Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders took a brutal hit this week in his fight for the Democratic nomination. But even after losing to party rival, Hillary Clinton, in Tuesday’s crucial New York primary, the Vermont senator continues to push forward.
Political analysts and even Sanders’ top adviser are now suggesting that in order to remain a contender, the candidate may have to make some vital changes to his current campaign.
Sanders, who started off as a dark horse candidate and emerged as a true competitor, will have to trounce Clinton in the remaining primaries by at least a 20-point margin in order to catch up to the former secretary of state’s pledged delegates.
"There's a pathway to victory for Sen. Sanders, but I think you know it's certainly gotten brambled," Neil Sroka, who works with the pro-Sanders group Democracy for America, told NPR Saturday.
NPR reported that Clinton’s current delegate lead over Sanders is more than twice as large as then-Sen. Barack Obama's lead in 2008.
Despite this, Sroka said he hopes that for the sake of the party as a whole, the Vermont senator will continue to fight until the very last contests in June.
"There is not a single doubt in my mind that the strong campaign that Bernie Sanders is waging right now is making the Democratic Party better, stronger and more focused on the populist progressive issues that we need to take on if we are going to be successful in November," Sroka said.
But unless Sanders somehow manages to defeat Clinton as mentioned above, he will have to leave the race, according to Mo Elleithee of the Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service. The only thing Sanders will have to decide at that point will be the way in which he chooses to go.
"We were behind," Elleithee, who also worked on the Clinton campaign in 2008, told NPR. "We had a late burst of momentum. But the math was never there for us."
According to Elleithee, there are two ways one may choose to go: graciously or hysterically.
"It's a dangerous place to be in," Elleithee continued, "and you've got to keep your head about you and remember what it is you're fighting for. That doesn't mean you have to get out, but it does mean you need to kind of keep your focus in the right place."
On Tuesday, April 26, five more states will have their primaries. And according to recent polls, the odds appear to be stacked once again in Clinton’s favor.
Sanders’ senior campaign adviser Tad Devine Saturday addressed the question of whether the candidate would consider tempering his criticisms of Clinton, as Clinton did later in 2008, in order to open himself up to a wider range of Democratic voters.
Devine indicated to NPR that this question largely depends on how Tuesday pans out.
"If we think we've made enough progress, then we'll keep on the path that we're on," Devine said Saturday. "If we think we have to, you know, take a different way or reevaluate, you know, we'll do it then. But right now, we think the best path beyond is the one we laid out months ago."
And though some Sanders supporters have suggested a battle for the party’s delegates at the July convention, Devine asserted that Sanders’ only path toward becoming the nominee is a narrow one: through winning in pledged delegates.
Despite the challenges facing the Sanders campaign, Clinton’s people are not ready to dismiss him just yet. The longer Sanders remains in the race, the worse it could get for Clinton, who has had to remain vigilant amid the constant storm of Sanders’ critiques.
Sanders also raised considerably more money than the front-runner in March, which has enabled him to run more television ads than Clinton in each state.
Elleithee told NPR that the next month-and-a-half of campaigning will determine the legacy of Sanders’ campaign.
"People ought to feel good about what he did," Elleithee said. "The problem is too often campaigns in this position end up squandering a lot of that goodwill as part of the end game."
Whether or not Sanders has entered into his “end game” yet is something that Elleithee says won’t be known until Tuesday.