Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is reconsidering his role in the presidential race, campaign manager Faiz Shakir said in a written statement Wednesday morning.
"The next primary contest is at least three weeks away," Shakir wrote. "Sen. Sanders is going to be having conversations with supporters to assess his campaign."
In the meantime, Shakir continued, the senator "is focused on the government response to the coronavirus outbreak and ensuring that we take care of working people and the most vulnerable."
Asked by a CNN reporter at the U.S. capitol on Wednesday for more details about the state of his candidacy, Sanders said, “Anybody who suggests that at this point we are ending the campaign is not telling the truth.”
Later on Wednesday, Sanders erupted at a group of reporters when asked again about his campaign. “I’m dealing with a fucking global crisis,” he said, adding, “Right now, I’m trying to do my best to make sure that we don’t have an economic meltdown and that people don’t die. Is that enough for you to keep me busy for today?”
The remarks came a day after former vice president Joe Biden defeated Sanders in Florida, Illinois and Arizona, widening his lead by at least 133 delegates to the Democratic National Convention. Biden now has 1,147 pledged delegates, and Sanders has 861.
In recent days, several states have delayed primaries in response to public health concerns over the coronavirus outbreak. Puerto Rico is currently scheduled to hold a primary on March 29, and Alaska, Hawaii and Wyoming are slated to vote April 4.
The Sanders campaign has suspended all television and digital advertising for the time being in order to conserve resources, according to spokesperson Mike Casca.
In an email to supporters Monday morning, Shakir was blunt. “No sugarcoating it, last night did not go the way we wanted,” he wrote. “And while our campaign has won the battle of ideas, we are losing the battle over electability to Joe Biden.”
According to Shakir, Sanders and his wife, Jane O’Meara Sanders, plan to return to Vermont after he casts votes on a coronavirus relief package. “Once there, they’ll begin holding conversations with supporters to get input and assess the path forward for our campaign,” Shakir wrote.
As Seven Days reported this week, the outbreak has complicated Sanders' hopes of staging a comeback after falling behind on Super Tuesday. "He's gotta figure out how he wins something," said Mark Longabaugh, who served as a senior adviser on Sanders' 2016 campaign.
Though Sanders has not publicly indicated he would drop out of the campaign, he also has not vowed to fight on to its conclusion. Often in politics, statements that a candidate is reassessing his or her role in a race are followed by the candidate’s withdrawal.
On Tuesday night, Sanders delivered remarks from his campaign office in Washington, D.C., outlining several policy proposals to address the coronavirus crisis. Those included a $2,000 monthly payment to every American, free healthcare for the duration of the outbreak and stronger enforcement measures to crack down on price gouging.
For the second week in a row, Sanders did not immediately respond to the day’s election results.