Sanders Heads Into Indiana Primary Within Striking Distance of Clinton - NBC 7 San Diego
Decision 2016

Decision 2016

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Sanders Heads Into Indiana Primary Within Striking Distance of Clinton

Can Indiana provide enough of a boost to Sanders, badly behind in the delegate count as he is? If he were to lose, would his supporters back Clinton?

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    Sanders Heads Into Indiana Primary Within Striking Distance of Clinton
    AP
    Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Hillary Clinton

    In Indiana, where the latest poll shows Sen. Bernie Sanders within striking distance of Hillary Clinton in Tuesday's primary, Kristen Callihan will not even contemplate a general election without the Vermont senator as the Democratic candidate.

    Callihan, a 44-year-old freelance writer from Michigan City, likes Sanders' honesty and integrity, that he is not a flip-flopper, and that he fought for civil rights in the 1960s. Callihan says she is no fan of Sanders’ opponent, Hillary Clinton, nor of Republican front-runner Donald Trump.

    "[Sanders] is going to win," she said. "That’s all I’m thinking about."

    But can Indiana provide enough of a boost to Sanders, badly behind in the delegate count as he is? If he were to lose, would his supporters back Clinton?

    Going into Tuesday’s primary, Clinton leads Sanders by 4 percentage points, 50 percent to 46 percent among likely Democratic primary voters, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll. The poll's margin of error was 4.6 percentage points. As in past contests, Clinton leads with those 45 and older, while Sanders is ahead among younger voters.

    Clinton and Sanders likely will divide the Democrats’ 83 delegates in Indiana, and that will do little to change the narrative on the Democratic side, said Lee M. Miringoff, the director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion.

    Sanders trails significantly in the overall delegate count, with 1,367 of the 2,383 needed to win the nomination, while Clinton has 1,663, according to a count by The Associated Press. Clinton also has 520 superdelegates, who are free to support any candidate, to Sanders' 39.

    Among likely Republican primary voters in Indiana, Trump is ahead by 15 points and is positioned to take of all the state’s 57 Republican delegates, a big step toward winning the nomination outright. Trump has 956 of the 1,237 delegates needed to win, after a landslide victory in the New York primary two weeks ago and wins in the five Northeastern states that held contests last week — the so-called "Acela primary," after Amtrak’s Acela Express. That compares to 546 for Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and 153 for Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

    "After the Acela primary, there is an aura of inevitability surrounding the Trump and Clinton candidacies," Miringoff said in a statement.

    Sanders has acknowledged how difficult it would be to win the 64 percent of remaining delegates he needs to secure the nomination, but he insists he is still in the race, fighting for every vote and delegate, and says the convention will be contested. He held three rallies Monday, the last day before voting.

    "It is admittedly a tough hill to climb, but not an impossible one," Sanders told supporters.

    But his fundraising has plummeted, off by more than 40 percent in April over March, and he has had to lay off campaign staffers. As Clinton turns her attention increasingly toward the general election, Sanders told a crowd in Evansville, Indiana, on Monday: "Our ideas, the political revolution transforming America, are the ideas for the future of this country and the future of the Democratic Party."

    On Sunday night in Detroit, Clinton focused her comments on Trump, not Sanders, in a preview of the general election.

    "We cannot let Barack Obama's legacy fall into Donald Trump's hands," she said. "We can't let all the hard work and progress we have achieved over the last seven and a half years be torn away."

    Kelly Jay, a musician from South Bend, Indiana, said a debate is raging on Facebook over whether to vote for Clinton should Sanders withdraw. The Clinton campaign has done too much to alienate Sanders supporters, he said.

    "I think they’re confident that they can win the general election without the progressive faction of the party," Jay said.

    The young people who swarm to the Sanders rallies and favor him over Clinton care about the issues Sanders is addressing: curbing global warming, taking on the enormous inequities between rich and poor, and massive student loans.

    "They owe no loyalty to the Democratic Party," Jay said. "And they've said over and over again, 'We don't want Hillary Clinton, we're not going to vote for her.'"

    Heath Hensley, a union electrician who lives in Muncie, Indiana, says he was captivated by Sanders the first time he heard him speak and immediately began working to get him on the state’s ballot. A longtime admirer of Eugene Debs, who was a founding member of the Industrial Workers of the World and a presidential candidate for the Socialist party, Hensley, 38, said he was surprised that someone as progressive as Sanders was running for president.

    "I’ve just been nuts about him," Hensley said.

    Whether or not Sanders wins the nomination, Hensley said he would continue talking about the issues Sanders has raised — including international trade agreements that have harmed American workers — and support progressive candidates for political office. The Democratic Party is abandoning working-class people in favor of college-educated professionals, while the Republicans have nothing to offer labor, he said.

    "I don’t want to see Trump get the nomination, but at the same time I didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton in 2008 because I didn’t like her and I didn’t trust her then and I do not plan on voting for her now," Hensley said.

    In New York, 23-year-old Carla Cruz was planning to work a phone bank for Sanders in advance of the Indiana primary. She remained hopeful despite Sanders' loss in New York, though she was disturbed by reports of voters dropped from the rolls and being turned away.

    She said she also would not vote for Clinton.

    "I don't think she's any better than Trump," she said. 

    If Sanders fails to win the nomination, Carla Cruz will continue to work to limit the influence of corporations and special interests in elections. 

    A suggestion from Trump's campaign manager recently that Sanders' supporters embrace the New York businessman was not met with much enthusiasm. 

    "Bernie Sanders has large crowds — not as large as Mr. Trump's, but large crowds — and so there is a level of excitement there for people about his messaging and we will bring those people in," Trump's campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told CNN.

    Miringoff said how much support Sanders' backers give Clinton will depend on the senator.

    "This is all premature," he said. "He will be important in signaling whether it's up to the individual supporters to decide what they want to do or the key thing is to defeat Donald Trump."

    Clinton was magnanimous when she lost to President Barack Obama in 2008, he said. But, as an independent, Sanders' ties to the Democratic Party are not as strong.

    "We'll just have to see how it all plays out," Miringoff said. "But I suspect he will not be as gracious as she was to Obama in '08."