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Can Sanders win nomination?

Two weeks ago, I opined on the dozens of Democrats eyeing a 2020 White House run, including eight who have already announced they are running. That number is now up to 11, thanks to the entry of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders last week. Technically an independent, Sanders, 77, is a self-styled and unapologetic “Democratic Socialist,” who caucuses with and votes with Democrats.

Sanders is a longtime U.S. Senator of modest achievements in that body. But in 2016, he did pose a serious challenge to then-presumptive heir to the White House, Hillary Clinton. This time around, he could be an even more formidable presidential candidate. He remains a popular person, as attested to by the $6 million his campaign raised in the 24 hours after he announced his candidacy. That these campaign contributions averaged $27 per person is even further evidence of his political standing, especially among younger voters.

Upon entering the 2020 race for president, Sanders predicted victory and touted the progressive ideas he championed in 2016, such as Medicare-for-all, free college tuition, and a $15 per hour minimum wage. These ideas have now been embraced by many of the other Democrats running for president.

In announcing his campaign launching, Sanders took direct aim at President Trump, saying, “You know as well as I do that we are living in a pivotal and dangerous moment in American history. We are running against a president who is a pathological liar, a fraud, a racist, a sexist, a xenophobe, and someone who is undermining American democracy as he leads us in an authoritarian direction.” Now that’s a mouthful of vitriol, even for Bernie Sanders.

Actually, Sanders must first run the gauntlet of primaries and caucuses, starting Feb. 3, 2020, against a crowded field of Democrats, many of them decades younger than him. His challenge will be to out campaign them enough to earn a place at the primary debates, starting in June, 2020. Then, he has to prevail over all his Democratic rivals to become his party’s nominee for President of the United States in 2020.

So far, Bernie Sanders has been a bundle of energy and enthusiasm on the campaign trail.

Whether he can maintain that momentum through the trials and tribulations of the primary election cycle and into the general election cycle remains to be seen. Personally, I think it is highly unlikely.

Finally, the X factor here may well be what former senator and two-term vice president Joe Biden decides to do. So far, he’s been biding (no pun intended) his time, but if he does decide to run, it could hurt Sanders and further diminish his chances of winning the Democratic nomination for president.

Retired Army Col. Thomas B. Vaughn can be reached at