Bernie Sanders's campaign put out a statement tonight that, for the first time, implicitly admits what delegate-counters have been saying for a few weeks now: He's not going to be the nominee.
He's not going to drop out of the race, but in the opening paragraph of his statement he speaks of looking forward "to issue-oriented campaigns in the 14 contests to come" — an indication that he'll be ratcheting-down the anti-Clinton rhetoric, not ratcheting it up. But the real bombshell comes later in the statement when he describes the goal of amassing delegates primarily in terms of influencing the party platform rather than determining the nominee.
Read the whole thing (with emphasis added):
I congratulate Secretary Clinton on her victories tonight, and I look forward to issue-oriented campaigns in the 14 contests to come.
I am proud that we were able to win a resounding victory tonight in Rhode Island, the one state with an open primary where independents had a say in the outcome. Democrats should recognize that the ticket with the best chance of winning this November must attract support from independents as well as Democrats. I am proud of my campaign’s record in that regard.
The people in every state in this country should have the right to determine who they want as president and what the agenda of the Democratic Party should be. That’s why we are in this race until the last vote is cast. That is why this campaign is going to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia with as many delegates as possible to fight for a progressive party platform that calls for a $15 an hour minimum wage, an end to our disastrous trade policies, a Medicare-for-all health care system, breaking up Wall Street financial institutions, ending fracking in our country, making public colleges and universities tuition free and passing a carbon tax so we can effectively address the planetary crisis of climate change.
This amounts to a savvy, classy way to begin winding down a campaign that was much more successful than anyone expected it to be but still quite far from actually winning. Sanders is staying in the race and giving his supporters something to vote for, thus giving his operation something to continue organizing around.
The reality, however, is that while the text of the platform is a good focal point, it's not especially important in the grand scheme of things. The real test for the political revolution's lasting impact will be whether Bernie and Bernie's supporters can help Bernie-style candidates win down-ballot races and influence the composition of Democratic caucuses in Congress and state legislatures.