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Why is Bernie Sanders still running for president?

Bernie Sanders‘ presidential campaign made some news on Tuesday night: He’s looking forward to being in the April debate with Joe Biden.

“If there is a debate in April, he plans to be there,” Sanders communications director Mike Casca told CNN’s Annie Grayer.

Which is verrry interesting — for a few reasons.

1. The Democratic National Committee had planned for an April debate but there appears to be very little movement — at least publicly — to announce a specific date or a media sponsor. Sanders’ statement may force the committee’s hand. (The last debate was a CNN-sponsored one on March 15.)

2. Sanders appears committed to remaining in the race for the foreseeable future despite the fact that he trails Biden by more than 300 pledged delegates (1,155 to 840 in CNN’s count) and would need to win nearly 60% of the remaining delegates to take the nomination from the former vice president.

That last point occasions a very simple question: Why is Sanders still running, given those very long odds?

The short answer is because he can. The coronavirus — and the subsequent shuttering of states and major portions of society to stop its spread — has effectively frozen the Democratic race.

States have scrambled to postpone their primaries from spring until summer in hopes that the coronavirus will have significantly lessened by them. In fact, aside from the Wisconsin primary set for April 7 (and apparently still planning to be held) there isn’t another major primary day until April 28 when New York and Pennsylvania are scheduled to vote. (It’s hard to imagine New York will keep the primary where it is given the state’s status as the epicenter of the coronavirus in the US.)

Combine that calendar with the fact that campaigning — at least in person — has been totally halted by the coronavirus and that Sanders had plenty of money in his campaign account left to spend on the race and you see that there’s really no imperative for Sanders to get out of the race anytime soon.

And the upside of staying in is quite clear.

Sanders is more likely to draw more attention from the national media as a still-presidential candidate than as a former presidential candidate. If he wants people to pay attention to what he thinks should be done about coronavirus — or any other issue — that platform of being a presidential candidate is irreplaceable.

Plus, Sanders is better able to push — or at least attempt to push — Biden further to the ideological left on things like, say, health care, when he retains the power of his eventual endorsement and support for the nominee. The second Sanders gets out of the race, he loses a whole lot of relevance and leverage to affect change in Biden’s views or in the direction of the overall party.

Remember this too: Sanders is a true believer in things like “Medicare for All.” He has been advocating for unapologetically liberal policies his entire political life and rightly recognizes this will probably be his last, best chance to ensure they get a full hearing in front of his party, the public and the de facto presidential nominee in Biden.

Will Sanders’ insistence on staying in the race sit well with the Biden campaign? Probably not! Biden is desperately working to get into the daily conversation on coronavirus — holding press calls and virtual town halls — in hopes of showing a different style of leadership than President Donald Trump amid this crisis. But it hasn’t been easy for Biden to break through. And undoubtedly he and his team want to be able to put the primary fight totally behind him so it’s one less thing he needs to worry about.

Of course, that Biden wants this all to be over isn’t really a huge concern for Sanders. While the two are friendly, Sanders has long existed as an outsider even with the Democratic Party. (Sanders has only run for office as a Democrat for president twice: His 2016 and 2020 presidential bids.) It’s hard to imagine him feeling pressure to get out of the race because the party establishment (and the Biden campaign) would rather he did.

“I think we’ve had enough debates,” Biden told reporters when asked about it on Wednesday.

Add it all up and you get this: There’s lots of reasons to believe Bernie Sanders isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Article Topic Follows: Politics

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