Metaphorically Speaking, Sanders Aides See a Path Forward | Off Message

Bernie Sanders
Metaphorically Speaking, Sanders Aides See a Path Forward


Tad Devine and Jeff Weaver speak in Burlington two weeks ago. - FILE: PAUL HEINTZ
  • File: Paul Heintz
  • Tad Devine and Jeff Weaver speak in Burlington two weeks ago.
Top advisers to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) responded to Tuesday's big losses with a heaping pile of metaphors — some mixed, some not — designed to demonstrate that he's still, you know, in the game. 

Sanders' bid for the Democratic presidential nomination has always been "an uphill fight," campaign manager Jeff Weaver said late Wednesday during a strategy call with reporters. 

But, said senior adviser Tad Devine, "We see a lot of daylight ahead and, you know, green pasture."

As for that 1,139 to 825 pledged-delegate lead that former secretary of state Hillary Clinton has accrued? That's "really the high water mark for the Clinton campaign," Weaver said.

"We are literally about halfway through the delegate-selection process in terms of the number of delegates," he added. "I don't want to overuse the sports analogies, but [it's] sort of halftime in this process."

"I agree we're at halftime here," Devine said. "We agree that we're behind, but we also think that we're going to win this game, and we're going to finish ahead, and we see a path to get there."

Metaphors aside, Sanders' strategy includes:

  • Taking advantage of a primary and caucus calendar that both campaigns believe favors Sanders in the coming weeks, by winning in Arizona, Idaho and Utah next Tuesday and then in Alaska, Hawaii and Washington four days later.

  • Racking up big wins in the delegate-heavy states of New York and California and, to a lesser extent, Pennsylvania. 

  • In caucus states, picking up delegates on "the back end," as Devine put it, by outperforming Clinton in the county and state caucuses where delegates to the Democratic National Convention are actually selected.

  • Convincing delegates — pledged and un-pledged alike — that Sanders would be more likely to defeat Republican frontrunner Donald Trump in a general election.
"We anticipate, in the weeks and months to come, that we will steadily, consistently and successfully erode [Clinton's] current advantage in pledged delegates when we get through June 7," Weaver said, referring to the day that the final six states, including California, vote.

The Clinton campaign, of course, isn't buying it.

In a memo released Wednesday morning, after the former secretary of state won Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and Illinois, her campaign manager argued that she had run up "a nearly insurmountable lead."

The Missouri primary was still too close to call.

"The bottom-line results from last night: Hillary Clinton's pledged delegate lead grew by more than 40 percent, to a lead of more than 300," Robby Mook wrote in the memo, "leaving Sen. Sanders overwhelmingly behind in the nomination contest — and without a clear path to catching up."

Mook noted that Clinton's delegate advantage was nearly twice as large as any enjoyed by President Barack Obama in his successful 2008 campaign against Clinton. Moreover, he said, Clinton had already won 8.4 million votes in the current campaign — 2.5 million more than Sanders.

In order to catch up, Sanders would have to win double-digit victories in most of the remaining states. Mook argued that, even if Sanders won by a 60-40 percent margin in California, New York and Pennsylvania, he would still be 120 delegates behind. 

"Our pledged delegate lead is so significant that even a string of victories by Sen. Sanders over the next few weeks would have little impact on Secretary Clinton's position in the race," Mook said.

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