Sen. Bernie Sanders will meet with President Barack Obama and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid on Thursday amid more calls for him to end his campaign and help unite the Democratic Party.
After a disappointing showing in Tuesday’s primaries, Sanders showed no signs of changing course in his campaign. He said he planned to continue through the last primary next week in Washington, D.C. after which he would “take the fight for social, economic and racial justice to Philadelphia,” where Democrats hold their nominating convention in July.
Calls for Sanders to drop out and bring the party together had been building in the days ahead of Tuesday’s primaries. And they could only get louder between now and Thursday’s meetings.
Sanders was reportedly returning home to Vermont after the contests to assess the state of his campaign.
Reid, a Nevada Democrat, told reporters Wednesday he hadn’t decided yet what to say to his Senate colleague when they meet. He declined to say who requested the meeting, adding only, “The meeting is taking place.”
Democratic Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York said Wednesday he wouldn’t comment on the Vermont independent’s next move.
But Schumer did say, “I think he’s a very constructive man and I think we have a mutual goal, which is to make sure that Democrats stay in the White House.”
Minnesota Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who was elected to the Senate with Sanders in 2006, said: “I consider him a friend. And I have a lot of faith in him. He has pledged that he wants unity, he wants to support our nominee, he said that several months ago. And that also he doesn’t want to see a President Trump.”
Schumer declined to say if he will also meet with Sanders, saying he would not discuss private conversations.
Influential Democrats from outside D.C. were weighing in too, with mega donor Tom Steyer praising Sanders but saying it was important for Democrats to join forces against Donald Trump.
“Now is the time to come together to defeat Donald Trump, who is utterly unfit to be our next president,” the billionaire hedge fund manager and environmentalist said in a statement. “Trump’s racist rhetoric is directly offensive to our American values and his dangerous actions would threaten our children’s future in every way.”
Sanders had been banking on a strong showing in California , which appeared to be a close election before Clinton’s convincing win. He has also tried to flip superdelegates to his side before the convention, but that has not materialized so far.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement that the president congratulated both Clinton and Sanders Tuesday night. The statement also acknowledged Clinton’s delegate total and pointed out that it was Sanders who had requested the meeting with Obama.
“The president thanked Sen. Sanders for energizing millions of Americans with his commitment to issues like fighting economic inequality and special interests’ influence on our politics,” Earnest said.
The news coming out of the Sanders’ camp was as bad as the California results. Reports indicate that he will lay off half of his campaign staff , not unusual for a campaign at the end of the primary season.
It appears it will be up to Sanders to decide his fate. Or he might have already decided it, as a story in Politico reported that the senator was behind many of his campaign’s major decisions including calling Clinton unqualified and going after Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
The decision facing Sanders now is how to keep “the cause” moving forward without giving an advantage to Donald Trump, whom he has called a “nutcase” and a “pathological liar.”
“He now has to land the plane,” former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who waged a bitter primary fight against John Kerry in 2004 before conceding, told Time . “The big question is how does he use what he accomplished to move his cause forward? Only he can decide that.”
— Niels Lesniewski and Bridget Bowman contributed to this report.