Bernie Sanders Running As An Independent? He May Be Dropping Hints About A Third-Party Run

Bernie Sanders may be planning to mount an independent run at the White House, with a growing belief among political commentators that the Vermont senator has been carefully dropping hints that he may consider a third-party run after losing the Democratic Party’s nomination.

For months, Sanders has said publicly that he has no intention to mount a third-party run if he loses the Democratic nomination. And while Sanders is sticking by that stance and hasn’t given up hope of earning the nomination on his own, there have been growing signs that he may be softening his stance on an independent run for president and the potential for a major shift in circumstances could change his mind entirely.

As the race came to an official-in-all-but-name end this week when Hillary Clinton swept most of Tuesday’s primaries including the big-ticket New Jersey and California, there have been plenty of postmortems about what Bernie Sanders will do next. There has been speculation about how he will continue on, whether his campaign will keep going, and how much leverage he might have in the Democratic Party after his unlikely run to the finish line.

Mother Jones laid out one possible path, with Sanders keeping to his vow to take the fight to the convention in Philadelphia and continuing to make the case that he is the best candidate. That could be a tricky endeavor, the report noted, one that would require Sanders to get his hands dirty after running what was a largely above-the-board and cordial race that left Hillary Clinton for the most part unscathed.

“Sanders can’t be too polite in such an endeavor. He would have to spend the seven weeks leading up to the Democratic convention in Philadelphia fiercely contending that Clinton is not fit to be the party’s nominee. This will be an uphill battle. He does have his quiver of arguments: She’s too close to Wall Street, he has mobilized young voters, she’s burdened with assorted baggage, including the emails controversy (and some Sanders supporters claim, without any evidence, that she will be indicted), he’s the outsider in an outsider’s year who can reach more independent and blue-collar voters, she cannot exploit the populist progressive energy as he has done, and he does better than her in polls against Trump.”

There could be another possible path, however. If Bernie Sanders were to mount an independent run, he could avoid the machinations of the Democratic Party he has railed against for the past several weeks, a process that many of his supporters claim was tilted toward Hillary Clinton from the beginning.

Last week, Bernie Sanders may have dropped a major hint about a potential independent run. In an interview with KABC-TV 7 News, Sanders responded to a question about an offer from Green Party candidate Jill Stein and didn’t exactly give a resounding “no.”

“Right now, our goal is to win the Democratic nomination,” Sanders said.

Bernie Sanders has long argued that he is the better candidate to defeat Donald Trump, and a series of polls has shown that while Clinton is ahead by a razor-thin margin, Sanders is beating Trump handily in head-to-head match-ups. Salon writers Kevin Zeese and Patrick Walker said that an independent run could still be able to defeat Trump.

“Sanders leaving the door open to a Sanders-Stein ticket comes at a time when polls show unprecedented support for a candidate to challenge Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. This week NBC found that 47% of voters would consider a third-party candidate if Clinton and Trump were the major-party nominees. In the last week, two other polls found a large minority will vote for a third party this year. Schoen Consulting found 20% of voters would vote for a third party against Clinton and Trump with 14% undecided; Data Targeting Inc. found 21% would do so with 14% undecided.”

A third-party run would certainly have plenty of support. Many Sanders supporters have been pleading with him to make a third-party run, pointing to his wide popularity among independent voters.

And for Bernie Sanders, the continued denials that he would mount an independent run for the White House has been under the assumption that his entrance would lead to a three-way race in which he siphons support from Hillary Clinton and allows Trump to win the White House. But there may be evidence that the dynamic is changing, with continued rumors that a faction of Republicans are seeking an independent candidate of their own.

If that ends up being the case, Bernie Sanders may have an easy path to an independent presidential bid — and potentially a path to the White House.

[Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images]