Bernie Sanders predicts a win in California's Democratic primary and is vowing to soldier on to a “contested” Democratic National Convention, despite projections that Hillary Clinton will soon reach the 2,383 delegates necessary for the party's nomination.
“If the turnout is very large I think we're going to win,” Sanders said of the California vote in an interview with CNN's State of the Union broadcast on Sunday.
The Vermont senator said Saturday that media projections expected to dub Clinton the presumptive nominee Tuesday night are “simply not accurate” because they include superdelegates—elected officials and party leaders who will not cast their votes until the convention in Philadelphia in July.
Superdelegates back Clinton by a wide margin, but Sanders hopes he can get them to defect.
“In terms of delegate math I think there is some confusion in the media,” Sanders said. “It is extremely unlikely that Secretary Clinton will have the requisite number of pledged delegates to claim victory on Tuesday night.”
In a one-word response to a question about whether he would work to ensure presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump is defeated, regardless of whether he or Clinton wins their primary, Sanders said: “Yes.”
Sanders, in Saturday's press conference, cited an interview that Luis Mirander, Democratic National Committee communications director, gave to CNN in April, in which he said that superdelegates should not be included in delegate totals on primary and caucus nights. Instead, Sanders said the DNC should prepare for a “contested convention.”
In 2008, when Barack Obama secured the Democratic nomination over Clinton, the race was called in early June based on a combination of pledged and superdelegate support. Clinton quickly suspended her campaign. Obama was formally nominated at the party's convention in August.
Saturday's press conference mirrored one Sanders had in Washington on May 1, following his losses in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware, and Maryland days earlier. At the time Sanders said it was unfair that only 7 percent of superdelegates had backed his campaign when he had won approximately 45 percent of the pledged delegates.
Since then, Sanders—long an independent in Congress, who joined the Democratic Party in 2015 in order to contest the primary—has made the case repeatedly that superdelegates should support him based on the strength of against Trump in various opinion polls, and on the excitement his campaign has generated.
“It is very clear that Donald Trump's negative ratings are enormously high, unprecedented for a major party presidential candidate, and Secretary Clinton's negative ratings are also very, very high,” he said on Saturday.
Though Sanders' chances of winning the nomination now rest in the hands of party members and elected officials, he said the current system is unfair and that he'll work to change the future Democratic nominating process.
“The idea that more than 400 superdelegates came on board Secretary Clinton's campaign before any other candidate had declared their willingness to run for office is totally absurd,” Sanders said. “That is called an anointment process, not a democratic process.”
Sanders on CNN criticized Clinton's record on military matters, including her vote to authorize the 2003 invasion of Iraq and her advice that Obama intervene militarily in Libya in in 2011. He said he worries that Clinton is too eager to undertake military action.
“Her support for the war in Iraq was not just an aberration,” Sanders said, noting that he “led” opposition to the same war. “Her willingness to kind of push President Obama to overthrow Qaddafi and lead to the kind of instability we're seeing now in Libya is not inconsistent with her other views of Syria, where she wants a no-fly zone.”
That would “suck us into never-ending conflict in that area,” Sanders said.
When CNN's Jake Tapper noted that the Libya intervention is thought to have prevented Moammar Al Qaddafi's forces from massacring rebels in the city of Benghazi, and asked Sanders if he would not have intervened, the senator said: “In that particular instance, probably not.”
Clinton won the U.S. Virgin Islands caucuses on Saturday and the Puerto Rico primary on Sunday. Even without superdelegates, Clinton by early Monday held a significant lead over Sanders of 1,809 pledged delegates to 1,520, according to the Associated Press. With superdelegates, Clinton had 2,357 to Sanders’ 1,566, putting her 26 delegates away from the 2,383 necessary to secure the nomination.
She's expected to surpass the delegate-majority threshold when votes are tallied in New Jersey on Tuesday, and before voting ends in California. Recent polls suggest the most populous U.S. state is a toss-up, with Clinton holding a lead over Sanders that's within the margin of error.