Should Bernie Sanders leave the race? New poll points to 'stay'

Most Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters said Bernie Sanders should stay in the race until the party's convention, a new NBC News poll finds. In 2008, Hillary Clinton faced a similar choice.

Jason Clark/Evansville Courier & Press/AP
Bernie Sanders waves to supporters during a rally at the Old National Events Plaza in Evansville, Ind., on Monday. A new poll finds 57 percent of Democratic voters agree he should stay in the race until the Democratic convention in July.

Despite a slew of pundits pointing to Hillary Clinton’s primary victories and suggesting Bernie Sanders should drop out of the Democratic primary, the majority of Democratic voters want Senator Sanders to stay in the race.

Among Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters, 57 percent say Sanders should stay in the race until the convention in Philadelphia, a NBC News/Survey Monkey poll released Tuesday found.

About 25 percent say he should drop out if he is still running behind Mrs. Clinton in the final primary, in Washington, DC, in June, while 16 percent say he should drop out now.

The numbers may point to a desire among voters to see Sanders continue to influence the race, particularly by nudging Mrs. Clinton, the former secretary of State, farther to the left, Linda Feldmann reports for The Christian Science Monitor.

By staying in the race, Sanders argues he can also keep a variety of progressive positions – such as free public college, breaking up the big banks, free Medicare for all, an end to “disastrous” trade policies, and a $15 minimum wage – on the table as the race turns toward the general election in November.

“The people in every state in this country should have the right to determine who they want as president and what the agenda of the Democratic Party should be. That’s why we are in this race until the last vote is cast,” he said in a statement last week after losing primaries in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania while winning in Rhode Island.

For Clinton, her own refusal to drop out of the 2008 despite a commanding lead by then-Sen. Barack Obama may also play a role in her decision not to call directly for Sanders to drop out of the race.

She currently has about 300 more pledged delegates than Sanders, more than the nearly 160 delegate lead Obama had following the 2008 North Carolina primary, Mother Jones reports.

But Sanders’s substantial fundraising may give him an advantage in continuing to push for his own agenda. He had $17 million on hand at the end of March, while Clinton left the 2008 race $22.5 million in debt.

In recent weeks, the Clinton campaign has cast her 2008 decision with a rosy glow. “I think she set a gold standard for how people who don't end up with the nomination, who lose in that effort, should come together and help the party,” said her communications director, Jennifer Palmieri, on the night of Clinton’s New York primary win.

But in May 2008, a month before she bowed out of the race, a series of racially-tinged comments Clinton made against Obama also drew notice.

A recent poll, she told USA Today at the time, “found how Senator Obama’s support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me.”

“There’s a pattern emerging here,” she added. “These are the people you have to win if you’re a Democrat in sufficient numbers to actually win the election.”

Among supporters, the race also got nastier, with Clinton supporter Paul Begala saying that the party couldn’t win with only “eggheads and African Americans.”

Now, some have argued, Sanders should take the high road. “Sanders needs to cease his negative campaign attacks, because at this point, they are only undermining the already low-level of Democratic Party enthusiasm,” wrote Lara M. Brown, an associate professor in the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University, in a New York Times op-ed.

"His challenge is also likely making more independent voters less enthusiastic about participating at all in the general election," she added. "She needs the next three months. Sanders should give them to her."

But the poll points to a different conclusion, even among Clinton supporters. While 40 percent of her supporters say Sanders should drop out after the final primaries and 30 percent say he should drop out now, 28 percent argue he should stay in the race through the convention.

Among Sanders supporters, 89 percent say he should stay in the race, while 10 percent say he should drop out after the final primaries.

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