To date, Hillary Clinton and her campaign have been very cautious about saying Bernie Sanders should drop out of the primary race. But remarks the Democratic presidential front-runner made today suggest she does think her opponent has passed his sell-by date.
While speaking at the California African American Museum in Los Angeles this morning, Clinton appeared to come just shy of flat-out telling the Vermont senator -- who has vowed to stay in the race through the convention in July -- it’s time for him to bow out. (If not that, though, she at the very least made the argument for why she believes he should strongly consider it.)
“I am three million plus votes ahead of Sen. Sanders, right? I am nearly 300 pledged delegates ahead of Sen. Sanders. When I was running against then-Sen. Obama, he and I were neck and neck in the popular vote. Depending on how you counted it, I was a little ahead or he was a little ahead. He was about 60 or so pledged delegates ahead. A much, much smaller margin than what we see in this race," Clinton told a group of black community leaders this morning, just one day after it became clear Donald Trump will be the likely Republican presidential nominee.
"But I knew that he had won,” she continued, “Because it matters how many delegates you have, whether it’s 60 or 300, right?”
Eight years ago, Clinton dropped out of the primary race on June 7, 2008, when, according to delegate counts at the time by several major news organizations, Obama was ahead of Clinton by roughly 124 pledged delegates. The two contenders were, as Clinton said today, neck and neck in the popular vote, according to a Real Clear Politics count that showed Obama at 48.1 percent and Clinton at 48 percent.
Fast forward to today. According to ABC News’ delegates estimate, Clinton is currently ahead of Sanders by 321 pledged delegates: 1,683 to 1,362. (This is not counting Clinton’s enormous lead in superdelegates.) She is also ahead in the popular vote by more than three million votes, according to a count by Real Clear Politics; however, that number does not include all caucus states, many of which Sanders has won.
The fact is, in 2008 Clinton did not drop out of the race until after the final Democratic primaries were held in early June. But at this point in the race, in early May, she was facing similar pressure to concede.
Clinton’s decision to stay in the race for as long as she did then has made it tricky for her to call on Sanders to drop out now.
Earlier this week, Clinton said in an interview on MSNBC that Sanders “has every right to finish out this primary season.” And last month, she told reporters when asked if she understands why her opponent would want to stay in the race, "It’s up to everyone to decide how long they stay in and if we go to the end ... just as I did in ’08.”
Her comments today, however, were some of the farthest she’s gone in suggesting her opponent should consider dropping out.
"I withdrew, I endorsed [Obama], I campaigned with him, I nominated him at the convention, I went to the floor of the convention and moved that he be nominated by acclamation. Because I knew this: That whatever differences we might’ve had in the campaign, they were nothing compared to the difference between us and the Republicans,” she said, making an argument about party unity. “Now if that was true in ’08, that is true on steroids today, right?”
Clinton is setting her sights on the general election by planning travel to battleground states, where her campaign is already staffing up, and focusing on ways to take down Trump.
Sanders, meanwhile, is powering on. He plans to campaign in California and has said to expect a contested convention in July.
ABC News' Paola Chavez and Veronica Stracqualursi contributed to this report.