did in her first day and nearly four times more than senator Kamala Harris’s $1.5m”. Earlier this week the total had increased to $10m. The size of his advantage “has established him as a financial front-runner in a crowded Democratic field”.

It’s not just the total amount of money that’s impressive, says Matt Stieb in New York magazine. “In a race where the source of the fundraising could be as important as the money itself,” Sanders has been particularly successful in getting “small gifts from young donors”.

He has also “attracted a new swath of voters” – 39% of donors used an email address that was not registered with the 2016 campaign. Sanders now has “a built-in sustaining donor base, that will reportedly net him more than $1m each month”, a particular asset in a race “where at least ten candidates are vying for small donations”.

A challenge from the left

Ironically, Sanders’s biggest problem is “his own success”, says Ted Rall in The Wall Street Journal. With the Clintonian third way “dead”, nearly all of his main challengers “have adopted his three chief left-populist policy promises: a $15-an-hour minimum wage, free public college and Medicare for All”.

Thanks to these “copycats mimicking his 2016 campaign promises”, he’s “just one more senator – a 77-year-old one – pushing for $15 an hour in a country where it’s already law in several big states”. Meanwhile, his emphasis on domestic issues means that he is “weak and vague” on other areas, most notably foreign policy.

It’s true Sanders “has more competition on the left” with Harris, Warren and others “all ploughing the left-populist terrain”, says Freddy Gray in The Spectator. But “politics rewards innovators more than imitators, and Bernie Sanders is the real deal”. What’s more, apart from some controversy about his wife and a land deal, “he is a man who sticks to his own principles” and is seen as having “more authenticity than the identity-based diversity of the new new left”. Even his “grouchy” personality is seen as “endearing”. It “will be fun watching his rivals try to stop him… but it’s hard to see how they can”.

Could he beat Trump?

The prospect of Sanders, or a similar candidate, winning the Democratic nomination has many Republicans “cheering in the belief that such a left-leaning, expensive platform will turn voters off”, says Irwin Stelzer in The Sunday Times. Yet even moderate voters agree with “reducing inequalities of income and wealth, ending the uneven availability of healthcare and lack of concern with global warming, and bringing to heel arrogant bankers”. Attacking the cost of Sanders’s plans is going to be difficult for a president “who has taken the national debt to $22trn and rising, in part to fund a corporate tax cut”.