Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), a 2016 candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, hosted a rally in Seattle, Washington, on Sunday evening that pulled a very impressive several thousand attendees. The question is, as the Democratic primary races draw toward a close, will Bernie Sanders keep his campaign going all the way to the convention, or will he start to tweak his message to acknowledge the fact that he’s unlikely to come out the winner? When will Sanders choose to transition to a post-election message for his supporters and fans?
Bernie Sanders greeted a massive overflow crowd outside the Key Arena — which holds approximately 17,000 — who weren’t able to fit inside for the event. Despite his near-legendary ability to draw giant crowds for his speeches, rallies, and other events, Sanders has not yet been able to transform as much of that interest into votes as he would need to do to snatch the Democratic nomination away from the consistent frontrunner, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was also the junior senator from New York from 2001 to 2009.
Bernie Sanders currently stands, according to Real Clear Politics, at 813 pledged delegates while Hillary Clinton has 1119. This is without counting Democratic superdelegates, a practice which has ginned up understandable controversy among Bernie Sanders supporters due to the fact that superdelegates are uncommitted and may change their allegiances for the first ballot right up until the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, which begins July 25. Pledged delegates are pledged to support a candidate based on the results of individual state primary and caucus races, hence the name. However, even when leaving superdelegates out of the mix because they do have the prerogative to switch their support from Clinton to Sanders (or vice versa), Hillary Clinton has still been the consistent leader in pledged delegates throughout the race. With Super Tuesday so far in the rearview mirror and the delegates that will be assigned to upcoming races getting fewer and fewer, Bernie Sanders’ chances are clearly dwindling.
Bernie Sanders is not completely shut out of the nomination, but because Hillary Clinton polls so extremely well in upcoming races, it would likely take a rather damaging piece of new information about the Clinton campaign in order for Sanders to overtake her. It’s also worth pointing out that no Democratic primary or caucus is winner-take-all — as opposed to the Republican primary and caucus races, which are a mix of winner-take-all and proportional in terms of delegate assignments. Therefore, even winning a state like California (where Hillary Clinton outpolls Bernie Sanders at this point anyway) wouldn’t be enough; Sanders would have to win upcoming races by a landslide in order to take the number of delegates he needs to catch up to Clinton. That’s not going to happen without a bombshell public relations disaster for the Clinton campaign, and that’s an obvious long shot.
What do we make, then, of Bernie Sanders continuing his campaign with enthusiasm at a time when most pundits have counted him out? Will we see him start to take steps toward the kind of message he wants to send and the impact he wants to have as a public figure after the primary is over?
Bernie Sanders has dramatically increased name recognition and a formidable fanbase because of his exciting run for president. This can only help bolster the progressive and hopeful message that has defined Sanders and his campaign long beyond the 2016 race for the White House. Who will Sanders be in the months and years ahead? What mark will he leave on our nation’s history? The wonderful thing about being Bernie Sanders right now is that he alone gets to choose.
[Image courtesy of George Frey/Getty Images]