Sanders jumps into 2016 race
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Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersGabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch Keystone XL Pipeline gets nod from Nebraska Supreme Court MORE (I-Vt.) announced his long-expected bid for the Democratic presidential nomination Thursday, focusing on economic inequality.

“I am writing to inform you that I will be a candidate for president of the United States. I ask for your support," he said in a statement to supporters, excerpts of which were released in advance to the media.

Sanders said he's spent months leading up to his announcement meeting with Americans who are "deeply concerned about the future of our country."

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“For many months I have been traveling from coast to coast across our country, and have had the opportunity to meet with thousands of good, hardworking, and remarkable people," he said. "Like you and me, they are deeply concerned about the future of our country."

Sanders's bid was widely excepted. A source close to Sanders told The Hill earlier this week that he would announce his bid in a statement Thursday. He is also expected to hold a press conference on his "agenda for America" later Thursday.

Sanders suggested that a key narrative of his campaign would be to stand against economic inequality in the country, similar to his focus during his time in the Senate.

"After a year of travel, discussion and dialogue, I have decided to be a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president. But let's be clear. This campaign is not about Bernie Sanders," he said. "It's about a grassroots movement of Americans standing up and saying: ‘Enough is enough. This country and our government belong to all of us, not just a handful of billionaires.’ ”

The Vermont Independent added that he believes the middle class is at a "tipping point."

"The people at the top are grabbing all the new wealth and income for themselves, and the rest of America is being squeezed and left behind," he said. "The middle class in America is at a tipping point. It will not last another generation if we don’t boldly change course now."

Sanders also mentioned what he views as the fallout from the Citizens United Supreme Court case, and called climate change a "central challenge" for the country.

Sanders is expected to make stops in a key early voting state, New Hampshire, after his announcement. He's scheduled to attend a house party in Manchester, N.H., on Saturday and will speak at the New Hampshire AFL-CIO Convention.

Anna Galland, executive director of MoveOn.org Civic Action, welcomed Sanders to the race, and also called on Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) to run for the party's nomination.

“MoveOn members have cheered on Sen. Sanders for years as he's stood up to the Wall Street banks and wealthy interests who have rigged the game in Washington and knee-capped our country’s middle-class and working families," she said.

Galland added that the Democratic Party "is made stronger" with a contested primary.

"That’s why we and our allies continue to call on Sen. Elizabeth Warren to also bring her tireless advocacy for middle-class and working Americans to the race," she said. "Our country will be stronger if she runs.”

— Last updated at 11:06 a.m.