No Sanders concession, but meeting opens door to conciliation
Hours after the Democratic presidential primary season ended Tuesday, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton met at a D.C. hotel for a 90-minute discussion focused on coaxing the democratic socialist — and his supporters — over to Clinton's candidacy.
Both campaigns described the meeting as "positive," and Clinton appears eager to get Sanders in her corner quickly so she can move ahead without any distractions from her left.
But Sanders still has not conceded the race to Clinton.
The Vermont senator is virtually the only Democrat who hasn't acknowledged Clinton's status as the party's presumptive nominee. She has won more states than Sanders, earned millions more votes, and has a hefty lead in pledged delegates and superdelegates.
In a statement about the Tuesday meeting, Sanders spokesman Michael Briggs followed his boss's lead and didn't label Clinton the general election candidate.
"Sanders congratulated Secretary Clinton on the campaign she has run and said he appreciated her strong commitment to stopping Trump in the general election," Briggs said.
Looking back on Sanders' rhetoric over the primary season, the candidate's hesitation comes as no real surprise. He repeatedly assailed Clinton's ties to powerful special interests and, in April, went so far as to suggest the former secretary of state was unqualified to be president.
Although Clinton's statement on the Tuesday meeting stressed the importance of unifying the party, the statement from Team Sanders didn't mention any work to persuade supporters to back Clinton or commit to the Democratic Party.
Sanders' public statements in recent weeks suggest the responsibility to unite the party falls on Clinton.
"It's not me," Sanders told CNN in April. "I don't control millions of people, but the Clinton campaign is going to have to make the case to those young people that in fact they are prepared to stand up for some real, fundamental changes in this country."
Still, Sanders' words have softened since his high-profile meeting with President Barack Obama last week. While initially vowing to contest the Democratic National Convention in July, Sanders now says he will take his ideas to Philadelphia.
Sanders has been given outsize influence over the drafting of the official party platform, and he is also hoping to spur reforms to the Democratic nominating process, including same-day voter registration, open primaries and the elimination of superdelegates.
"The time is long overdue for a fundamental transformation of the Democratic Party," Sanders said in a news conference early Tuesday in Washington.
In Tuesday's meeting, said Sanders' campaign, he ticked off a number of policies he hopes Clinton will adopt and push for in the general election, prioritizing an increase in the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. Sanders and Clinton also discussed campaign finance reform, universal health care and making college more affordable.
Right before the meeting, media outlets confirmed that Sanders lost the D.C. primary, a small delegate-light contest that Sanders had vowed to contest. A week earlier he suffered a much bigger blow, falling to Clinton in California after an aggressive two-week blitz of campaign appearances up and down the Golden State.
Sanders nonetheless went into the meeting with a hefty amount of leverage earned through his campaign, which frequently outperformed projections.
Although Clinton ended the season with more than 3 million more votes than Sanders, he notched 23 wins and received more than 12 million votes. He attracted hordes of young people, a crucial part of Obama's winning coalition that Clinton must now woo.
Clinton clearly understands her need for Sanders, and she has promised to continue working with him on the general election agenda.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.