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After Loss In Ohio, Bernie Sanders Considers Path Forward


Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders's path to the Democratic presidential nomination got quite a bit harder this week. NPR's Sam Sanders looks at how and why the campaign plans to keep going.

SAM SANDERS, BYLINE: On Tuesday night, Bernie Sanders lost the primaries in Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina and Florida. By Wednesday, Team Sanders was trying to explain its path forward.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Thank you, everyone for joining us today. Today, we are going to hold a press call...


S. SANDERS: One reporter asked if the Sanders campaign now considers itself a longshot. After a pretty long pause, Jeff Weaver, one of Sanders's top advisers - he said this.

JEFF WEAVER: Well, I think it is what it has always been, which is an uphill fight.

S. SANDERS: Another adviser, Tad Devine, went on to list several upcoming states where they think Sanders will win.


TAD DEVINE: Arizona, in Idaho, in Utah next week, in states like Alaska, Hawaii and Washington state...

S. SANDERS: But Bernie Sanders is down more than 300 pledged delegates. And even with several wins in the next few weeks, making up that deficit will be hard. Devine says it can be done, though. It's kind of like a football game.


DEVINE: You know, we're at halftime here, and we agree that we're behind. But we also think we're going to win this game. And we're going to finish ahead, and we see a path to get there.

MARGIE OMERO: You know, I think he's got a tough road ahead.

S. SANDERS: I talked with Democratic pollster Margie Omero about all of this.

OMERO: Well, I'm no expert in football. But you don't have a finite number of points - right? - that people are trying to allocate the way you do when you're talking about the race for me delegates.

S. SANDERS: In football, you could just keep scoring if you're good enough. But in the delegate race, there's only a certain number of points, or delegates, up for grabs. And if you don't get them, your opponent does. By NPR's calculations, Sanders would have to win 58 percent of all the remaining delegates to get the nomination. He'd basically have to win - and win big - in just about every state from here on out. So, knowing that, should Bernie Sanders just drop out?

OMERO: I think a couple things would need to be true in order to really have a clear impetus for the Sanders campaign to end. First would be running out of money. The second would be underperforming expectations. And the third would be that it's somehow paving the way for a President Trump.

S. SANDERS: Sanders is still raising a lot of money from small donors, sometimes millions in a day, so he can afford to stay in the race. Second, Sanders himself says he's already outperformed expectations before.


BERNIE SANDERS: We started this campaign at 3 percent in the national polls. We have come a long way in 10 months.

S. SANDERS: And third, Omero thinks Democrats will support Sanders or Hillary Clinton as a nominee, no matter how long they fight because Democrats want to avoid a President Donald J. Trump.

OMERO: There is no Never Bernie, Never Hillary Movement the way there is a Never Trump Movement.

S. SANDERS: What Bernie Sanders does have is a movement to fundamentally change a lot. He wants to do really big things - upend our current campaign finance system, make public college free and create government-run universal healthcare. For Sanders and his supporters, all of that is bigger than just an election.


B. SANDERS: Are you ready for a political revolution?


S. SANDERS: And if you think of it that way, of course Bernie Sanders should stay in this race as long as he can because revolutions and elections are two very different things.

Sam Sanders, no relation, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sam Sanders
Sam Sanders is a correspondent and host of It's Been a Minute with Sam Sanders at NPR. In the show, Sanders engages with journalists, actors, musicians, and listeners to gain the kind of understanding about news and popular culture that can only be reached through conversation. The podcast releases two episodes each week: a "deep dive" interview on Tuesdays, as well as a Friday wrap of the week's news.
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