After String of Losses, Sanders Says He’ll Remain in Race | Off Message

Bernie Sanders
After String of Losses, Sanders Says He’ll Remain in Race

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Sen. Bernie Sanders speaking Wednesday at Burlington's Hotel Vermont - LUKE AWTRY
  • Luke Awtry
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders speaking Wednesday at Burlington's Hotel Vermont
Updated at 4:17 p.m.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said Wednesday afternoon that he would continue his fight for the Democratic presidential nomination — at least through Sunday's debate in Arizona.

Speaking to reporters at Burlington’s Hotel Vermont, Sanders conceded that he was “currently losing the delegate count” to former vice president Joe Biden, who has emerged in recent weeks as the prohibitive frontrunner.



“Last night, obviously, was not a good night for our campaign from a delegate point of view,” Sanders said, referring to his losses Tuesday in Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi and Idaho. As of Wednesday afternoon, Biden had claimed at least 860 delegates compared with 710 for Sanders.

The senator also acknowledged that he was “losing the debate over electability," saying that many voters had told his campaign that they supported his policies but believed Biden was better suited to take on President Donald Trump.

“Needless to say, I strongly disagree with that assertion, but that is what millions of Democrats and independents today believe,” he said.

Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks Wednesday at Burlington's Hotel Vermont - LUKE AWTRY
  • Luke Awtry
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks Wednesday at Burlington's Hotel Vermont
At the same time, Sanders pointed to his win Tuesday in North Dakota and his narrow lead in Washington, which was still counting ballots. And he argued that he was “strongly winning in two enormously important areas which will determine the future of our country” — what he referred to as the ideological and generational debates.

“Poll after poll, including exit polls, show that a strong majority of the American people support our progressive agenda,” he said, adding that “the younger generations of this country continue in very strong numbers to support our campaign.” Exit polls have shown that those under 30 largely favor Sanders, while older Americans back Biden.

“Today I say to the Democratic establishment, in order to win in the future you need to win the voters who represent the future of our country, and you must speak to the issues of concern to them,” he said. “You cannot simply be satisfied by winning the votes of people who are older.”

Left unsaid was that many other demographic groups have also expressed a strong preference for Biden — most importantly, African Americans. In Mississippi, 87 percent of black voters supported Biden, compared with 10 percent for Sanders.
Sen. Bernie Sanders speaking Wednesday at Burlington's Hotel Vermont - LUKE AWTRY
  • Luke Awtry
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders speaking Wednesday at Burlington's Hotel Vermont
The senator was joined at the press conference by his wife, Jane O’Meara Sanders, and senior staff members, who sat nearby. He took no questions from reporters.

During his remarks, Sanders never explicitly stated that he intended to remain in the race through this summer’s Democratic National Convention, nor did he say that he expected to win. But he did pledge to take part in Sunday’s debate in Phoenix — his first head-to-head engagement with Biden.
Sanders listed a number of policy areas he said he would press Biden to address during the debate. They included health care, climate change, student debt, mass incarceration and childhood poverty.

“Joe, what are you going to do to end the absurdity of the United States of America being the only major country on Earth where health care is not a human right?” he asked in what amounted to a sneak preview of his questions for Biden. “Are you really going to veto a Medicare for All bill, if it is passed by Congress?”

Sanders began and ended his remarks by making clear that he views Trump as a grave threat to the country, suggesting that he would avoid imperiling Biden's chances in a general election if his opponent were to prevail in the primary.

“Donald Trump must be defeated, and I will do everything in my power to make that happen,” he said. “On Sunday night … the American people will have the opportunity to see which candidate is best positioned to accomplish that goal.”
Jane O'Meara Sanders and Sen. Bernie Sanders depart Burlington's Hotel Vermont on Wednesday - LUKE AWTRY
  • Luke Awtry
  • Jane O'Meara Sanders and Sen. Bernie Sanders depart Burlington's Hotel Vermont on Wednesday
Other than facing off against Biden in the debate, Sanders did not reveal how he planned to campaign in the days before Florida, Illinois, Ohio and Arizona vote next Tuesday. He is scheduled to appear on NBC’s "Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" on Wednesday, but he has not announced other public events. A rally planned for Cleveland on Tuesday night was canceled over concerns about the spread of coronavirus.