WEST LAFAYETTE, Indiana (CNN) — Bernie Sanders, who acknowledges Tuesday night’s primary losses in four of five states have made his path to the Democratic nomination even narrower, has a new game plan: force Democrats to adopt “the strongest progressive agenda that any political party has ever seen.”
In his first campaign event after Hillary Clinton crushed Sanders in four East Coast primaries, the Vermont senator told a crowd of college students Wednesday at Indiana’s Purdue University that he won’t exit the Democratic race despite Clinton’s massive advantage in the delegate race.
“Let me make this clear, so that there’s no confusion: We are in this campaign to win and become the Democratic nominee,” Sanders said to cheers.
But he also acknowledged the reality that Clinton has a lead of more than 300 pledged delegates, and once super delegates are included, CNN estimates she has 2,168 of the 2,383 she needs to win the Democratic nomination.
“We are in this campaign to win, but if we do not win, we intend to win every delegate that we can, so that when we go to Philadelphia in July, we’re going to have the votes to put together the strongest progressive agenda that any political party has ever seen,” Sanders said.
He continued, “And our job, whether we win or whether we do not win, is to transform not only our country, but the Democratic Party — to open the doors of the Democratic Party to working people and young people and senior citizens in a way that does not exist today.”
Sanders made the case that he’s the more electable general election candidate because he can draw more independents into the process than Clinton.
“I am very good in arithmetic, and I can count delegates, and we are behind today,” he said. “But you know what? Unusual things happen in politics, and with your help, we are going to win the pledged delegates, and with your help, super delegates may well reach the conclusion that Bernie Sanders will be the strongest candidate against Donald Trump.”
Sanders pledge to win was a different message than his statement that was distributed after Tuesday’s results, which some translated as repositioning the campaign off winning the nomination to focusing on altering the party’s platform.
“That is why this campaign is going to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia with as many delegates as possible to fight for a progressive party platform that calls for a $15-an-hour minimum wage, an end to our disastrous trade policies, a Medicare-for-all health care system, breaking up Wall Street financial institutions, ending fracking in our country, making public colleges and universities tuition free and passing a carbon tax so we can effectively address the planetary crisis of climate change,” Sanders said in the statement.
Sanders’ campaign manager said the statement was “absolutely not” a concession of the nomination fight, adding, “This has been a campaign for the nomination, it continues to be.”
Sanders did not back down at Wednesday’s event on his criticisms of Clinton, despite Clinton offering an olive branch to Sanders and his supporters in her victory speech on Tuesday night.
Instead, Sanders stuck to comparing and contrasting their records, hitting her for a $12-an-hour minimum wage that falls short of his call for a national minimum $15 wage. He also hit her on trade, fracking, and a tax on carbon. And he did not let the opportunity pass to hit her for the speeches she made to Wall Street — though he didn’t make his common demand to “release the transcripts.”
The senator also criticized the Clintons, both of them, in a bigger picture argument he made about taking on the establishment.
“We were taking on the most powerful politician organization that had elected Bill Clinton for two administrations and run a very strong campaign in 2008,” he said of the odds being stacked against his bid since day one.