UPDATED: 6:08 a.m. ET, April 5 —
After weeks of assessing the state of his campaign for president, Bernie Sanders may be ready to call it quits, according to a new report.
The senator from Vermont has been pretty adamant about what he called his “narrow path” to win the Democratic nomination and recently came across as resentful of the suggestion that he suspend his campaign before all of the primaries were held. But now, just days after facing off with Whoopi Goldberg on national TV about the topic, Sanders may be having second thoughts. The Washington Post reported Saturday night that some of Sanders’ “top aides and allies” have been encouraging him to consider dropping out.
If and when that happens, the next logical question for Sanders would be whether he would endorse Joe Biden for president and how quickly that would happen. There are worries Sanders could hold out on endorsing anyone much like what happened four years ago when Hillary Clinton won the nomination. Unlike all of the other Democratic candidates for president who dropped out of the race and quickly announced their endorsements, Elizabeth Warren has also been slow to do so despite suspending her campaign one month ago.
At least one of Sanders’ campaign managers, a major surrogate and a strategist have each privately offered their own reasons why they think Sanders should step down, according to the Post. However, with Wisconsin’s primary scheduled for Tuesday, some people within Sanders’ campaign have told him to stay in the race through the Democratic National Convention. The Post’s report came after Biden held what some news outlets have described as a nearly insurmountable lead in the race to securing 1,991 delegates to win the Democratic nomination.
Sanders’ campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, one of the people cited in the Post’s report as encouraging Bernie to withdraw, has apparently changed his tune since the last set of primaries were held last month. Following sweeping losses in Arizona, Florida and Illinois, Shakir said he was optimistic at the time.
“The next primary contest is at least three weeks away. Sen. Sanders is going to be having conversations with supporters to assess his campaign,” Faiz Shakir said in a statement Wednesday morning. “In the immediate term, however, he is focused on the government response to the coronavirus outbreak and ensuring that we take care of working people and the most vulnerable.”
Sanders repeated that sentiment on Thursday when he appeared on the popular daytime talk show, “The View,” when he had a contentious interview with hostess Goldberg. When she asked him point-blank why he was still in the race, Sanders seemed to take umbrage with the question.
“Last I heard, people in a democracy have a right to vote,” he responded.
Sanders’ reaction to his losses on Tuesday came one week after the so-called Super Tuesday 2 contests that he also fell short in. Just like this week, Biden’s near-clean sweep by Biden in Idaho, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri and Washington state — Sanders won in North Dakota — also got folks wondering if Sanders would end his campaign. That answer was obviously no, but one week later may have made the difference.
When pressed, Sanders has vowed to support the eventual Democratic nominee. But since that won’t be formally decided until the Democratic National Convention this summer in Milwaukee, he just might not make a formal endorsement until then. That was the perceived treatment from Elizabeth Warren, who suspended her own campaign earlier this month in the wake of similarly devastating losses on the first Super Tuesday. She was initially rumored to have been coordinating with Sanders’ campaign to determine a way to endorse him, but that never happened. Now, one week later, Sanders is all but poised to do the same as she.
Super Tuesday 2 saw Sanders lose support to Biden from among white college-educated voters and independent voters, according to exit polls cited by CNN.
But in the meantime, there remains the lingering question of whether supporters of both Sanders and Warren will gravitate toward Biden in the name of Democratic Party unity. If anything, it seems more than likely that Warren’s supporters will rally around Team Biden sooner than Sanders’ supporters would, seeing as the two senators were not that far removed from their very public spat when she accused him of making a sexist remark about her chances of becoming president this year.
Having Warren’s supporters coalesce around Biden’s campaign would be a huge boon for Biden, who would gladly welcome them all, including Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley, an influential Black woman congressman who has been one of the most staunch opponents of President Donald Trump, the man who in theory should be uniting Democrats heading into the 2020 Election.
Other presidential candidates who have dropped out of the race have ultimately endorsed Biden. They include Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar. On Tuesday, Andrew Yang joined them in endorsing Biden, too.
With that said, Sanders may not be ready to call it quits regardless of how the math looks surrounding delegates. Biden has won 1,132 of the at least 1,991 needed to receive support from a majority of pledged delegates. In contrast, Sanders has won 817 pledged delegates.
Whether true or not, the perception has largely been that Warren is taking too long to endorse a candidate, harkening back to four years ago when Sanders dropped out of the race but did not immediately endorse Hillary Clinton. Sanders finally endorsed Clinton weeks after Warren and even President Barack Obama announced their support. In that case, the Washington Post speculated that Sanders may have been hesitant to endorse Clinton because he thought that might anger his supporters.
“A Clinton endorsement so soon after railing against the establishment she represents might have rung hollow to his supporters, more than a few of whom said they were motivated to get involved in politics for the first time because of Sanders,” the Post wrote at the time.
If that was any indication of the future, the country could see somewhat of a repeat of that treatment this time around as Sanders — facing an upward battle with a decided deficit of delegates — decides whether to suspend his campaign and endorse Biden.
A poll in January showed that more than half of Sanders’ supporters said they would definitely support the Democratic nominee if it’s not Bernie, Newsweek reported. The implication was that the remaining 47 percent of Sanders’ supporters would either abstain from voting altogether, write in a third-party candidate with no chance of winning, or vote for Trump. If either of those three scenarios happen, it would arguably be a repeat from Election Day 2016, when exit polls showed that one out of every 10 Sanders supporters voted for Trump, according to NPR.
However, even if that does happen, Biden could still have the edge as he continues to turn out levels of Black voters not seen since the last two times he did this — alongside Obama in 2008 and 2012. The share of Black voters fell decidedly in 2016 compared to 2012, according to statistics compiled by the Center for American Progress, an independent nonpartisan nonprofit organization. That may have been because of a false sense of confidence Democratic voters and especially Black folks were lulled into based on inaccurate polling that predicted Trump would lose to Clinton.
Perhaps having learned their lesson the hard way, Black voters could ensure a Democratic victory in the general election this time around in addition to Trump’s departure from the White House if they turn out at the ballot box the same way as 2012.
All of which brings us back to Sanders and his decision about who to support and when that decision is made — factors that will determine what his supporters will do moving forward which, if history is any indication, is no guarantee of anything.