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0000017a-15d9-d736-a57f-17ff8f680000Coverage of the 2016 races in New Hampshire, from the White House to the State House.

The Flame Starts To Fade For Some Bernie Sanders Supporters

Bernie Sanders arrives at his campaign rally in Santa Monica, Calif., on Tuesday.
Marcus Yam
LA Times via Getty Images
Bernie Sanders arrives at his campaign rally in Santa Monica, Calif., on Tuesday.

Hillary Clinton declared victory on Tuesday night, but Bernie Sanders fights on.

"The struggle continues. We are going to fight for every vote in Tuesday's primary in Washington, DC, and then we will bring our political revolution to the Democratic convention in Philadelphia," he wrote in a fundraising email sent Wednesday morning, adding, "we will continue to fight for every vote and every delegate we can get."

Sanders pledged to keep campaigning through the District of Columbia primary on June 14.

However, several of his top supporters appear to be relenting, accepting that Clinton is the presumptive nominee, including two top members of Congress.

"Once one of the candidates wins the majority of the pledged delegates, those that are decided by the states, and the majority of the popular vote, then we'll have our nominee," Oregon Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley acknowledged to NPR on Tuesday night, ahead of the full results. "And if Secretary Clinton wins 30 percent-plus tonight, she's probably going to meet those goalposts."

Clinton has met those goalposts, and as Merkley told the Washington Post's Greg Sargent, "I would not support a battle that involves trying to flip superdelegates."

Rep. Raul Grijalva, a Democrat from Arizona, likewise told Sargent: "The reality is unattainable at some point. You deal with that. Bernie is going to deal with this much more rapidly than you think," said Grijalva, who is also a superdelegate. "At some point, when we're trying to flip 400 superdelegates, and it's not gaining traction, I think you have to come to the conclusion that it's not going to happen."

(In fact, given current delegate totals, Sanders would actually have to get an additional 500-plus of 714 superdelegates to come out in support of him.)

Some of Sanders' Senate colleagues (most of whom already supported Clinton) have also suggested that he end his campaign for the good of the party, as NPR's Ailsa Chang reports.

"I think he should stand down now. That's my conclusion," said Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. "I believe he is uniquely positioned to be able to be a unifier."

Sanders still does have some backers who aren't budging, however. Hawaii Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has urged Sanders to keep fighting.

Other Sanders supporters around Washington appear to be ready, if not enthusiastic, to support a non-Sanders nominee.

In a statement, Executive Director Ilya Sheyman didn't exactly tell Sanders to stand down. Rather, he laid out the criteria for winning the nomination — criteria that Clinton has met.

"MoveOn members believe, as we have long advocated, that the nomination should go to the winner of the majority of pledged delegates, and that undemocratic superdelegates should not overturn the will of the voters," he said.

Democracy for America likewise framed its statement in terms of delegates, not in terms of winners and losers.

"DFA believes, as we have since 2007, that the winner of the majority of pledged delegates should be the Democratic nominee," wrote DFA Chair Jim Dean. However, he added that Sanders shouldn't be hustled out of the way, saying the senator's movement "shouldn't have its timetable determined by Washington pundits and professional worrywarts."

Meanwhile, Sanders supporters are working through their grief on Twitter with #GirlIGuessImWithHer, a hashtag that signals they'll vote for Clinton in November, but they don't have to like it.

Elsewhere on Twitter, one of Sanders' major Hollywood supporters congratulated Clinton a bit more enthusiastically.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

Danielle Kurtzleben is a political correspondent assigned to NPR's Washington Desk. She appears on NPR shows, writes for the web, and is a regular on The NPR Politics Podcast. She is covering the 2020 presidential election, with particular focuses on on economic policy and gender politics.

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