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New Signs Suggest Sanders Preparing 'A Serious Campaign' for 2016

Independent taps long-time friend, high-level strategist to coordinate possible challenge to Hillary Clinton

"I believe he could deliver an enormously powerful message that the country is waiting to hear right now and do it in a way that succeeds," political consultant Tad Devine says of Bernie Sanders. (Photo: David Garten for 350 Vermont/flickr/cc)

Senator Bernie Sanders, the Independent from Vermont who some speculate—and others hope—may be considering a 2016 run at the presidency, has secured veteran Democratic campaign strategist Tad Devine as a strategist for his prospective campaign, furthering the political scuttlebutt.

"Tapping Devine is the latest sign that Sanders is serious about exploring a run, and not averse to the attention that comes with being seen as a presidential contender," Josh Eidelson wrote for Bloomberg. "Over the past year, Sanders—the Senate’s only self-described socialist, who caucuses with Democrats—has been speaking in increasingly strong terms about his willingness to run, and about presumed frontrunner Hillary Clinton’s potential vulnerabilities."

The development was first reported Tuesday by the Washington Post, which noted: "Devine and Sanders, who first worked together on Sanders's campaigns in the 1990s, have been huddling in recent weeks, mapping out how the brusque progressive senator could navigate a primary and present a formidable challenge [to Clinton]."

Devine, 59, previously served as a senior adviser to the Kerry-Edwards campaign in 2004 and the Gore-Lieberman campaign in 2000. In 1992, he was campaign manager for then-Nebraska senator Bob Kerrey’s presidential bid.

Acknowledging that Sanders would face an uphill battle, Devine also told the Post: "If he runs, I’m going to help him. He is not only a longtime client but a friend. I believe he could deliver an enormously powerful message that the country is waiting to hear right now and do it in a way that succeeds."

Also at the Post, Paul Waldman said a "strong Sanders candidacy" would "make liberal Democrats feel that their opinions and their concerns are getting a fair hearing in the 2016 process."

"The height of Devine’s influence may be in the recent past, but he still brings establishment credibility that could lead people in the media to give Sanders more attention," Waldman wrote. "His involvement is also a sign that Sanders isn’t just thinking he’ll get a van and drive around New Hampshire, but instead that he’d mount a serious campaign, no matter how formidable the obstacles to victory. That could mean a genuinely interesting debate about the problems America confronts and how the Democratic party should address them."

At the very least, Waldman argues, a Sanders candidacy could force Clinton to confront the issues that really matter to American voters.

"Sanders says he’ll center his campaign on economic inequality and the struggles of the middle class, and this is what Clinton needs to address as well," he said. "That may be the most important message for Democrats of the 2014 election, not to mention Barack Obama’s continuing low approval ratings: Democrats need to figure out how to address persistent economic insecurity, stagnating wages, and the failure of the recovery’s gains to achieve widespread distribution."

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