President Obama has just endorsed Hillary Clinton for President. It’s now clear what he and Bernie Sanders were discussing in the Oval office this morning. Not only if Sanders would capitulate, but when. It’s also clear that Sanders was told about the forthcoming endorsement – President Obama’s video specifically mentions his meeting with Sanders (and we’ve learned it was taped yesterday). Conventional wisdom – based on Sanders’ speeches and his post-Oval Office statement today – has been that he will hold out until after the Washington, D.C. Primary on Tuesday. It’s probably still going to be next Tuesday, and Sanders is likely to lose that Primary. The thing is, Sanders is losing leverage by the minute now that the President has endorsed Hillary Clinton as the presumptive nominee.
Sanders could have been in a stronger negotiating position if he’d declared on Tuesday and joined forces with Clinton’s moment (and momentum). By staying in after a very, very popular President endorsed his rival (Obama has an 81% approval rating among Democrats), with Elizabeth Warren and others set to do the same, he has placed himself on the wrong side, both temporally and in terms of the Democrats’ heroes, of Clinton’s candidacy.
Clinton supporters were shocked at how critical he became of Clinton, just as her candidacy became essentially inevitable. His attacks were a series of hail Mary passes that only accomplished putting words in Republican’s mouths. It’s likely that Sanders has not left the race yet because he’s not only processing his own failed campaign, but trying to figure out how to live up to the hopes of the movement that he has built.
But Sanders has to think about his legacy. And the people in his movement who need him to make good decisions about his Presidential chances in order to advance his – and their – agenda. If he fights on too long, he’ll be remembered for a bitter exit, as someone who ignored an historic night for Clinton and women in this country, and as someone who, if he had timed things right, could have had the most power and leverage at the Democratic National Convention of any losing candidate in history.