By Daniel J. McLaughlin
When Bernie Sanders ran against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination in 2016, the independent Vermont senator was a refreshing voice in a contest that was seemingly already decided. He lost the race, but the senator over-achieved in what should have been a clear-cut primary contest. Clinton would lose to Donald Trump in the race for the White House, but you could "feel the Bern".
He offered radical, more progressive policies than the mainstream Democrats at the time. There has been a bit of soul-searching for the party since their defeat on Election Day to Trump. Sanders may not have won their ticket in 2016, but he has been partly responsible for their shift leftwards. At one point, his progressive policies - Medicare for all, $15 federal minimum wage - may have belonged exclusively to the left, but the Democrats have shifted his way ideologically.
With the next presidential race on the horizon in 2020, has the flame died out for Sanders - or should he give it another shot?
He might have moved the party in a direction he likes, but the party may have moved past him. In 2016, he went head-to-head against one other candidate, Clinton, but it is a crowded field for 2020. Markos Moulitsas, the founder and publisher of liberal website, Daily Kos, told the Boston Globe: "It's different from last time when he was the alternative to an unfortunately flawed frontrunner, and there were just two of them. Right now, the mantle of 'progressive' can be carried by any number of candidates and potential candidates." These could include California senator Kamala Harris and former representative Beto O'Rourke, who narrowly lost to Ted Cruz in the Texas senate race during the midterms last year.
CNN's Chris Cillizza also notes that it is going to be different, with scrutiny coming in ways that the Vermont senator has not seen before. He was able to get away with fluffs and gaffes, because no one really believed he had a real chance. "He won't be a plucky outsider charging at a windmill. He will be one of the best-known candidates, someone others are looking to knock down a peg to bump up their own chances," Cillizza argues.
The Democratic Party set-up may be running against Sanders this time round, too. His surprise performance against Clinton was fuelled by his dominance in a slate of states that voted by caucus, according to Politico. This allowed Sanders to capitalise on his smaller but fervent base. However, in 2020, several states that caucused four years previously will instead hold primaries.
This hasn't stopped his enthusiastic supporters from attempting to persuade Sanders to run. His supporters held over 400 house parties in all 50 states and Puerto Rico last weekend. 'Organizing for Bernie', a group founded by Sanders campaign alumni and grassroots activists, demonstrated one of his biggest advantages, the Huffington Post argues: "a network of supporters already familiar with his message and skilled in do-it-yourself internet organising".
His 2016 campaign is facing tough questions, following allegations of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and gender disparity from former female staff. At a press conference on Capitol Hill last week, Sanders said: "The allegations that I have heard, that you have heard, speak to unacceptable behaviour that must not be tolerated in any campaign, or in any workplace in our country.
"To the women in our campaign who were harassed or mistreated, I apologise. Our standards, our procedures, our safeguards were clearly inadequate."
The Vermont senator added: "Clearly we need a cultural revolution in this country to change workplace attitudes and behaviour. I intend in every way to be actively involved in that process."