WASHINGTON          -        US presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders should be taking a victory lap or two following back-to-back wins in the 2020 election’s first votes. Instead, both Sanders and the party he wants to lead find themselves bogged down in a struggle between the progressive and moderate wings of the Democratic party.

Establishment Democrats are terrified of Sanders’ momentum after his popular-vote victories in both Iowa and New Hampshire. They see the independent Vermont senator, a self-avowed democratic socialist, as potentially off-putting to the moderates and independents they need to corral to defeat President Donald Trump in the general election in November.

Sanders’ sweeping policy proposals, including nationalisation of the healthcare system and free university tuition, enjoy wide support among his base of mainly younger voters. And national polls suggest that support for him and his policies may be broadening, with Sanders opening up a double-digit lead over former Vice President Joe Biden, his closest competitor, in national polls taken after the New Hampshire vote.

In many ways, the Democratic party in 2020 faces the same issue that the Republicans faced in 2016. A charismatic outlier popular with the fringes of the party but disliked by its traditional base has, for the moment at least, a better chance of securing the nomination than any of his establishment challengers.

James Carville, an architect of former President Bill Clinton’s victories three decades ago, echoed the sentiments of many in the party when he described himself in an interview on MSNBC as “not very impressed” with the Democratic field and singled out Sanders for particular scorn.