Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) vowed Tuesday night to remain in the Democratic presidential race “until the last vote is cast.” But in a statement released by his campaign after a day of defeats, he suggested he was focused on something other than winning the nomination.
His new goal, he said, was to arrive at this summer’s Democratic National Convention “with as many delegates as possible to fight for a progressive party platform.”
The statement came after Sanders lost four out of five East Coast states Tuesday to former secretary of state Hillary Clinton. Her double-digit wins in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware — plus a nail-biter in Connecticut — put her ever closer to clinching the Democratic nomination.
Speaking Tuesday night in Philadelphia, which is scheduled to host the convention in July, Clinton praised her enduring rival and reached out to his millions of devotees.
“Because whether you support Sen. Sanders or you support me, there’s much more that unites us than divides us,” she said.
Tuesday wasn’t a total shutout for Sanders. He won Rhode Island with 55 percent of the vote to Clinton’s 43 percent. And in Connecticut, he trailed just 47 to 51 percent. But according to the Associated Press, Clinton was likely to net at least 65 pledged delegates in the day’s contests — and possibly many more. That would put her lead at 1,622 to 1,282.
Factoring in unpledged superdelegates, according to the AP, Clinton had 2,141— or 90 percent — of the 2,383 she needs to win the nomination.
In recent days, Sanders’ top advisers had been sending mixed messages, alternately arguing that they would fight ’til the bitter end or “reassess” after Tuesday’s races.
He clarified, “Reassess does not mean that he’s not going to be part of this race. Reassess does not mean that his message, that we think is the most powerful message, is going to change.”
Democracy for America executive director Charles Chamberlain, whose Burlington-based advocacy group endorsed Sanders, said in a statement Tuesday night that it was up to the “Democratic establishment” to “bring our party together by embracing our fight for a political revolution” — and not to “tell us to sit down, shut up and fall in line.”
Chamberlain echoed the Sanders campaign’s new message, saying the group would “continue fighting to ensure Bernie Sanders wins the largest number of delegates possible to represent our movement in Philadelphia.”
Sanders himself didn’t appear to be letting up on the gas. He spoke at a rally Tuesday evening in Huntington, West Va., and was scheduled to appear Wednesday in West Lafayette and Bloomington, Ind.
But Tuesday was the last big-delegate day until June 7, when California and four other states go to the polls. In between, the candidates will face off in just one or two states at a time, starting next Tuesday in Indiana and moving to West Virginia the following week.