But the allegations put Sanders in an unenviable position in the early days of a contest playing out in the #MeToo era. While his competitors are visiting early-voting states and scoping out potential campaign headquarters, Sanders spent Thursday apologizing for the behavior of a handful of 2016 campaign workers and looking for a new staffers for his 2020 operation should he run.

Some allies have had their confidence shaken in the future of the man who has reshaped Democratic politics in recent years and almost single-handedly brought liberal priorities such as “Medicare for all” and free college education into the party’s mainstream.

“If he doesn’t run, there’s a massive void in this country,” said RoseAnn DeMoro, an activist and former executive director of the National Nurses United union, who reaffirmed her support for Sanders. “The passion in that base goes away. That base evaporates. It doesn’t go to someone else. There would be a void so deep it would go to (President Donald) Trump, I suspect.”