On Tuesday, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders beat former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in West Virginia's Democratic primary. The win earned Sanders bragging rights in the Mountain State, but it still didn't earn him a spot on the Democratic Party's presidential ticket in the fall. Nonetheless, Sanders likely won't drop out after West Virginia, even if his campaign is cutting it close in the delegate count.
Sanders' win in West Virginia was to be expected. It boosted his delegate count ever so slightly, but it still left him more than 200 behind Clinton in terms of pledged delegates. It didn't help Sanders' campaign that Clinton also picked up delegates in West Virginia, despite losing the overall vote. In other words, Sanders still faces an uphill battle — but it's almost as if the hill keeps getting steeper or taller. He's getting closer to the end of his journey, but the terrain seems to be getting tougher as there is less and less room for error. Moving forward, Sanders needs to win more than 900 of the remaining 1,065 pledged and unpledged delegates in order to win the nomination.
The Vermont senator seems up to the challenge, though. On Tuesday, his campaign tweeted a celebratory message after the win in West Virginia, signaling that the candidate remained very much invested in the campaign. Still, the message of his campaign has appeared to shift in recent weeks.
As he has fallen further behind Clinton, Sanders' message has focused more on promoting his platform than promoting himself as a candidate. Technically, he can still win the nomination. Thanks to the delegate numbers, though, few actually expect him to win. But even if Sanders doesn't win the nomination, he likely still wants his message to make a difference and his priorities to matter to his party. To get his message across, he can stay in the race and continue spreading the word to large rally crowds, voters, and the media.
Not to mention, dropping out after a win probably wouldn't go over well with Sanders' supporters. He is expected to win more of the upcoming states on the Democratic calendar, including Kentucky and Oregon, which hold their primaries next week. Together, those two states alone have more than 100 pledged delegates up for grabs on the Democratic side. If Sanders were to drop out now, he'd probably be selling himself short ahead of some much-needed wins. Sanders has a lot of ground to make up overall, but that doesn't mean he'll quit without making up any of it.