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Sanders loses convention leverage (3355 hits)

BURLINGTON, Vt. — Leverage: it’s the one thing Bernie Sanders’ advisors and aides consistently point to when asked why, exactly, he’s formally staying in the Democratic primary race that he’s lost to Hillary Clinton.

But it's the one thing he’s been bleeding every day ever since he dropped California’s primary by a much wider-than-expected margin last week. Sanders’ summer was supposed to be all about building leverage for the Democratic convention, providing him with a better hand to play as he presses Clinton to accept his policy positions and party reform suggestions. Now, the people closest to him aren’t sure how exactly to get it back.

His first and most prominent endorsers have jumped off the bandwagon, congratulating and in some cases endorsing Clinton — from Sen. Jeff Merkley to Rep. Raul Grijalva, and from the Communications Workers of America to MoveOn.org.Each of the big-name Democrats and groups who steadfastly remained neutral in the primary have flocked to Clinton over the past week, from President Barack Obama to Sen. Elizabeth Warren to the AFL-CIO. Even Sanders' highest-profile congressional endorsee, Nevada’s Lucy Flores, lost her primary bid on Tuesday despite his cash injection into her campaign.

Yet on Thursday night, speaking to over 200,000 viewers who tuned into his live-streamed video address, Sanders vowed to press on — pledging to fight to defeat Donald Trump but refusing to formally back Clinton and insisting his army of supporters isn’t going anywhere.

“We must continue our grassroots efforts to create the America that we know we can become,” he said, nearly acknowledging defeat but making a point not to concede while reading from a prompter in a cramped television studio deep in his hometown. “And we must take that energy into the Democratic National Convention on July 25 in Philadelphia where we will have more than 1,900 delegates."

Speaking for 23 minutes, the Vermont senator rattled off a long list of policy stances and political changes he wants to push for the future of the party, each of which would need Clinton’s imprimatur to become reality -- from new leadership for the Democratic National Committee to a $15 federal minimum wage.

If Democrats were expecting a less combative Sanders to formally exit the race on Thursday, it was a misunderstanding of his posture. His staffers believe that continuing to pull Clinton and the party to the left is only achievable as long as Sanders is still formally a candidate with a considerable number of delegates behind him at the July convention.

And while his team has started signaling that it’s reached a new phase, it’s still far from sounding a truly conciliatory tone.

“We would like to get to a place where we could very actively support the nominee,” campaign manager Jeff Weaver told Bloomberg Television on Thursday — a hope-filled line for Clinton’s team that nonetheless implied there was still considerable work to be done before true unity is achieved.

To Sanders’ most steadfast remaining supporters, anything short of a continued campaign to tug Clinton on specific points — from embracing a nationwide ban on fracking to axing the superdelegate system — would be an abandonment of his “political revolution."

“Bernie Sanders has brought a lot of new people into the Democratic fold, and I think it would be wise for Secretary Clinton to keep them close to the Democratic Party and close to her,” said Utah Democratic Party chairman Peter Corroon, one of the superdelegates who remains with Sanders. “His leverage comes from his supporters, and so while the prospects [of a victory] at the convention may be lower, I think there’s a whole group of people that Secretary Clinton needs to pay attention to. And if Senator Sanders is asking for something that will help keep them in the fold, then she should listen."

“We look forward to the Democratic Party embracing key aspects of his platform,” added Anna Galland, the executive director of MoveOn.org Civic Action — a group that backed Sanders before congratulating Clinton on her victory on Wednesday. "We look forward to his historic campaign influencing the convention and how the Democratic Party acts moving forward."

Sanders’ evening comments came while his team continues talks with Clinton’s aides about policies they’re looking to see on the party platform or in the front-runner’s agenda moving forward, and just two days after Clinton and Sanders sat down with their senior aides in Washington to talk in person for the first time in months.

While they spoke for well over an hour and a half — longer than campaign officials initially expected — and issued nearly identical statements after the meeting, their Tuesday evening talk subtly indicated significant distance.

Clinton, for example, noted that the two had discussed “unifying the party” — a phrase that was glaringly omitted from Sanders’ version. And the section of his statement where his team ran through the issues discussed by the candidates included a reference to “making healthcare universal and accessible,” a tense point of disagreement between the two that wasn’t included in the presumptive nominee's statement.

What’s unclear now is just how far Sanders can push Clinton, whose campaign is coming off one of its strongest stretches yet, and who has fully pivoted to taking on Trump with a series of speeches and an ad barrage that the real estate developer shows no signs of being able to match.

Far from just leading Trump in national polls, Clinton’s allies now note that battleground state surveys also suggest she has little reason to fear that tepid support from Sanders backers could doom her.

She has, nonetheless, started to show a willingness to tack left toward Sanders, scheduling an economic policy speech set for Ohio next week that could include nods to his agenda. On Thursday, the Clinton campaign also installed a new chief of staff at the DNC who comes from the Service Employees International Union — a labor pick that could be welcome to Sanders’ rank-and-file supporters.

Still, the preliminary nature of those steps has not slowed the stream of ardent Sanders backers rallying to Clinton’s side in recent days. The loss of Merkley — his lone Senate endorser — and Grijalva — his first House supporter — were especially stinging, as was the immediate Clinton endorsement from liberal hero Warren.

Such officials “are seeing the handwriting on the wall as others are,” acknowledged Corroon, noting that he hasn’t heard from Clinton’s team since she claimed the nomination. "I think they probably should have waited ’til all the caucuses and primaries were over before saying anything."

“But now that they’re over,” he said, "things aren’t looking as positive as some had hoped."

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2016/06/sand...
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Posted By: Jeni Fa
Saturday, June 18th 2016 at 11:36AM
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