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Bernie Sanders says he will vote for Hillary Clinton

Spencer Platt/Getty

In what is amounting to a very drawn-out, gradual concession, Bernie Sanders said during an MSNBC appearance Friday morning that he planned to vote for Hillary Clinton this fall.

Asked point blank if he would "vote for Hillary Clinton in November," Sanders only slightly paused before answering, "yes."

In explaining why, Sanders didn’t mention Clinton herself, but instead focused on the dangers of a Trump presidency. "The issue right here is I'm gonna do everything I can to defeat Donald Trump," Sanders said, adding that Trump would be "a disaster for this country."

However, Sanders was also pretty clear about why he hasn’t ended his campaign or officially endorsed Clinton just yet: because he’s hoping to negotiate with her over the party platform.

"What my job right now is, is to fight for the strongest possible platform in the Democratic convention," he said, adding, "That means a platform that represents working people, that stands up to big money interests."

This makes subtext text

This shouldn’t really be a surprise — after all, Sanders said back in April that he’d support Clinton should she win the Democratic nomination (though he did say he wasn’t sure how "enthusiastic" he’d be about it). And he's long been clear that he views Ralph Nader's third party run in 2000 as a "mistake" that helped hand the presidency to George W. Bush.

Still, as June has stretched on without a concession from Sanders, some observers have suspected that he might bitterly withhold his support from Clinton entirely, that he dreamed of deposing her at the convention somehow, or that he could be fantasizing that an FBI indictment of Clinton could hand the nomination to him.

I’ve argued for some time that this isn’t the case, that Sanders is no longer actually trying to win the nomination, and that he is instead just doing some basic negotiating here, trying to win as many concessions as he can from Clinton before he gives her the one thing she really wants from him — his full-throated endorsement.

And with these new comments, Sanders is pretty explicit that that’s indeed what he’s doing. For the time being he’s still holding back from ending his campaign, enthusiastically backing Clinton, or urging his millions of supporters to vote for her, because he’s trying to push for a liberal platform at the convention. But he’s pretty straightforwardly saying that he’ll back her in the end.

Now, it's unclear how much leverage Sanders actually still has here, considering he's already saying he's going to vote for Clinton and going to do everything he can to defeat Trump (which would mean, er, helping elect Clinton). But in making a fine yet somewhat puzzling distinction between saying he'll vote for someone and "endorsing" someone, Sanders has a lot of company this year.

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