Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersJudd Gregg: The self-marginalizing minority Sanders and Bill Nye to host climate change conversation Lewandowski: Perez ‘doesn’t understand what’s going on in America’ MORE (I-Vt.) said he’s “in this race to win” on Wednesday, as he formally announced his White House run at a press conference outside the Capitol.
The Senate’s only democratic socialist said he has the most unconventional political career of anyone in Congress and insisted that background can help him defeat heavily favored Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonTrump's clueless rhetoric on nukes makes US vulnerable, not safer Hollywood stars make political statements with Oscars fashion Live coverage: Stars get political at Oscars MORE for the Democratic nomination.
Sanders argued that by speaking about the issues that Americans are worried about, and showing that the country belongs "to all of us and not the billionaire class," he can win.
“That’s not raising an issue, that is winning elections," he said.
Most political observers think Sanders has little chance of beating Clinton, who is way ahead of all of her potential challengers in polls. Clinton will also have a heavy cash advantage over Sanders and is better known nationally.
As a result, many think Sanders is more likely to influence the race if he can push Clinton to the left on policy.
Sanders said he would look to draw a contrast with Clinton and other candidates, but insisted he would not go negative in the race.
“Let’s be clear. To say that people disagree on issues and point out those issues, that’s what a debate is about,” he said. “Let me tell you, I run vigorous campaigns.”
Sanders, who will turn 74 in September, said he had “never run a negative ad in my life,” and that he “detested” such ads.
“I believe that in a democracy, what elections are about are serious debates on political issues,” he said.
Later, Sanders suggested in an interview on CNN's "Wolf" that "there are some clear" differences between him and Clinton on policy.
"I voted against the war in Iraq," he said, later acknowledging that "no, it doesn't disqualify her" to run or president.
He highlighted his opposition to the Keystone XL oil pipeline, saying, "I don't know that she has spoken out on that," as well as his opposition to a trade deal the Obama administration is currently negotiating.
During his press conference, Sanders highlighted a series of policies that appeal to the political left in his comments, including reducing income inequality, making public college free and reforming the campaign finance system.
“The major issue is how do we create an economy that works for all of our people, rather than a small number of billionaires,” he said.
He also mentioned his interest in health care reform and infrastructure improvement.
He said that he would raise campaign funds through “small, individual contributions.”
Earlier on Thursday, he suggested that his campaign would not have a parallel super-PAC — though there are already super-PACs that support his candidacy.
And he asked the media to refrain from focusing on “the political gossip, all the other soap opera aspects of modern campaigns.”
“This is not the Red Sox vs. the Yankees,” he said.
This story was updated at 3:00 p.m.
Jesse Byrnes contributed.