Bernie Sanders 2020? New Hampshire Progressives Are Divided The Vermont senator's 2016 presidential campaign took off in New Hampshire. But in 2020, some progressive voters in the state say there are plenty of other alternatives.

'Does It Have To Be Him?': N.H. Progressives Split By Another Sanders Bid

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Bernie Sanders is looking at running for president again. The Vermont senator hasn't yet said what he plans to do. Back in 2016, he created a powerful progressive movement in a thin primary field. Now, though, many Democrats are adopting his positions on issues such as health care and the minimum wage, which means progressive voters have a lot more choices, as NPR's Asma Khalid reports.

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: Bernie Sanders' first decisive victory in 2016 came in the New Hampshire primary. He crushed Hillary Clinton by more than 20 points. Even before he had an office on the ground, Elizabeth Ropp was making homemade signs for Sanders.

ELIZABETH ROPP: Bernie inspired me because as somebody who's lived without health insurance for most of my adult life, I want there to be a single-payer health care system.

KHALID: Ropp is part of Sanders' New Hampshire steering committee that still occasionally meets.

ROPP: I do want to see Bernie run again in 2020. We do need Bernie to run even if the field is crowded.

KHALID: Sure, she is intrigued by a few other candidates. For example, she likes how Elizabeth Warren is critical of Wall Street, but she's not sure she can forgive Warren for remaining neutral in the 2016 primary between Clinton and Sanders. There is no doubt Sanders has changed the Democratic Party.

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BERNIE SANDERS: That is why we are all here together to say in this country, we're going to have a minimum wage which is a living wage - 15 bucks an hour.

KHALID: Earlier this month, when Sanders reintroduced a bill to raise the minimum wage, every Democrat in the Senate considering a run for president co-sponsored that legislation.

ARNIE ARNESEN: He has made it legitimate to talk about things that a lot of us used to mumble.

KHALID: Arnie Arnesen is a radio show host and former New Hampshire politician who considers herself Sanders' ideological twin. She is grateful that he ran in 2016 because she says he helped expose some of the rot in her own party. But 2020 is not 2016.

ARNESEN: And my question is, does he provide added value in this campaign for 2020? Or are there a lot of people that are sort of - carry very similar messages, even somewhat similar styles, that could take that message and move it forward?

KHALID: Sanders has helped craft the Democratic platform, but Arnesen wonders whether he's the right candidate to take that message into the White House.

ARNESEN: Does it have to be him? I don't think it does. And I admire him. I admire him to pieces.

KHALID: Arnesen is excited by many of the candidates considering a run for the presidency. She thinks they all carry elements of Sanders' message, but she's also looking for something new.

ARNESEN: I think that it's time for us to start creating a new bench. And the new bench isn't old. It shouldn't be white. It probably shouldn't be male.

KHALID: Some Sanders supporters also say the environment has changed since 2016. Sure, they want someone they agree with on policy, but Bill Stelling, who runs an art gallery in Manchester, wants something else.

BILL STELLING: We're looking for somebody right now who can stand up to the nasty, nasty campaign that our idiot in chief, the president, is going to run in 2020.

KHALID: Stelling is not convinced Sanders is the right person for that job. He's impressed with California Senator Kamala Harris. He thinks she's fearless, and he's intrigued by Beto O'Rourke from Texas. This week, he's going to a Draft Beto house party. He wanted to spread the word, so he posted about it on Facebook.

STELLING: You know, I immediately got some snarky comments from progressives.

KHALID: Stelling is frustrated by what he sees as infighting and stubbornness among some of his fellow progressives.

STELLING: You know, it's so counterproductive.

KHALID: But loyal Sanders supporters insist Sanders is pushing everyone else left, and they worry that if Sanders himself does not join the 2020 race, other candidates will eventually moderate their messages. Asma Khalid, NPR News.

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