Sen. Bernie Sanders makes his way through Brooklyn Bridge Park Sunday ahead of New York’s presidential primary on Tuesday. | AP Photo
Bernie Sanders’ path to the nomination has narrowed to a sliver, and Tuesday’s primary in New York looks like it will squeeze it further. But the Vermont senator was defiant as he made the TV rounds on the eve of the crucial contest. His message: So what if I lose?
Sanders’ campaign in recent days has downplayed the importance of winning the popular vote in the delegate-rich state, pointing to Clinton’s once gargantuan advantage in the polls shrinking to single digits by some counts.
“Those are the public polls. The bottom line is, let’s look at the real poll tomorrow,” Sanders told NBC’s “Today” in the first of three in-studio interviews Monday morning. “Generally speaking, polling has underestimated how we do in elections.”
The Sanders campaign blasted out an email Sunday night touting new poll numbers showing the senator within six points of Clinton, telling supporters that a victory in New York would be “the most shocking upset in modern political history.”
“Here’s the truth: we don’t have to win New York on Tuesday, but we have to pick up a lot of delegates,” campaign manager Jeff Weaver wrote. “This poll shows that if we keep fighting, we may actually have a chance to do both.”
Despite his day-long detour to the Vatican last Friday, Sanders maintained that his campaign was focused on winning New York but also laid out several preemptive explanations for why it might not. Among them: the fact that independent voters cannot participate in Tuesday’s closed Democratic primary.
“Now you’re on to a big issue. Nothing much I can do. It’s bad New York state election law,” Sanders said during a discussion on “CBS This Morning” on Monday. “What it says to the many hundreds of thousands or more independents who would like to vote tomorrow for me or for anybody, they can’t participate, I think that that’s wrong, and that does hurt us. ‘Cause we win independent voters by 2 to 1.”
Polling overall in New York shows little sign of Sanders closing the gap with Clinton, and the RealClearPolitics average has Sanders down by almost 13 points.
Still, within the hour on CNN’s “New Day,” Sanders tried to drive home the same point on independent voters. “We’re kind of spotting Secretary Clinton a whole lot in that regard,” he said.
And during the CBS interview, Sanders rejected the notion that he has not been supportive of other Democratic candidates, noting that he has “raised many millions of dollars.”
“For Democrats to do well, not only at the highest level but in the Senate races and in the House races, we need a large voter turnout,” the senator said. “I think there’s very little doubt that a Bernie Sanders winning the nomination and being the Democratic candidate will in fact create the kind of excitement and large voter turnout not only to win the White House but to regain control of the Senate, to win governors’ chairs all over the country.”
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Sanders in recent weeks has enjoyed a hot streak, winning eight of the last nine contests. But the calendar is turning against Sanders, with many of the upcoming primaries being closed to the independents who are more drawn to the Vermont senator’s strongly progressive message.
His deficit in the delegate hunt has also become dire. Clinton leads Sanders 1,289 to 1,038 in pledged delegates. Adding in the superdelegates, the former secretary of state leads 1,758 to 1,069, making it virtually impossible for Sanders to reach the 2,383 delegates he needs to lock down the nomination.
On Monday morning, Sanders continued to bash the Democratic Party’s nominating system, particularly the role of superdelegates, suggesting that Clinton’s support is distorted among the establishment.
“I have serious problems with it. You know, this is the establishment folks. These are elected officials, these are money people who are superdelegates. And the truth is, most of them are now supporting Hillary,” Sanders said. “But let me just say this — as you may know, in poll after poll, including your own polls here at CBS, I run much longer against Donald Trump than does Hillary Clinton. And the reason for that, by the way, is we’ve got a lot of independent voters. I think as this campaign proceeds and we do well, superdelegates and others will say, you know, we’ve got to beat Trump. Bernie is the stronger candidate.”
Sanders pushed harder at this point on CNN, remarking that while Clinton’s campaign has hewed further to the left as a reaction to his own effort, it has not been successful in persuading younger voters that the former secretary of state would be able to effect the same fundamental change.
“The Clinton campaign is going to have to make the case to those young people that, in fact, they are prepared to stand up for some real fundamental changes in this country,” Sanders said. “And that’s a case they have not yet been able to make.”
Even as Clinton continues to rack up delegates, Sanders stressed that his campaign has significantly cut into Clinton’s lead with his recent victories.
“We’ll see what happens tomorrow. I won’t speculate. You’ve got California, you’ve got Oregon, you’ve got Pennsylvania,” Sanders said on CBS, vowing to fight for every vote and take his campaign to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July.
Co-anchor Charlie Rose asked, “What does it mean if you lose in New York?”
“What does it mean if I lose?” Sanders responded. “It means that I lose.”