Sen. Bernie Sanders: 2016 decision a long way off

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., seen here during a meeting of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in March 2013. Win McNamee, Getty Images

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., warned that the growing gap between the rich and poor in the United States is alienating poorer Americans from the political process, offering a preview of what a presidential bid from the Democratic-leaning independent lawmaker might look like.

Sanders, one of two independents in Congress, was speaking at Saint Anselm College's New Hampshire Institute of Politics in Manchester, N.H. The first-in-the-nation primary state is a popular stop for people who are seeking the presidency. However, if Sanders runs, he would likely run as an independent, avoiding the 2016 presidential primary process.

"To create a society in which all people have a fair shot rather than just a nation that is dominated by big money interests is something that I will fight for," Sanders said.

Last November, Sanders told his home-state newspaper, the Burlington Free Press, that he would consider running for president in 2016 if he didn't find any of the candidate sufficiently progressive. It is unlikely that Hillary Clinton would fulfill that requirement, since he has criticized the Clintons for being too cozy with Wall Street.

Still, Sanders told Reuters that he still has "many, many months" to make a decision.

Much of his speech at the Saint Anselm town hall focused on the problems that accompany the growing wealth gap.

"What exists all over America today is that millions and millions and millions of people - working people, low income people, young people - they look at the political process and they say, 'Not for me. I don't know what these guys are doing, but it sure is not relevant to my life. And no, I am not going to vote,'" Sanders said.

He offered a series of statistics that illustrate the decline of the middle class. The result, he said, is that, "there are a lot of angry people out there," as well as people who are frightened because they don't have enough in savings.

In addition to the declining middle class, Sanders blasted the growing cadre of wealthier Americans, who control an ever-larger share of the nation's wealth.

"We are becoming a nation in which some people on the top have more money than they could ever dream of while at the same exact moment you have working people in new Hampshire, people with jobs, flocking to emergency food shelves trying to get some food to take them over the week," he said.

While Sanders said he would personally raise the minimum higher than the $10.10 figure being promoted by President Obama and congressional Democrats, he also said the private sector could do more to help Americans.

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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