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Analysis: Sanders’ Mistake Was Not Declaring Victory After He Already Won

By every measure possible, Hillary Clinton defeated Bernie Sanders in the Democratic presidential nominating race.

Among pledged delegates, she bested him by a 55 percent-to-45 percent margin; in the popular vote, it was 56 percent to 43 percent; and among all delegates, it was 60 percent to 40 percent.

But there are still two ways in which Sanders succeeded. One, he performed better than anyone - probably including himself - ever expected, giving Clinton a truly competitive race.

Two, he's already pushed Clinton and the Democratic Party to the left. Take Clinton opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement early in the primary season, despite her earlier work as secretary of state laying the groundwork for the accord. Or Clinton saying she'd sign a $15-per hour minimum wage bill into law, even though she previously called for $12 an hour. Or President Obama stating he'd expand Social Security benefits.

Yet after those victories, after the final primary results and after Clinton became the party's presumptive presidential nominee, Sanders still marches on. He hasn't conceded to Clinton or endorsed her. And on Tuesday, Sanders made a series of demands, including:

  • New leadership inside the Democratic National Committee (presumably replacing DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz);
  • The most progressive Democratic platform in history;
  • More open primaries;
  • And eliminating superdelegates in the Democratic nominating system.

But the demands on DNC leadership, open primaries and superdelegates seem small. Why call for reforms to processes that you and your supporters deem unfair (rightly or wrongly), while not touching other processes (the caucuses) that benefited you?

Not conceding to Clinton appears even smaller, especially after she became the first female to become the presumptive presidential nominee of a major political party.

And the leverage he has seems even smaller still, given that Clinton won eight of the last 11 Democratic contests; that President Barack Obama and Sen. Elizabeth Warren already endorsed Clinton; and that polls show Clinton expanding her lead over Donald Trump - all suggesting that Clinton might not need Sanders' blessing to win the White House.

On Tuesday - after he issued his list of demands - Sanders met with Clinton. And their campaigns both released positive-sounding statements about the meeting.

"Sanders congratulated Secretary Clinton on the campaign she has run and said he appreciated her strong commitment to stopping Trump in the general election," the Sanders campaign's statement read. "The two discussed a variety of issues where they are seeking common ground: substantially raising the minimum wage; real campaign finance reform: making health care universal and accessible; making college affordable and reducing student debt."

The statement concluded, "Sanders and Clinton agreed to continue working to develop a progressive agenda that addresses the needs of working families and the middle class and adopting a progressive platform for the Democratic National Convention." (Note: While the Clinton campaign's statement called for unity, Sanders' made no mention of the "U" word.)

Bottom line: Sanders' campaign - in one way or another - continues.

But whether it's in politics or at the gambling table, there's a risk when you stay too long, especially after you've already won.