NEW YORK – Vermont Allied Senator Bernie Sanders rallies to the beleaguered presidential prospect as he begins to reluctantly reflect on the painful possibility of a 2020 campaign without him.

The self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist, 77, is the most important candidate facing a serious setback in the evolving White House. He was forced to confront reports of allegations of sexual harassment against women by male staff members when he called for the appointment of the Democratic President to the presidency in 2016.

In this archival photo of November 27, 2018, Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Talks about his new book entitled "Where We Go from Here: Two Years in the Resistance" in Washington.

In this archival photo of November 27, 2018, Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Talks about his new book entitled "Where We Go from Here: Two Years in the Resistance" in Washington. (Alex Brandon, File / Photo Good Politic)

The Sanders Loyalists expect him to launch a second campaign in the coming weeks, and his network of dedicated supporters is organizing hundreds of events across the country this weekend to encourage him to run.

But the charges placed Sanders in an unenviable position at the start of a contest that took place at the time of #MeToo. As his competitors traveled to the early-voting states and spotted the potential seat of the campaign, Sanders spent Thursday apologizing for the behavior of a handful of 2016 campaign workers and at the looking for a new staff for its 2020 operation, should it show up.

Some allies have lost confidence in the future of the man who has reshaped democratic politics in recent years and has almost on his own introduced liberal priorities such as "Medicare for all" and free university education in the United States. the party.

"If it does not show up, the void is huge in this country," said RoseAnn DeMoro, activist and former executive director of National Nurses United, who has reaffirmed her support for Sanders. "The passion in this foundation is going away. This base evaporates. This is not going to anyone else. I suspect that there would be a void so deep that it would go to (President Donald) Trump. "

Politico reported Wednesday that in July 2016, a former Sanders senior advisor had forcibly kissed a young employee after making sexually explicit comments. The Sanders team stated that the counselor, who denies the allegation, would not participate in a second campaign, if any. Former campaign manager Jeff Weaver, who was informed of some incidents after the end of the campaign, would no longer be responsible for the campaign, although he could occupy another position.

Nobody claimed that Sanders was directly aware of these incidents.

"Obviously, it affected us all a lot. It's very upsetting, "said Heather Gautney, executive director of Our Revolution, the political arm of the Sanders network.

Despite his concern, Gautney warned Democrats that a competition for 2020 without Sanders would jeopardize health care reform projects, education, housing and other liberal priorities.

"Bernie is holding the flank to the left. If he does not run for president, the whole horizon is changing and universal health care may be removed, "Gautney said. "In my opinion, it is an absolutely necessary part of our political system."

Some political leaders may not take Sanders seriously, but he would be a force in 2020. Having almost defeated Hillary Clinton in the 2016 contest, he has a committed national network and an impressive ability Fundraising at the local level. It would almost certainly attract some of the same voters courted by potential contenders for 2020, such as Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker and former Texas representative Beto O'Rourke.

Former Sanders employee Giulianna Di Lauro Velez, who claimed to have been harassed during the 2016 campaign, wrote in The Intercept on Thursday that sexual harassment was widespread in many political campaigns. But she wrote that new allegations about the 2016 Sanders campaign indicate "the depth of the problem was probably deeper than most people knew".

She called on Sanders to "take the rare step of setting up an independent investigation into the allegations of 2016".

A spokesman for Sanders did not immediately respond to questions about Velez's comments.

Earlier in the day, Sanders apologized, as he did last week, for the wrongs done under his guidance and sent a direct message to the women concerned.

"I thank them from the bottom of my heart for having spoken. What they have experienced is absolutely unacceptable and certainly is not the goal of a progressive campaign – or any other campaign, "said Sanders.

Sanders added, "All women in this country who will be working today or tomorrow have the right to make sure that they work in an environment free of harassment, safe and comfortable, and I will my best to make it happen. "

Sanders critics in the Democratic Party seized the new revelations to abandon any plans for 2020.

"These allegations tell us that Bernie is not really concerned about women's well-being. And therefore, he would not represent us well as president, "said Toni Van Pelt, president of the National Organization for Women. "I really think Bernie has to sit down."

The vast political network of Sanders does not agree.

Katherine Brezler, co-founder of People for Bernie Sanders, said the sexual harassment charges had absolutely no impact on her preference for Sanders. The New York activist said that sexual harassment was present in almost every one of the more than 100 campaigns she had worked on.

"I met these people and it's not Bernie Sanders," said Brezler. "We are not going anywhere."


Associated Press editors Elana Schor and Juana Summers in Washington contributed to this report.