After the Associated Press called the Democratic primary for Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders described his campaign in the past tense, saying that it "has been, to me, an extraordinary experience." As many astute listeners pointed out, the phrasing there suggests that Sanders believes his campaign is over — or at least, that the end is near. While Sanders comment doesn't mean he'll be dropping out of the race anytime soon, it may have nonetheless given us a glimpse into his mindset at this point in the race.
Sanders made the comment at a rally in San Francisco's Crissy Field on Monday night, and it was reported by the Washington Post's Robert Costa. The remark brings up an interesting linguistic question: What precisely does it mean to say that an experience "has been" extraordinary? Does that necessarily mean that the experience is almost over, or does it merely imply that?
From a common sense perspective, it does seem that the phrase is used to reference to things that are almost over: "This has been an amazing party, but I have to go feed the dogs now," for example. On the other hand, one can also imagine examples in which the phrase doesn't imply an end point: "Working here has been the best experience of my professional career, and I wouldn't trade my job for anything!" It's not 100 percent clear-cut, and there's no "right" answer.
The much more relevant question, of course, is whether Sanders will drop out of the race any time soon. He has indicated that he'll stay in the race until the convention in an attempt to flip superdelegates to his side and force a contested convention, but this strategy is almost certain to fail, however. As long as superdelegates have existed, they've never once overturned the democratic results of a primary, and Clinton has defeated Sanders by just about every democratic metric conceivable. She's ahead of him in pledged delegates, super delegates, states won and popular vote total.
The Sanders campaign criticized AP for calling the race when it did — and interestingly enough, the Clinton campaign also pushed back. It seems that neither candidate wants anybody to be declared the winner until California, New Jersey and the other remaining states vote. But if the phrasing that Sanders used in his San Francisco speech is any indication, he knows this primary is effectively over. The only remaining question is when Sanders decides to make it official.