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Vermont's Independent senator, Bernie Sanders, mulls possibility of presidential run

New Hampshire Union Leader

March 16. 2015 9:42PM
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks about possibly running for President in 2016. (Dan Tuohy/Union Leader)

MANCHESTER — U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., continues to seriously consider running for President and says he is close to hiring staff in New Hampshire.

Asked about recent headlines that he was cooling to the idea, he was quick to respond: “Don’t believe everything you read.”

A decision could come as soon as next month, Sanders said in an interview at the Airport Diner in Manchester on Monday.

“When you have my politics and you’re taking on the entire establishment, you have to make sure that if you do it you do it well,” Sanders said. “That’s what we’re trying to figure out now. Can we put together the kind of political organization that we need, the grassroots organization? Can we raise the kind of money that we need from small, individual contributions?”

Sanders, 73, is considering running for the Democratic nomination for President, not as a third-party hopeful. His “politics” is that of a progressive firebrand, and that of a self-described Democratic socialist.

Ensuring a vigorous debate is one factor in his consideration of a potential campaign. “Yes, I think an uncontested primary, or as they sometimes say ‘a coronation,’ is not a good thing for America,” he said. “This country faces enormous problems in terms of a disappearing middle class, increases in poverty, massive income and wealth inequality, a Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which allows billionaires to buy elections, climate change — huge issues — and they need to be vigorously debated.”

If Sanders does not jump into the race, who does he think should run and make it a spirited contest? He declined to say. He is focusing on the issues.

Sanders plugs those issues at most stops, as well as his efforts to protect Social Security. Last week, he introduced a bill designed to strengthen and expand Social Security by eliminating the cap on the payroll tax on all income higher than $250,000.

Lifting that cap would bring in enough money to extend Social Security to 2060 and allow for expansion of benefits, he said in the interview.

“The other point I want to make is that if any of my colleagues, my friends coming here, Republicans, tell you that Social Security is going broke, they’re not telling you the truth,” Sanders said. “Social Security has a $2.7 trillion surplus in its trust fund and can pay out every benefit owed to every eligible American for the next 18 years.”

Sanders, Vermont’s junior senator who was re-elected in 2012 with 71 percent, said there is a lot at stake if he decides to become a presidential candidate.

“When you’re taking on every special interest in this country, whether it’s Wall Street, or insurance companies, drug companies, or the energy companies, there’s a lot to be thought about, if I want to do it well,” he said.

It is more than just the strength of one’s spirit, Sanders emphasized in talking about a potential 2016 run. Like several other possible presidential hopefuls, he has a serious day job. He stopped by the Airport Diner en route to Manchester-Boston Regional Airport to return to Washington.

Sanders elaborated on this before dunking his spoon into onion soup, as Simon & Garfunkel’s “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)” played from the diner’s speakers.

“If I do run,” Sanders said, “I will be in a sense carrying the banner for many millions of Americans who are concerned about the state of American democracy in Citizens United, who are concerned about the disappearing middle class and growing wealth and income inequality, who are concerned about climate change, who are concerned about high rates of unemployment, the unaffordability of college, student debt and all that stuff.”

“And if I were to run and not do it well, whether it’s winning or at least running well, then what people will say is, those issues don’t really resonate with the American people, right?”

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