Hillary Clinton may have won the delegates she needs for the Democratic nomination, but Bernie Sanders isn't going anywhere just yet.
Despite some speculation that he'd drop out of the race Tuesday night, Sanders said at a speech in California that he'd "continue the fight in the last primary in Washington, DC," next week.
"I am pretty good in arithmetic, and I know that the fight in front of us is a very, very steep fight," Sanders said. "But we will continue to fight for every vote and every delegate we can get."
Sanders entered Tuesday night's contests trailing Clinton in the popular vote, pledged delegates, and superdelegates, and nothing happened in Tuesday's contests to change that. Though the California primary results hadn't yet been called at press time, preliminary tallies showed Sanders well behind, and made it clear that he didn't even come close to the overwhelming landslide win he would have needed there to catch up to Clinton in either the popular vote or pledged delegates.
Regardless, Sanders said in his speech that he would take his "fight for social, economic, racial, and environmental justice to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania" — meaning to the Democratic convention in July.
His speech didn't contain any criticism of Clinton and emphasized the importance of defeating Donald Trump. "We will not allow right-wing Republicans to control our government. And that is especially true with Donald Trump as the Republican candidate," he said.
However, he also hammered home the importance of all the issues he's been campaigning on for the past year — and, really, for decades.
"We understand that our mission is more than just defeating Trump, it is transforming our country," he said. "It is not acceptable that the top one-tenth of 1 percent owns as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. We’re gonna change that." He also mentioned the importance of breaking up Wall Street banks, ending "a corrupt campaign finance system," and enacting immigration and criminal justice reform.
Sanders is going to face a ton of pressure to drop out
When Sanders says the arithmetic means he faces a "steep fight" … well, that's understating things quite a lot.
Sanders currently trails Clinton by about 800 delegates, and in that sole remaining DC primary — which he's expected to lose — there are a paltry 20 pledged delegates at stake.
So he'd instead have to rely on flipping superdelegates, who have overwhelmingly backed Clinton so far, over to his side. Yet not a single superdelegate has abandoned Clinton in favor of backing Sanders so far, and it's difficult to imagine that they would do so after Clinton has won a majority of pledged delegates and votes nationwide. This seems, then, to be a fantasy.
Furthermore, leading Democrats seem to be desperate to get Sanders out of the race before the convention. President Barack Obama seems to be signaling that the race is over and that he will endorse Clinton soon. Other leading Democratic figures who have remained neutral so far, like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, could follow. And even Sanders's sole supporter in the US Senate, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, has said that it's about time for the process of unifying the party to begin.
So many are wondering whether Sanders truly intends to stay in the race until the convention. A juicy new Politico report portrays Sanders as angry, defiant, and "holding on in his head to the enticing but remote chance that Clinton may be indicted before the convention" — which suggests he'll keep fighting it out.
But even if that story accurately describes Sanders's current mindset, plans can change. Back in 2008, after all, Hillary Clinton did take a few days after the conclusion of primary voting to finalize her decision to end her campaign. And Sanders has a meeting with Obama set up for this Thursday, in which the future of his own effort will surely be discussed.
So the next week or two will clarify whether Sanders's stated willingness to stay in the race until July is mainly a negotiating tactic — born out of unwillingness to surrender his leverage without a proper deal being reached — or whether he's truly set on battling it out to the bitter end.