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Bernie Sanders Turns His Fire on Donald Trump

Bernie Sanders Holds Campaign Rally In Louisville, KentuckyBernie Sanders Holds Campaign Rally In Louisville, Kentucky
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders at a rally in Louisville, Ky.Photograph by John Sommers II — Getty Images

Bernie Sanders knows he’s going to lose. That was the clear subtext of the lefty insurgent’s remarks on the eve of his latest primary victory, in West Virginia.

And that should come as a relief to Hillary Clinton, the now all-but-certain Democratic nominee.

That Clinton continues to lose to Sanders this deep into the primary calendar serves as a bracing reminder to her team of the work they need to do to consolidate liberal support. But Sanders signaled Tuesday he won’t be complicating that task by waging an acrimonious campaign against her as their competition winds down. Instead, he’s ready to train his fire on the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump.

Addressing supporters in Oregon — where Clinton leads him ahead of next week’s primary there — Sanders made a case for his ongoing viability in the primary and declared that he still intends to win. “Let me be as clear as I can be: We are in this campaign to win the Democratic nomination,” he said.

But even as he broadcast that he’ll contest the remaining primaries, Sanders also shifted gears. The contrast he drew with Clinton was distinctly bloodless, relating only to his edge over her in polling match-ups against Trump. Gone were his critiques of her closeness to corporate interests, especially on Wall Street, that animated his fight against her just weeks ago. Sanders saved that vinegar for Trump, delivering a stinging rebuke of the likely GOP standard-bearer that could form the spine of a speech to the Democratic convention in July. “Our message to the Democratic delegates who will be assembling in Philadelphia is while we may have many disagreements with Secretary Clinton, there is one area where we agree, and that is we must defeat Donald Trump,” Sanders said.

The Democratic socialist from Vermont went on to argue that Trump is bound to lose, pointing to the billionaire’s antagonism of key voting groups. “Donald Trump is not going to become president for a number of reasons,” Sanders said. “And the major reason is that we cannot have a president who has insulted Latinos and Mexicans, who has insulted Muslims, who every day is insulting women in one way or another, who has insulted veterans like John McCain and others, who has insulted African-Americans in a very profound way…. Mr. Trump will not become president because the American people understand that our strength is in our diversity.”

The Clinton campaign would no doubt rather have Sanders bow out now, so that she can focus exclusively on Trump, as the suddenly cleared Republican field is allowing Trump to focus on her. But considering Sanders is determined to finish what he started, his apparent decision to begin closing ranks means that an end to the Democratic infighting is now in sight.