Sanders enters the race with clear strengths: broad name recognition, an ability to raise money from small-dollar donors and passionate supporters who flocked to his insurgent 2016 campaign against one of the best-known figures in American politics, Hillary Clinton.
He said he was going to launch "what I think is unprecedented in modern American history": a grassroots movement "to lay the groundwork for transforming the economic and political life of this country".
"I can tell you very happily, and I think any objective observer would confirm what I'm saying, is that in the last year and half or so, the Democratic party has moved in a far more progressive direction than they were before I ran for president", he said in an interview with CNN last year.
In a video announcing his candidacy, Sanders called Trump pathological liar and a racist.
"I am running for president because now more than ever we need leadership that brings us together, not divides us up", Sanders asserts.
Among those already in the Democratic race are fellow Senators Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kamala Harris of California, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Elizabeth Warren of MA.
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While Sanders provided liberal Democratic primary voters with a sharp contrast to Clinton's political pragmatism in 2016, progressives will have no shortage of candidates to choose from in the increasingly broad and diverse 2020 field.
Famously short-tempered and irascible, Bernie Sanders also still displays the energy of a much younger man - he campaigned tirelessly for Democratic candidates in the 2018 mid-terms.
The crowded field includes a number of other candidates who will likely make strong appeals to the Democratic base including Harris and Sens. Harris, Warren, and Cory Booker will encroach on Sanders' socialist turf, plus they will be able to use identity politics to their political advantage.
If successful, Sanders, 77, would also be the oldest nominee ever put forward by a major political party.
Despite coming up short against Clinton, the Vermont independent won about 13 million votes in Democratic primaries and caucuses on a platform criticizing economic inequality and what he described as the greed of Wall Street, shifting Democrats to the left.
"Bernie Sanders has already won the debate in the Democrat primary, because every candidate is embracing his brand of socialism", Trump campaign national press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement Tuesday.
Policy ideas Sanders wants to become law like Medicare for All, the Green New Deal and tuition-free college are all vehemently opposed by Republicans. He ran for multiple offices in Vermont before a stunning 1981 upset that made him mayor of Burlington, the state's largest city.