Bernie Sanders Looks Far West After Midwest Letdown

PHOTO: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders acknowledges the crowd gathered at the Phoenix Convention Center during a campaign rally on March 15, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona. PlayRalph Freso/Getty Images
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The Bernie Sanders campaign had hoped to pull off surprise victories in several Midwest states Tuesday, but came up short. While Missouri is still too close to call, all signs point to a Clinton sweep.

The rough night for Sanders means he has fallen significantly further behind in the race for the delegates needed to secure the nomination, but the campaign shows no sign of slowing down, let alone bowing out. With events in Arizona and Idaho this week, the campaign is marching on out West.

In a late-night statement to media and fans, the Vermont senator said, “With more than half the delegates yet to be chosen and a calendar that favors us in the weeks and months to come, we remain confident that our campaign is on a path to win the nomination.”

The campaign is correct that there are still a significant number of delegates at stake -- 352 in California and 197 in New York, for instance -- and it continues to rack up delegates in each state.

But the math is growing ever more challenging. The senator would need to win the remaining states by incredible margins to make up his delegate deficit.

Despite his long-shot chances of winning the nomination, Sanders and his staff maintain a strong belief that all voters, in all 50 states, should have a choice in this Democratic nominating process. Gathering as many delegates as possible, and it will be a considerable amount, would offer Sanders significant leverage as the party and its nominee write their general election platforms and outline their priorities for the next administration if they win the White House.

In short, the Sanders campaign, at the very least, wants to make sure its voice is heard and that Hillary Clinton, if nominated, commits to the promises she has made during her campaign.

His supporters at his rally in Phoenix Tuesday night seemed to agree.

“I think it is good. I think he should give Hillary a run for her money,” said Melisa Kiguwa, a writer from Phoenix. “This is an ideological campaign that he is running … if Bernie decides to stay in I think that is a good thing.”

Second, because he first announced his bid for the White House, the senator has said his campaign was not about “Bernie Sanders” but about building a “political revolution”: energizing voters to re-engage with the political system, to take on the establishment party leaders and speak out against what he sees as corrupt campaign finance laws.

Marveling at the incredible fundraising apparatus he has built without a super PAC, relying solely on small-dollar donations, Sanders often says the campaign has already done something “revolutionary.” It has shown the country a presidential candidate can run a competitive race without relying on big money.

“I think he is the only candidate who is really trying to change the system of campaign finance,” said Gabriel Rey-Goodlatte, a musician from Sedona, Arizona, who also attended the Tuesday night rally.

“I absolutely think he should stay in all the way to the convention. … If he doesn’t win, we still need to continue building this movement so he can be a political force moving forward.”