Hillary Clinton has emerged as the Democrat’s presidential nominee, but in her shadow Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is still running his campaign.
Sanders will move forward this week, but his campaign will be a shell of what it once was. Fundraising has stagnated and according to the New York Times, Sanders plans to lay off at least half of his staff Wednesday.
From Washington, even Sanders’ supporters are preparing for what the senator has rejected up to this point: an exit.
“Once a candidate has won a majority of the pledged delegates and a majority of the popular vote, which Secretary Clinton has now done, we have our nominee,” Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) told the Washington Post. “This is the moment when we need to start bringing parts of the party together so they can go into the convention with locked arms and go out of the convention unified into the general election.”
After losing the California primary Tuesday night, Sanders vowed to keep trudging along. He promised to take his campaign all the way to the convention. But his path has eroded.
NBC reported Tuesday that Clinton has won enough pledged delegates to win the nomination outright, but Sanders is still seeking to convince superdelegates to reject Clinton, a highly improbable proposition considering many of the superdelegates have already said they would back the former secretary of state, according to the Associated Press.
Sanders will spend the day in his home state of Vermont Wednesday, according to the New York Times before returning to Washington, D.C., on Thursday for a rally and a meeting with President Barack Obama.
He will also convene with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), according to Politico, a sign Sanders may be preparing for an inevitable return to the Senate.
How and when Sanders calls it quits could have a tremendous effect on his ability to push his party toward his agenda in Congress. Once considered an outlier, Sanders’ following could raise his profile in the Senate. Many of his Democratic colleagues who endorsed Clinton told NPR in interviews that Sanders had a unique opportunity to assume a more pivotal role on the Hill if only he bowed out gracefully.
“He called me a few weeks ago — out of the blue,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) told NPR. “My impression was that he reached out because he believes that someday he’ll be coming home to the Senate. And I think he wants to be part of the Senate and its future.”
Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), another Sanders supporter, told the Washington Post he was optimistic Sanders would make the right choice.
“The reality is unattainable at some point. You deal with that. Bernie is going to deal with this much more rapidly than you think,” Grijalva said.