Senator Bernie Sanders today made a defiant case for his candidacy despite suffering big losses in the Democratic primary this week, and said that he planned to continue his bid for the presidency and attend the scheduled debate on Sunday against Joe Biden.
Biden easily defeated Sanders in Michigan last night, considered by many the final gasp of a realistic Sanders nomination.
Now Sanders faces four states next Tuesday – Florida, Ohio, Illinois and Arizona – that he lost to Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Biden is expected to gain even more momentum in the delegate hunt.
Appearing at an afternoon news conference today, Sanders acknowledged that he was “losing the debate over electability” to Biden as voters flocked to a candidate they believed had a better chance of defeating President Trump.
But in an extraordinary sequence that highlighted his ideological resolve, he addressed Biden directly and challenged him to explain to the American people how he would solve problems of health care, income inequality and other issues that make up Mr. Sanders’s liberal agenda.
“What are you going to do?” Sanders asked repeatedly as he ticked off a list of issues that also included climate change, poverty, mass incarceration and the criminal justice system.
His decision to continue casts more uncertainty over a primary race already upended by the coronavirus crisis, which has forced both candidates to curtail appearances before big crowds and to plan for a debate on Sunday without a live audience.
Sanders made clear that he would persist in his efforts to win over voters, saying that “a strong majority of the American people support our progressive agenda” — even as Biden’s recent victories gave him a commanding advantage.
Biden won four states Tuesday with a broad coalition of African-Americans, suburban white voters and union members.
Sanders left the podium without taking questions.
Aides said Sanders viewed the debate on Sunday in Phoenix as his first and possibly last opportunity face Biden one on one.
Biden is drastically modifying his campaign schedule in coming days in response to mounting anxieties about the coronavirus, trading traditional get-out-the-vote-style gatherings for “virtual events.”
The move marked the beginning of an extraordinary new chapter in an already tumultuous presidential race: campaigning amid a pandemic.