What to do when one presidential candidate clinches her party’s presidential nod but her effectively vanquished rival refuses to leave the race?
First, avoid saying the words “quit” or “exit” and “Bernie Sanders” in the same discussion, according to interviews with Democrats the day after Hillary Clinton claimed her place in history.
“Unify,” ”come (or pull) together,” ”do the right thing” and even “it” seemed to be the euphemisms of choice for Democrats pressed Wednesday to say what they want Sanders to do now. This week, the Vermont senator has meetings with President Barack Obama and Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, thought to be discussions that touch on what’s widely believed to be inevitable: Sanders’ exit from the race. But Sanders has said he’ll press through until the last Democratic primary, in the District of Columbia on Tuesday.
For many, the recalcitrance reflects genuine affection for the gruff, 25-year congressional veteran who says he’s a democratic socialist and has battled Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination for a solid year.
For Democrats broadly, it’s about not ticking him off and alienating the 45 percent of Democratic delegates pledged to vote for him or the legions of supporters who have flocked to his campaign in the primaries. Clinton will need them in her general election fight against Republican Donald Trump.
Leading Democrats that Sanders accuses of rigging the nomination process do not want to “feel the Bern” of division more than they are feeling it now.
Here’s a selection of words they used in the first, delicate day after Clinton’s big night:
“It’s time that we move forward and unite the party.”— Clinton, in an interview Wednesday with The Associated Press.
NOT THE WRONG THING
“I think Bernie’s going to do the right thing.” — Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M.
IT’S A PROCESS
“The sooner the better in terms of at least beginning the process.” — Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa.
“I want him to be himself. Be himself! Be free to make his choices. He’s got to be free. However he wants to do it. But I have a deep love for him. Whatever choice he makes, I got a profound love for Brother Sanders.” — DNC platform committee member Cornel West.
A PLAN FOR…SOMETHING
“He needs to take the time he needs to come up with his own strategy, but we fully expect he will do that.” — Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.
“I’ll talk to Bernie tomorrow and I’ll talk to you guys after I do that. Until then I think I’m better off just keeping quiet about it.” — Reid.
HOPE AND CHANGE
“I would hope that Sen. Sanders is going to do everything he can to support the Democratic ticket and make sure that Donald Trump is not the next president.” Sen. Jean Shaheen, D-N.H.
DNC: YOU FIRST
“I expect that there will be an overture, a genuine overture, to integrate (Sanders’) message and the 45 percent of the delegates that are going to be pledged to Bernie, and the convention (will include) an opportunity to validate that. Those discussions have to happen.”— Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz.
ULTIMATELY, IT’S ON SANDERS
“His decision really is his to make.” — Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.
THE MESSAGE MATTERS
“I think the focus is on what he says and not exactly when he says it.” — Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.
“I think Sen. Sanders has been and will continue to be a very constructive influence.” — Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
BERNIE, COME HOME
“Bernie is a good senator and he will continue to be a good senator.” — Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.
Associated Press writers Erica Werner and Matthew Daly contributed to this report.
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