Sen. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton stood side-by-side again Thursday at an event in Raleigh, North Carolina. They reminded the crowd of the long journey they’ve had -- sometime as competitors, sometimes as allies -- over this campaign.
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“I’ve got to say,” Clinton said, turning to address Sanders. “This election’s been a lot more fun now that we’re on the same side.”
The independent Vermont senator smiled and bobbed his head. “I want to thank Bernie for everything he’s done,” she continued.
Sanders will campaign today for her in Iowa, the state that in many ways put him on the map during the primary race, where he came within a fraction of a point of beating her in their first-in-the-nation caucuses.
The stop is one of more than a dozen he has scheduled across the country this final week before the general election, from New Hampshire to Arizona, as he continues to rally support behind his former rival.
“No one can say he didn’t go all in, and if they do they are lying,” Pete D’Alessandro, Sanders former Iowa caucus director who is now working in behalf of the Democratic Party in the state, told ABC News. “It’s amazing what he’s doing.”
During the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia this summer, D’Alessandro was one of many Sanders’ staffers who worked behind the scenes to temper emotions and disappointment felt by Sanders’ supporters and convince them, often one by one, to consider voting for Clinton.
These days, he says, he believes the Sanders’ following has substantially “coalesced” behind the Democratic nominee, but he acknowledges there still remains a small, but vocal “Bernie or Bust” segment of voters, who plan to write in the senator’s name, not vote or vote third party.
“It’s never going to be 100 percent, obviously,” he said.
Winnie Wong, co-founder of People for Bernie, one of the largest grassroots groups backing Sanders during the primary, agreed that the majority of his supporters would vote for Clinton Tuesday.
“For the most part, I think these anti-Hillary chambers are not huge,” Wong said in an interview.
She pointed to the lackluster support for third-party candidates in the polls.
Support for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson has declined across key battleground states during October, from 9 to 4 percent in Wisconsin, for example, and 12 to 5 percent in Arizona, according to recent numbers.
Google searches about writing in Bernie Sanders name on the ballot also appear to have peaked in early-October and remain heavily concentrated in his home state of Vermont.
Sanders has been a loyal soldier campaigning for Clinton since the convention, and both Wong and D'Alessandro say his goal has shifted beyond simply trying to convince people to vote for her, but instead to get them to volunteer and stay involved in progressive issues after Election Day.
It’s “really what the push is going to be: ‘We worked hard. We got to this point. We know we are voting for Hillary Clinton. The stakes are too high. Now can you find the energy to do one shift, not only for Hillary Clinton but for down-ballot progressive candidates,’” D’Alessandro said of Sanders’ plan for his upcoming trip.
During an interview with the Washington Post last week, Sanders said he was prepared to push and even, if necessary, oppose Clinton aggressively to make sure a progressive Democratic Party platform is implemented if she wins.
People for Bernie is focused heavily on health care-related ballot initiatives in states like Colorado and California, which Sanders supports, as well as longer-term projects against The Trans-Pacific Partnership deal and for environmental issues at the national political level, Wong said.
(They already have a rally scheduled for a week after Election Day in Washington, D.C., against the TPP).
“In the beginning when he would campaign for her, it was heartbreaking for me to see people boo him, but now he has settled into that space and there is no more booing,” she continued.
“There is a lot of cheering and to me that means people believe in Bernie and they believe in the progressive organizing that he going to be leading post-Election Day.”
Sanders’ supporters have also been motivated by the realization that if Democrats gain a majority in the Senate, the Vermont senator would likely get a promotion, specifically, a committee chairmanship.
“It’s been good for the Bernie-brand and the movement that is committed to doing this work,” Wong said. “When he gets his gavel, the fun will really begin.”