Bernie Sanders Declares He Will Remain In Presidential Race

Mar 11, 2020
Originally published on March 11, 2020 5:18 pm
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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Bernie Sanders is pressing on. The Democratic presidential candidate conceded today that he did not have a great showing after six more states voted on Tuesday.

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BERNIE SANDERS: Last night obviously was not a good night for our campaign from a delegate point of view.

CHANG: So Bernie Sanders is even further behind former Vice President Joe Biden in the delegate count. And joining us now from Burlington, Vt., where Sanders spoke today, is NPR political correspondent Scott Detrow.

Hey, Scott.

SCOTT DETROW, HOST:

Hey, Ailsa.

CHANG: All right. So what more did Sanders say today?

DETROW: This was the first we had heard from Bernie Sanders since last night's results. He did not speak at all last night, which was pretty surprising. He was defiant. He said even though he's been losing states lately, he is winning the ideological debate and the generational debate, as he put it, arguing that the progressive policies that he's pushing for are popular with voters and have become central to the Democratic Party's platform. He did concede something pretty big, though, and that is he is losing the electability argument, as he put it.

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SANDERS: How many people our campaign has spoken to who have said - and I quote - "I like what your campaign stands for, I agree with what your campaign stands for, but I'm going to vote for Joe Biden because I think Joe is the best candidate to defeat Donald Trump," end of quote. We have heard that statement all over this country.

DETROW: And, Ailsa, this is something that we hear from voter after voter after voter. It is a very real trend in this primary.

CHANG: Right. So, I mean, did Sanders even talk about how he might regain the delegate lead or even how he can win this electability argument?

DETROW: You know, this has been a campaign of wild momentum swings. Just two weeks ago, it was Joe Biden who was really on the ropes and facing an uphill climb. So Sanders and his campaign are really hoping that Sunday night's debate, a one-on-one debate, just him and Joe Biden, nobody else, could provide another momentum swing. But there were a lot of moments today where listening to him speak, it sounded like this might be less about trying to win the nomination and more about a long quest that Bernie Sanders has been on to push the Democratic Party to the left. Here's what he said about that.

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SANDERS: Today I say to the Democratic establishment, in order to win in the future, you need to win the voters who represent the future of our country, and you must speak to the issues of concern to them.

DETROW: And as Sanders went through a long list of questions he said he'll have for Joe Biden this weekend, it was less about attacks on Joe Biden's record and more about the big-picture policy Sanders has been talking about for years now. So that was an interesting tonal shift that we heard from Sanders today.

CHANG: Yeah. Well, about who's buying into that big picture, I mean, remind us real quick about who did and did not vote for him yesterday and what that might tell us about who his campaign is really drawing in at this point.

DETROW: Sanders had a really tough night last night. In Michigan, the state that was really the most important state on the ballot last night in terms of delegates and also just the political conversation, this is a state that Bernie Sanders won in a shocking upset in 2016, he lost every single county. He lost black voters, white voters. And the share of voters under 30, which he did well in, was kind of flat and less than it was in 2016. So there's a clear trend line here if you look at what happened yesterday and what happened the week before on Super Tuesday of big chunks of the Democratic Party just coalescing around Joe Biden right now.

CHANG: Well, he's going to keep on campaigning, it sounds like. So what's next?

DETROW: It's really uncertain, and that's not anything having to do with Bernie Sanders. It has to do with the coronavirus. He canceled a rally yesterday, as did Joe Biden. It's not clear when rallies will resume. The Sanders campaign had said they've been talking to local health officials before each event, but more and more states are really shutting down public gatherings. That debate that he's really looking forward to, that is going to take place without a studio audience, without the big press filing rooms as well in order to try and keep this virus under control.

CHANG: All right. That is NPR's Scott Detrow, who is in Burlington, Vt., on the latest in the Democratic presidential race.

Thank you so much, Scott.

DETROW: Sure thing. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.