WASHINGTON (CBS DC) — Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., the longest-serving independent in congressional history, said he’s taking a serious look at a 2016 run for president, and brushed aside talk of Hillary Clinton as secondary to the real problems facing America’s middle class, including a growing gap in wealth inequality.

Speaking on Sunday’s “Meet the Press,” the Vermont independent said that it is difficult to run as in independent on the federal level, but he is looking at the logistics of rebuffing both parties.

“I am thinking about running for president, and the issue of whether you run as an independent, with the necessity of setting up the fifty-state infrastructure, running as a Democrat, that’s something that I’m looking at,” Sanders told NBC News.

Sanders added that he had not ruled out running as an independent, he is also a self-described socialist who caucuses with Democrats in the Senate.

“One of the reasons that I’m going to Iowa is to get a sense of the way people feel about it…The truth is, profound anger at both political parties, more and more people are becoming independent. The negative is, how do you set up a 50-state infrastructure running as an independent?”

In response to Bill and Hillary Clinton’s appearance at Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin’s Iowa steak fry – the site where Hillary launched her 2008 candidacy for president in the primary caucus state – Harkin insisted that his intentions for running have nothing to do with the former secretary of state.

“I don’t know that Hillary is running,” Sanders said. “I don’t know what she’s running on. I know that the middle class in this country is collapsing. I know that the gap between the very, very rich and everybody else is growing wider. There’s profound anger at the greed on Wall Street, anger at the media establishment. The American people want real change. I have been taking on the big money interests and special interests all of my political life.”

When pressed about Clinton, Sanders curtly replied, “Chuck, the issue is not Hillary. I’ve known Hillary Clinton for many years and I have a lot of respect for Hillary Clinton. The question is, at a time when so many people have seen a decline in their standard of living, when the wealthiest people and the largest corporations are doing phenomenally well, the American people want change. They want Congress, they want candidates to stand up to the big money interests.

“So let Hillary speak for herself, I know where I’m coming from.”


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