Bernie Sanders Leads the Democratic 2020 Pack, Now He's Coming for the Fox News Crowd

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Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders hosted a campaign rally at the Fairfield Arts and Convention Center on April 6, in Fairfield, Iowa. Scott Olson/Getty Images

As the crowded Democratic primary field solidifies and marches through Iowa and New Hampshire toward the first debates in June, one name has often outearned and outpolled the competition: Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a democratic socialist.

While candidates such as Beto O'Rourke and Mayor Pete Buttigieg have enjoyed an increasing share of the spotlight, Sanders has gathered $28 million in funding (more than anyone else in the running), a majority female campaign staff of more than 100, and a solid list of policies to campaign on.

In a new Morning Consult poll, Sanders topped the field of declared Democratic candidates and received the most support from female, Hispanic and black voters. Sanders also enjoyed the highest level of name recognition in the field at 99 percent. That's even higher than the yet-to-be-declared a candidate Joe Biden.

An Emerson poll released on Monday indicated that Sanders was leading in Massachusetts, with 26 percent of the vote, beating both Biden and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

Sander's 2016 run was an unexpected success, but it was heralded as just that, a surprise. This time around, Sanders, 77, is aiming for the finish line.

Compared with other candidates, such as O'Rourke, who have been criticized for their lack of concrete policies, Sanders's vision for America is comprehensive: Medicare-for-all, free college tuition, a national $15 minimum wage, free child care, the breakup of big banks, pro-union legislation, mandatory paid sick leave, clean energy, protections for undocumented workers, an end to for-profit prisons and more.

Sanders also knows that he offers an alternative to Americans who voted for President Donald Trump in 2016 because they felt forgotten disregarded by those who make policy in Washington. Trump knows this too, which is why he's worked so hard to vilify socialism ahead of 2020. But by drawing attention to socialism, the president is unwittingly also drawing attention to his potential presidential contender.

In an attempt to appeal to some on the right who might be averse to yet curious about socialism, Sanders agreed to participate in a town hall on Fox News on April 15. The decision riled a number of his Democratic colleagues who view the channel as a right-wing propaganda outlet.

"When I go on Fox, what I will say is, Look, many of you voted for Donald Trump, but he lied to you. He told you he was going to provide health care for everybody. Yet his policies are to throw 30 million people off the health insurance they have," Sanders told HuffPost in a recent interview. "But it's not just Fox. If you check where I go, and where I will go into this campaign, I'm not just going to go into blue districts. You've got to go into areas where people are. Working people need to know the truth, and that is that Donald Trump betrayed them, lied to them. And I intend to do that."

Questions about Sanders's age continue, and if Joe Biden does enter the race, Sanders will soon face new competition. But right now, he's banking on being the only candidate who can meet and beat Trump on the president's own terms.

"In precisely the way Donald Trump has emboldened the right, Bernie will be a huge movement builder for the left if he is president," said Meagan Day, a prominent socialist activist and writer, at a Democratic Socialists of America conference last month. "Trump understands the propaganda value of his actions very well. I would contend that not only does Bernie understand it too, but he actually has much better intuition and instincts about this than Donald Trump does."