Sanders edges toward joining 2016 race

Sen. Bernie Sanders talks 2016 and Hillary Clinton
Sen. Bernie Sanders talks 2016 and Hillary Clinton

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    Sen. Bernie Sanders talks 2016 and Hillary Clinton

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Sen. Bernie Sanders talks 2016 and Hillary Clinton 05:51

Hanover, New Hampshire (CNN)Bernie Sanders was preaching to the choir. And the choir was eating it up.

Just across the border from his home state of Vermont, Bernie Sanders laid out his vision for the country on Saturday to a few dozen people crammed into the kitchen, living room and dining room of a charming home in Hanover.
"Our country today faces a huge set of enormous problems," said the not-always-upbeat Sanders, before he launched into a 25-minute speech that described what ails the United States and how his policies could help. "We probably have more serious problems than any time since the Great Depression."
Sanders called for a "political revolution" in the country, starting with, he said, universal health care, public funding of elections and breaking up the Wall Street banks, among other policies.
    These are usual talking points for Sanders, but the idea of him spearheading the effort to grow them nationally is more real than it ever has been. The Vermont senator is seriously entertaining a presidential bid in 2016 and getting more comfortable with saying he is close to yes.
    "I think we are reasonably close," Sanders told CNN at the event. "The clock is ticking. If we do it, I've got to get out there. So I think we are looking at an announcement in the pretty near future."
    Advisers to the senator, though not willing to say it on the record, were blunter on the chances the senator runs for president.
    "We are definitely getting to that time," said one adviser close to Sanders' thinking on 2016. "I really think we are in the final hours of his decision-making process."
    The adviser added: "If I had to go to a bookie, I would bet he is going to do it."
    Sen. Sanders on 2016: We'll see
    Sen. Sanders on 2016: We'll see

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      Sen. Sanders on 2016: We'll see

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    Sen. Sanders on 2016: We'll see 02:54
    Getting this close to yes has been a long time coming for Sanders. For much of the last six months, the senator has been teasing a run, while also acknowledging that his bid would be primarily uphill. When asked about 2016 in the past, Sanders has been quick to detail all the reasons a run would be difficult—money, organization, name identification—before discussing why he could do it.
    One issue Sanders is said to be weighing is whether he can run for president and do it on his own terms. He enjoys events like Saturday's gathering in Hanover, his aides have said, but loathes the fundraising part of running for president.
    To prepare for a run, Sanders is stepping up his direct attacks of both Democrats and Republicans.
    In the past, Sanders has been reticent to directly challenge Hillary Clinton, Democrats' prohibitive favorite for the nomination. But on Friday, Sanders put out a statement that called on Clinton, by name, to reject an upcoming trade deal.
    On Saturday, he asked whether one of the Republican candidates has "the courage to stand up to their billionaire donor class."
    "He knows this is a different ballgame and in order to run it, he is going to require a different approach," the adviser said. "He is also very reluctant to stop doing what he is doing now and has done well, which is grassroots organizing and campaigning."
    Money will likely be Sanders' biggest challenge, and the senator knows it.
    "To run a credible campaign in this day and age, you do need a whole lot of money," Sanders said. "Whether the magic number is $200 million, it is $150 million, it is a lot of money, but even with that, you would be enormously outspent by the Koch Brothers candidates and the other candidates who will likely spend, in the final analysis, over $1 billion, if not two."
    Gesturing wildly with his hands, the most boisterous part of Sanders' speech was when he provided a long list of economic statistics on how the nation's top earners are building wealth, while middle-class wages have stagnated.
    "Damn," said Carl Gibson, a 27-year old from Concord, New Hampshire, who was eager to say he is not "ready for Hillary" and surprised by the statistics.
    "I don't believe Hillary for a second when she gets in her van and drives from New York to Iowa and says the American people need a living wage," Gibson said after the speech, referencing Clinton's recent road trip to Iowa for her first campaign event. "I don't believe it for a second."
    Sanders wrapped up his speech with a call to action.
    "The point is change can come about, but it only comes about when millions of people are actively involved in political struggle," he said. "The billionaires may have the money, but we have the people."
    After his speech, Sanders worked the room in his unique—sometimes gruff—way.
    Hugging the senator, Amy Perrin said, "I just think you are amazing!" Sanders offered a slight smile, adding, "Well, I'm not, but thank you very much."
    "I worked on your very first political campaign in Burlington," said another woman, shaking the senator's hand. "Really?" Sanders replied.
    The Hanover house party was hosted by Jon Gilbert Fox and Darrell Hotchkiss, a gay couple that got married last May. Fox, a professional photographer, and Hotchkiss, a lawyer, admire Sanders for standing up for what he believes in and being unafraid to speak his mind.
    "I think he says what we would say," Fox said. "We love Bernie and are so glad he is out there."
    But that love comes with a dose of realism, especially on the long odds the independent senator faces.
    "He is not going to get the nomination," Hotchkiss said. "We all know that."