Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said Thursday that his newly launched campaign to win the White House in 2016 would be focused finding solutions to the growing income inequality in America, and getting corporate money out of politics.
In a brief meeting with reporters just outside the U.S. Capitol, Sanders also stressed that his goal wasn't to simply inject these ideas into the race, but to occupy the White House in 2017.
"We're in this race to win," he said.
Sanders and the few others who might enter the race in the hopes of winning the Democratic nomination from Hillary Clinton are being seen automatically as long shots. But Sanders, a self-described Socialist, said his message of helping to end income inequality will resonate, which gives him a chance.
"If you raise the issues that are on the hearts and minds of the American people, if you try to put together a movement which says we've got to stand together as a people, and say that this Capitol, this beautiful Capitol, our country belongs to all of us and not the billionaire class, that's not raising an issue, that is winning elections," he said. "That's where the American people are."
Sanders' brief remarks were a far cry from the elaborate, staged announcements of the three nationally known Republicans in the race, or the meticulously planned "listening tour" launched by Clinton. He spent about 10 minutes in front of reporters and spoke off the top of his head, and made it clear that income inequality is the main problem he's interested in solving.
"How does it happen that the top 1 percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent?" he asked. "My conclusion is that that type of economics is not only immoral, it's not only wrong, it is unsustainable. It can't continue."
"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 added.
A related issue is what the rich do with their money. He said too often, the wealthy are able to buy elections in America.
"I wonder now, in this day and age, whether it is possible for any candidate who is not a billionaire, or who is not beholden to the billionaire class, to be able to run successful campaigns," he said. "And if that is the case, I want you all the recognize what a sad state of affairs that is for American democracy."
Sanders took a turn hitting both Republicans and Democrats. He said most in the GOP don't recognize the reality of climate change, but also went against the talking points of Democrats and the Obama administration by saying the real unemployment rate is about 11 percent, not the 5.5 percent being reported by the government.
"We need to create millions of jobs, and the best way to do it is rebuild our crumbling infrastructure," he said.
When asked how he differs from Clinton, he said some of her positions aren't known yet, but said he voted against the war in Iraq, and opposes the idea of giving the Obama administration the authority to negotiate trade deals that require only and up or down vote by Congress.
Sanders also made a plea to reporters covering the race to focus on the issues, and not the many other issues that often distract the press from those issues.
"And I ask the media's help on this," he said. "Allow us to discuss the important issues facing the American people, and let's not get hung up on political gossip or the other soap opera aspects of modern campaigns."