‘He is still in’: Bernie could remain in race through June – POLITICO

‘He is still in’: Bernie could remain in race through June – POLITICO.

Since his staff announced last week that he is reassessing his campaign, Bernie Sanders has not yet definitively said whether he is still running.

But he’s given every indication he’s pressing forward — and perhaps remaining in the presidential race for months to come.

Despite Joe Biden’s nearly insurmountable delegate lead, the Sanders campaign said he plans to participate in an April debate, if one happens. His team has held volunteer organizing calls in the past week in New York and Pennsylvania, which are planning to hold their primaries perhaps as late as June. And his campaign is also touting that it is ramping up staff in New York, which a senior aide said is “a sign that he is still in.”

Sanders, who hasn’t aired ads or fundraised since losing badly in the March 17 primaries, could still very well call things off. But one thing is certain: He’s not acting like a candidate who’s finished with the primary.

“Bernie has every reason to stay in,” said James Zogby, a Democratic National Committee member who has spoken with Sanders in recent weeks and urged him to continue running. “He has a role to play in policies of course, but also continuing to be the glue that holds the progressive movement together.”

Sanders has returned to doing cable TV interviews for the first time since March 17, when he lost in Arizona, Florida and Illinois, and his campaign continues to engage in the delegate selection process in the states.

In the past week-and-a-half, Sanders has also put together six virtual events focused on the coronavirus that have received millions of views, according to his team, including town halls and rallies featuring members of the so-called “Squad” and musical acts. On “All In with Chris Hayes” Monday, Sanders said that “what we are doing is transitioning our campaign to a virtual campaign.”

Some of Sanders’ aides and allies argue he could win despite the long odds, and that he has a position to fill in pushing for progressive policy, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.

The moves — and that line of thinking — are infuriating to some establishment Democrats and Biden allies, who fear a repeat of 2016, when Sanders declined to drop out after it was mathematically impossible for him to win. Many party leaders believe the delay further fractured the already divided Democrats and made it more difficult for Hillary Clinton to take on Donald Trump.

“It’s time to move on,” said Harold Schaitberger, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters, which endorsed Biden a year ago. “It’s time to coalesce and put all of our various groups and parts of our movement and society together and get ready for what’s going to be a hell of a battle in the general election,” he said.

Jay Jacobs, the chairman of the New York Democratic Party, said he is “not meaning to push anybody out of running.” However, he said, “There’s no logical reason to extend this, because there is no viable path for anyone other than Joe Biden to get the nomination.”

Biden himself also appears eager for Sanders to go away. Asked at a press briefing Wednesday if he would debate Sanders in April, Biden said he was focused on the coronavirus crisis.

“I think we’ve had enough debates,” Biden said. “I think we should get on with this.”

Meanwhile, multiple allies of Sanders have encouraged him to remain in the race. But they have urged him privately to articulate his reasons for staying in, rather than to pivot entirely to the coronavirus — his current approach — a source familiar with the conversations said.

The primary calendar, suddenly blown up by the coronavirus crisis, offers some incentive to continue on. Even if Sanders has little chance of catching Biden in the delegate count absent a dramatic change in voter opinion, the postponement of numerous primaries could mathematically keep him afloat for months. Biden cannot amass the delegates he needs to secure the Democratic nomination before June 2, which now includes so many rescheduled primaries that it’s beginning to rival Super Tuesday in size.

“I don’t think it’s over. Lord knows what happens over the summer,” said Zogby. “The Biden campaign can implode. I don’t know. I’m not wishing anything, but it’s not over till it’s over.”

Ohio, Connecticut, Indiana, Maryland, Delaware and Rhode Island have all pushed back their primaries to June 2, and Pennsylvania is on track to do the same. Kentucky has put its primary off until June 23.

New York, which has more delegates at stake than any of those states, is currently scheduled to vote on April 28. But election officials there have begun pressuring Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature to move it back — likely to June 23, when New York holds its congressional and state primaries.

Sanders’ team has long seen New York not only as a state that he could potentially win, but also a place that is important to his narrative arc. He was born in Brooklyn, and kicked off his 2020 campaign at an event in his native borough.

Four years ago, Sanders’ advisers also viewed New York as a place where Sanders could deliver a race-altering upset, entering the state on a hot streak before Hillary Clinton’s decisive victory there.

But this year, said Mark Longabaugh, a senior adviser to Sanders during his 2016 campaign, “My honest view is I think he’s way too far behind in terms of delegates to catch up. … We were never this far behind in 2016.”

In the eyes of some of his aides and allies, though, the coronavirus and economic downturn are additional reasons Sanders should stay in the race. His campaign has fully immersed itself in the issue in recent days.

In addition to his livestreams, Sanders’ team has used his giant email list to raise more than $3.5 million for coronavirus relief, and texted people to ask them to call their senators to voice support for his plan tackling the pandemic. Sanders’ organizing app has also urged users to check in on their friends during the crisis.

“This is really about life and death,” said Nina Turner, Sanders’ campaign co-chair, of the coronavirus. “The senator is the only candidate in this race that has that capacity that he’s not just a candidate running for president, but he is a sitting United States senator who has an ability to weigh in on policy.”

On Wednesday, Sanders wielded that power, announcing that he was prepared to hold up the Senate’s coronavirus stimulus package if a group of Republican lawmakers did not back off their objections to expanding unemployment insurance.

Many on the left also believe that the pandemic has demonstrated the need to transform the nation’s health care industry and economic system.

“There seems to be a bipartisan consensus that the government should play a much more active role in the economy,” said Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ senior adviser.

POLITICO

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