Sanders on California's primary: 'You're going to see me here more than you feel comfortable with'

Voters preparing for the June 7 California primary shouldn't expect to see endless television campaign ads from Sen. Bernie Sanders for the next two and a half months.

Sanders said Wednesday during a visit to Los Angeles that instead he is counting on a ground game of liberal organizations — including the labor and environmental movements — to help him continue to attract large crowds and, he hopes, generate momentum.

"You're going to see me here more than you feel comfortable with," Sanders told the Los Angeles Times during a 50-minute meeting with the editorial board Tuesday. "We think we have a path to victory and that path absolutely has to come through California."

The Vermont senator noted only 630,000 people live in his state, and while it might rival California's progressiveness, "California is not Vermont ... it's an entirely different world for us and it is a little bit intimidating."

Sanders, who trails rival Hillary Clinton in both delegates earned through elections and when the local activists and state officials known as superdelegates are factored in, admitted during the wide-ranging meeting that it's an uphill battle. But he also sounded a confident note about his chances of getting to the general election. 

When asked how he can win given the delegate lead Clinton has amassed, Sanders said, "I would fully concede we have a narrow path to victory; your point is well taken, but it is a path." 

He said the math can't be argued with, but he believes he has a shot because many of the superdelegates haven't declared their allegiance. (The superdelegates include California's congressional delegation. They are overwhelmingly behind Clinton, but a handful of the lawmakers are not endorsing a candidate.)

The senator thinks he is the strongest candidate to defeat Donald Trump in the fall, and came armed with poll numbers that show him performing better than Clinton in head-to-head matchups. While admitting Clinton "absolutely" also could defeat Trump, he said the head-to-head is what superdelegates care about.

As for his next steps in California, "You will see very large rallies in city after city after city," he said, a few hours before a planned rally at the Wiltern in Los Angeles.

Instead of spending "zillions of dollars by running a handful of 30-second ads" in the state's many expensive media markets, Sanders said he would mobilize "tens of thousands" of volunteers in California for what he calls a ground game campaign.   

"This is just a tough state, it is so, so big," he said. "We are here, we are going to do everything we can to win this state, to win it big."

But Sanders said people shouldn't bet against him, saying that when ran for mayor of Burlington, Vt., "there were zero persons who thought I had a chance to become mayor. I won by 10 votes."

He also cited the large turnout in caucuses in Idaho and Utah on Tuesday night and his huge victories in those states, and he said he would work to perform well in upcoming contests in New York, New Jersey and Oregon.

"I have a lot of very fervent supporters out there and we're not going to give up until the last vote is counted."

christina.bellantoni@latimes.com

@cbellantoni

ALSO:

California's June primary just became crucial in the race for the White House

Listen to the discussion

Sanders visits the L.A. Times and learns how to Snapchat

Sanders supporters organizing MayDay rally in Los Angeles

Updates on California politics

Live coverage from the campaign trail

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
82°