Bernie Sanders told his supporters he will soon take on a role in the effort to defeat Republican Donald Trump in November, the closest he has come to acknowledging Hillary Clinton as the presumptive Democratic nominee and declaring his intent to work with her during the general election campaign.
“The major political task that we face in the next five months is to make certain that Donald Trump is defeated and defeated badly,” Sanders said during a live-streamed address to supporters Thursday night. “And I personally intend to begin my role in that process in a very short period of time.”
Sanders pointed to his meeting Tuesday night with Clinton, adding that he looks forward to future conversations between the campaigns aimed at transforming the Democratic Party and adopting a progressive platform. At the same time, Sanders said he expects to have more than 1,900 delegates at the Democratic National Convention, signaling that he will not release them before the convention.
Sanders also began laying out the foundation for his legacy after the election. In recent weeks Sanders has been using his massive fundraising list to raise money for candidates at the state and local level. On Thursday he called on the supporters to get involved by running for office or getting involved in campaigns.
“We need to start engaging at the local and state level in an unprecedented way,” Sanders said, calling on the volunteers who helped him campaign to “start running for school boards, city councils, county commissions, state legislatures and governorships.”
The announcement comes as Sanders continues to slowly wind down his campaign in the face of pressure from the Democratic establishment and defections from his own base. In the last week Sanders has held a series of meetings with leading Democrats, including President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. On Tuesday, after polls closed in Washington D.C., he met with Clinton for a nearly two-hour discussion described as cordial and policy oriented.
While Sanders has yet to concede the race, suspend his campaign, or release his delegates, the Democratic Party is quickly is moving to unify behind Clinton.
After meeting with Sanders last week, both Obama and Biden backed Clinton. Senator Elizabeth Warren, a leader of the party's progressive wing, endorsed Clinton as well. Two of Sanders's most prominent congressional supporters, Senator Jeff Merkley and Representative Raul Grijalva, lined up behind Clinton, as have the activist group MoveOn.org and the Communication Workers of America union, both of which had backed Sanders.
Clinton currently has 2,800 delegates, including elected leaders and party officials known as superdelegates, putting her well past the 2,383 necessary to secure the nomination, according to a count by the Associated Press. Sanders has just 1,881 delegates.
In the final weeks of the primary season Sanders said he would make the case to superdelegates that he’s the stronger general election candidate. Sanders has dropped that line of argument since California. During an appearance on Bloomberg's With All Due Respect on Thursday, Sanders’ campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, said that the campaign is not lobbying super delegates and has no plans to begin that process.
Weaver, like Sanders, declined to say that Clinton is the presumptive nominee and insisted that Sanders will keep his campaign active right up to the Democratic convention in July. What shape it will take is still being figured out, but Weaver said the party will leave the convention unified.
“Senator Sanders has always said he will support the Democratic nominee,” Weaver said. “I think that after a period of conversation—both with the Clinton campaign and with our supporters—we would like to get to a place where we could very actively support the nominee.”