Early last year, Bernie Sanders huddled with his closest advisers to talk about the future. If he ran for president again, one told him, he’d probably perform well enough in the first few states for a chance to take control of the Democratic nomination in March 2020. Then, he’d have to make some new friends — the kind he didn’t have, or seem to want, in 2016.
Sanders might end up winning crowded contests with 35 percent of the vote or less, explained then-adviser Mark Longabaugh, one of several to make presentations. Once the dust settled, Sanders would have to offer his hand to Democratic leaders he’d clashed with and consolidate the party behind him. The senator, in typical fashion, listened intently with a poker face in the private meeting, according to three attendees who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity. He said nothing, keeping whatever thoughts he had on the matter to himself.
More than a year later, Sanders is a second-time presidential candidate, and there is growing uncertainty among Democrats about the Vermont independent’s desire to unite a party whose fissures have deepened and multiplied since his insurgent campaign against Hillary Clinton.