Washington CNN —  

Bernie Sanders is (almost-certainly-I-mean-let’s-be-honest-with-each-other) running for president in 2020.

Lots of people think he is a top-tier contender – and might even be sort of a co-favorite with former Vice President Joe Biden.

I am not really one of them. Or to put a finer point on it: I don’t think Sanders’$2 2016 campaign – in which he quite clearly overachieved – is indicative of how he will fare in the 2020 race.

Here’s one example why:

On Wednesday night, Sanders was asked by Anderson Cooper whether he was aware, during the 2016 campaign, of the allegations – recently published by The New York Times – of sexism and sexual harassment within his operation.

“I was a little bit busy running around the country trying to make the case,” said Sanders.

That is not a good answer. At all. Ever. And especially not amid the ongoing impact of the #MeToo movement on the culture and political world.

(Worth noting: He did apologize “to any woman who felt that she was not treated appropriately,” and added: “If I run, we will do better next time.”)

The larger point here is that Sanders got away with lots of flubs and gaffes – like this one – during the course of the 2016 campaign against Hillary Clinton because a) no one believed, particularly in the early days of the race, that he had any real chance and b) she simply never really went after him.

Sanders has spent decades in the House and Senate. Clinton barely mentioned the thousands of votes he took – she did spend some time on his votes in support of gun rights – largely because she was afraid of pissing off liberals who were already skeptical of her.

That won’t be the case when (I mean, if) Sanders runs for president this time. He won’t be a plucky outsider charging at a windmill. He will be one of the best-known candidates, someone others are looking to knock down a peg to bump up their own chances.

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  • Sanders’ steadfast support among liberals may withstand that scrutiny. But that scrutiny is coming in ways that the Vermont independent has never seen before.

    The Point: The challenge for Sanders in 2020 is very different than the one he faced in 2016. Different – and harder.