Bernie Sanders received a rapturous welcome from supporters in Stockton and Sacramento this week, but many of them are prepared to back Hillary Clinton if the Vermont senator doesn't pull off an upset victory in the Democratic primary.
"If he's not available, I'll vote for her," said Jesse Medina, 60, after hearing a rousing speech from Sanders in Stockton on Tuesday morning.
The conversations reflect the results from a USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll released in March, when nearly eight out of 10 Sanders supporters said they would vote for Clinton if she were the nominee.
House Speaker Paul Ryan made a "mistake" by holding back on supporting Donald Trump as the presumed presidential GOP nominee, Trump's top Senate supporter said Tuesday. But other Republicans on Capitol Hill were not so sure.
Tension over Trump's ascent in the Republican Party filled the halls of the Capitol as typically chatty lawmakers returning to work darted about without comment.
"I'm not doing any interviews on the presidential race. None. Zero," said the otherwise affable Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho, who had been a Marco Rubio supporter.
Bernie Sanders has flip-flopped strategically in the weeks since Hillary Clinton put a near-lock on the Democratic presidential nomination. At times he has vowed to battle Clinton through the party’s July convention. At other times he has shifted his stated goal to building a movement, a tacit admission that his own fight is over.
Both of those possibilities could be read into remarks the Vermont senator made Monday night in Sacramento and Tuesday morning in Stockton as he opened his campaign for California. But the one he seemed to relish the most was the possibility of beating Clinton in the June 7 primary in a state so central to her family’s political fortunes.
In rallies with the usual Sanders touches — thousands of adoring fans, a hoarse candidate feeding and feeding off of their passion — the senator pulled few rhetorical punches. He skewered Clinton’s positions on climate change, the minimum wage, the environment, the Iraq war, and the future of giant American banks. He mocked her connections to Wall Street — adding his usual suggestion that she is part and parcel of a "corrupt" system.
Hillary Clinton will almost certainly lose Tuesday's primary in West Virginia, adding to a string of defeats in conservative, heavily white states, including Oklahoma and Indiana.
Sen. Bernie Sanders' ability to beat Clinton in conservative places may seem counterintuitive. He is, after all, a self-proclaimed democratic socialist. But the results fit into a consistent pattern: The Democratic Party doesn't have a lot of conservative voters in its primaries any more, but those who remain have tended to favor Sanders.
It's a fair bet that most of those voters are not Feeling the Bern. The evidence suggests they are not so much voting for Sanders as voting against Clinton, much as voters in some of the same places sided with Clinton eight years ago because they did not want to vote for then-Sen. Barack Obama.