May 20, 2016
Though they have said repeatedly that they would not urge the Vermont senator to drop out of the race, Clinton’s surrogates in Congress are hitting the airwaves and delivering other public statements on how Sanders staying in the race could hurt the party as it looks ahead to the battle against Donald Trump.
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) did multiple interviews on Thursday morning in which she refused to knock Sanders for the chaos that ensued when his supporters balked at how delegates were being picked at last weekend’s Nevada Democratic convention.
Instead, she sympathized with his situation and urged him to essentially do the right thing by acknowledging the reality of the delegate situation.
“I think we all need to all kind of take a deep breath and realize that this is about the issues we care about and try not to get into Bernie’s to blame or Bernie’s to do more,” the Missouri Democrat told NPR’s “Morning Edition” on Thursday, adding that she would not call for Sanders to leave the race. “I get it, I get it that he wants to stay in this race and make the points that he’s making between now and the end of the primaries.”
In a subsequent interview with “CBS This Morning,” McCaskill speculated that Sanders “would be the first to tell you” the campaign is not about himself. “And because of that, I have to know that when the math is final, Bernie has to look at a potential President Trump and go ruh-roh, we’ve got to get busy and make sure that we never let Donald Trump, the reality TV star that is reckless and risky and is an anathema to the things we believe in, we can never let him set foot in the Oval Office,” she said. “And I’m just confident Bernie will be there when the time comes.”
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) told CNN that she is not one to say “tell Bernie to get out,” but suggested that Sanders would do well to heed the results of the primaries.
“I’m a supporter of the full process playing out. I know it’s hard. I know it’s a slog … but I want to be sure that all 50 states, territories, Democrats abroad — that everybody has their say,” Mikulski said. “So when we go to the convention, everybody’s spoken. But when the process is over, through either primary or caucus, then it’s over.”
Sanders has pledged to stay in the race through the June 14 District of Columbia primary and to take his fight all the way to the Democratic convention in late July, despite his significant delegate deficit.
He’s gotten feistier recently, delivering a defiant speech on Tuesday night after he won Oregon and narrowly lost Kentucky about how Clinton is getting nervous about his candidacy. His campaign is also openly warring with Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz after she condemned him for the death threats his supporters made against the chairwoman of the Nevada Democratic Party.
Sanders’ campaign manager Jeff Weaver on Wednesday accused Wasserman Schultz of being out to get the Vermont senator from the very beginning of his presidential run.
Clinton herself has tried to stay above the fray, afraid of alienating the supporters she’ll need to come her way in the general election.
But her impatience was apparent as she sat down with CNN for a live interview on Thursday afternoon.
“He has to do his part to unify. He said the other day that he’ll do everything possible to defeat Donald Trump,” Clinton said. “He said he’d work seven days a week. I take him at his word. I think the threat that Donald Trump poses is so dramatic to our country, to our democracy and our economy that I certainly expect Senator Sanders to do what he said he would.”
Instead, she’s left it to her allies to both gently try to push Sanders out of the race and compliment the movement he’s inspired.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who has not endorsed Clinton but has spoken glowingly of her, on Thursday said Sanders has made helpful contributions to the Democratic Party he recently adopted.
“I believe that Bernie Sanders is a positive force in the Democratic Party. He has awakened in some people an interest in the political process that wasn’t there,” Pelosi told reporters.
Others have been more blunt.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said Wednesday that if Sanders is true to his word that he will do anything to keep Trump from becoming president, he will fall in line behind Clinton as the nominee.
“And to his supporters who are grousing about the fact that everything is rigged, it’s not rigged,” Boxer told CNN. “You know, we’ve had elections. Hillary has more votes. And Hillary has more delegates, not even counting super delegates. So I think we need to look at, you know, at what is at stake here. And let me tell you what’s at stake here, everything, everything that we believe in.”
McCaskill offered her own stark advice on Thursday.
“I know Bernie Sanders is in this because of the issues he cares about,” she said on CBS. “And if I know Bernie well enough, I’m praying that he will remember that.”