Bernie Sanders woke up in Arizona on Wednesday with what appeared to be five losses, determined to stay in the Democratic primary race.
As aides to Sanders huddled on Wednesday in Sedona about the path forward, Sanders chief strategist Tad Devine and campaign manager Jeff Weaver gave no indication that the campaign was reeling, insisting to reporters in a conference call that things would turn around in the next few contests.
“This is really a high water mark for the Clinton campaign in terms of the number of the pledged delegate lead that the secretary has. We anticipate over the weeks and months we will steadily, consistently and ultimately successfully erode her current advantage in pledged delegates,” Weaver said.
Devine, before the call, shot down shot down any talk that it’s a huddle about dropping out.
“We’re going to plan the schedule for the next several weeks and talk about where he’s going to be and how we’re going to deploy resources to win upcoming states. That’s what we’re ‘huddling’ about,” Devine said before the conference call.
Hillary Clinton defeated Sanders in Florida, Illinois, North Carolina and Ohio on Tuesday, and held a narrow lead in Missouri, where the race has not been officially called.
The Sanders campaign had been hoping for an outright win in at least Missouri, but March 15 didn’t figure as a decisive date on their campaign calendar. As of Wednesday it was unclear whether the Sanders campaign would call for a recount there and Devine said they hadn’t gotten to that point yet.
“We haven’t in the past really gotten stuck and we are assessing right now how the process works,” Devine said. “The difference could be a delegate in the end so it’s not something that we feel a great urgency about but we have asked for some advice as to the way the process works mostly to get all the information back before we make our final decision.”
Aides have long said they wanted to survive to this point as a viable candidacy, before heading into a stretch marked by caucuses in largely white states that would enable them to build back momentum against Hillary Clinton. After that, they’re hoping they can convince the Democratic superdelegates to put them over the top if they’re close enough to Clinton in pledged delegates.
“With more than half the delegates yet to be chosen and a calendar that favors us in the weeks and months to come, we remain confident that our campaign is on a path to win the nomination,” Sanders said in a statement released late Tuesday night.
Relying on superdelegates to deliver a win when Clinton already has support from the bulk of them is a longshot strategy. It could also put him at odds with important elements of his grassroots base, forcing Sanders to explain to skeptical Clinton supporters and other Democrats why he’s keeping her from pivoting fully to Donald Trump, and to some of his own backers why he’s willing to potentially use the technicalities to grab the nomination from Clinton in what would be a superdelegate coup at the Democratic convention in July.
On the conference call both Devine and Weaver stressed that upcoming contests in Western states — Arizona, Washington, California, Idaho — and also in New York, would be far friendlier to Sanders and less so to Clinton.
“We believe as we look ahead at the states that are in front of us that we can beat her in most of these states and beat her in some of these states by decisive margins,” Devine said.