Independent Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersSchumer: Franken should resign Franken resignation could upend Minnesota races Avalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign MORE (Vt.) said Sunday he may run for president as a Democrat, but denied that his interest is fueled by discontent with Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGrassley blasts Democrats over unwillingness to probe Clinton GOP lawmakers cite new allegations of political bias in FBI Top intel Dem: Trump Jr. refused to answer questions about Trump Tower discussions with father MORE, the current frontrunner in the potential Democratic field.

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“The issue is not Hillary — I’ve known Hillary Clinton for many years. I have a lot of respect for Hillary Clinton,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

The issue, Sanders said, is that “the American people want change. They want Congress, they want candidates to stand up to the big money interests.”

“There is a profound anger at understanding that the middle class is disappearing,” Sanders later added.

Sanders has expressed interest in a 2016 run as a platform for him to shape the presidential debate around issues he sees as most significant — increasing income inequality and the decline of the middle class, primarily.

They’re issues that ignite the progressive base in the Democratic Party, a wing of the party that’s expressed reservations at Clinton’s potential run for president.

Progressives have criticized Clinton as too close to Wall Street and not outspoken enough in her defense of entitlement programs, and have been looking for an alternative to Clinton in the race, though she leads every Democratic primary poll by huge margins. 

But Sanders notably avoided criticizing Clinton, when asked whether he’d be contemplating a run if she were sufficiently addressing the issues he felt were most important.

“[I’ll] let Hillary speak for herself. I know where I’m coming from,” he said.

Both are hitting Iowa on Sunday, Clinton to headline Sen. Tom Harkin’s (D) annual steak fry fundraiser, and Sanders for a number of appearances with activists, to gauge, he said, interest in his potential presidential bid as an independent.

Sanders said, however, the two could be in for a primary fight — but his decision to run as a Democrat would be based on purely practical considerations.

“I am thinking about running for president. And the issue of whether you run as an independent, with the necessity of setting up a 50-state infrastructure, running as a Democrat — that’s something that I’m looking at right now,” he said.

“That’s one of the reasons I’m going to Iowa. To get a sense of how people feel about it.”

Sanders did have advice for his fellow prospective presidential contenders, of any party.

"I think anybody who speaks to the needs of the working class and the middle class of this country and shows the courage to take on the billionaire class, I think that candidate will do pretty well," he said.