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New England News

Vermont Ponders Sanders Possible Presidential Run


In an article March 6th in the left-leaning magazine The Nation, Vermont Independent U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders told interviewer John Nichols that he is “prepared to run for president of the United States.” What does his home state think about that? 

Bernie Sanders has been mentioned as a potential presidential candidate for some time, and Vermont’s junior senator has been considering the idea more and more seriously. His comments in The Nation are the most assertive regarding a potential candidacy to date. But even were he to run and win, a significant long shot for a 72-year-old Independent, Sanders would still face a dysfunctional Congress. Sanders says, regardless, the country needs a political revolution.  “I mean that many, many millions of working people today who are not engaged in politics, many of them don't even vote, are just going to have to stand up  and make a determination about what kind of country they want for themselves and for their kids. So, we have got to engage and involve millions and millions of people all over this country in the political process in a way that does not now take place.”

While many in Vermont vote for Sanders in his Senatorial races - he did win his last election with 71 percent - there isn’t necessarily the same optimism that he would win a national presidential race. But there is curiosity and some excitement about the idea.

Vermont Republican Party Political Director Brent Burns thinks Sanders will choose stay in the Senate rather than make a presidential run. Brent notes that Sanders has considerable support within Vermont, winning statewide elections in landslides. Burns declined to be recorded because he says the Vermont GOP just doesn’t have that much to say about a potential presidential bid by Sanders. But he giggled as he added that it would be an interesting race to see.

Sanders began his political career as the Progressive mayor of Burlington, helping to build that party and bring it to major party status in the state. Vermont Progressive Party Chair Emma Mulvaney-Stanek says people are excited about what Sanders represents as he articulates what other politicians avoid.  “Bernie has, on a national level, really proved  an invaluable asset for working people. He literally starts conversations and says things in Congress that virtually no other Senator and certainly no other congressman, when he was a congressman, was saying. He’s taken on corporations. He’s taken on conversations around excessive money in elections. You name it. He has been a real strong voice for the average American and Bernie offers a real alternative. Whether or not he can gain traction as an independent is the real question, but I think it's exciting to see growing support for him.”

Middlebury College Professor Emeritus of Political Science Eric Davis believes Sanders would have considerable support within his home state if he mounted a presidential campaign.  “He knows realistically the chances of his being elected president are not good.  But he wants to run as an educational campaign to raise issues that he thinks are not getting the attention they deserve and to raise issues about the way the political system works and how campaigns are financed. He’s been  talking about those issues in Vermont for many years. I would expect he’d do pretty well in the Democratic primary in Vermont if he ran as Democrat.  If he ran as a third-party candidate, as an independent, he’d also do well. But obviously he's getting into this,  not so much to win the election in Vermont, but to raise issues that he believes deserve attention nationally.”

Vermont is the birthplace of two U.S. presidents: Calvin Coolidge in Plymouth Notch and Chester A. Arthur in Fairfield. Former Governor Howard Dean was a frontrunner for the Democratic nomination early in the 2004 race.