The U.S. Senate’s lone independent said he’s considering a White House run in 2016 if no other progressive candidates enter the race.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said the cost, constant travel and the intense scrutiny associated with a national campaign would discourage most potential candidates – including himself.
“That is honestly not me,” Sanders said. “Anyone who really, really wants to be president is slightly crazy because this is an unbelievably difficult job given the crises that this country faces today.”
But the 72-year-old Sanders said he’d be willing to run to ensure the campaign included a strong progressive voice.
Sanders said the next presidential campaign must include a candidate who’s willing to take on Wall Street and represent the interests of the poor and the shrinking middle class.
The race also needs candidates who will oppose cuts to Social Security and Medicare and make global warming a top priority, Sanders said.
“Under normal times, it’s fine, you have a moderate Democrat running, a moderate Republican running,” Sanders said. “These are not normal times. The United States right now is in the middle of a severe crisis and you have to call it what it is.”
Sanders said he would likely run as an independent if he jumped into the race, but that could complicate his efforts.
“The disadvantages of being an independent are you not going to get in these big debates that you have on television,” he said. “But I’m very proud to be an independent.”
An independent candidate must go through the lengthy process of having his name added to the ballot in all 50 states, and raising money would also be difficult.
“I’m not going to get any money from Wall Street or corporate America,” Sanders said. “We have been successful, but it’s one thing to talk about raising money for a Senate campaign in a small state, another thing running for president of the United States.”
Sanders said he hears almost daily from supporters urging him to run, and he’s got a nationwide network of 700,000 people who have contributed to his campaigns or otherwise supported him.
The senator also made a three-day visit to the South last month to gauge interest in his message and sent out a targeted email last week that asked 51,000 people what issues they hoped to see a candidate address.
Watch this interview with Sanders posted online by the Burlington Free Press: