Bernie Sanders Says He Will Drop Out if Biden Gets Plurality Coming Into Dem Convention

Senator Bernie Sanders vowed to drop out of the presidential race if former Vice President Joe Biden ends up with a plurality of pledged delegates heading into the Democratic convention in July.

Sanders made the remarks during an appearance on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show Wednesday night. The senator stayed in the race against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2016 despite having fewer delegates but said that a rules change after that election cycle makes the situation different this time. If he is left with fewer delegates than Biden at the end of this primary season, he plans to bow out of the race, insisting that using superdelegates to decide the nomination would be a mistake.

"If Biden walks into the convention, or at the end of the process, [and] has more votes than me, he's the winner," said Sanders, before confirming he would concede whether the lead was a majority or a plurality.

At the end of the 2016 primaries, Democratic convention rules allowed superdelegates to vote on the first ballot, which is no longer the case in 2020. Instead, a candidate who has a majority of at least 1,991 delegates would automatically win on the first ballot. However, if a candidate only had a plurality of votes, a second ballot could potentially be decided by superdelegates.

"I think it would be a real, real disaster for the Democratic party," said Sanders. "People would say 'the person who won the most votes didn't get selected.' Not a good idea."

Senator Bernie Sanders
Senator Bernie Sanders speaks to the press in Burlington, Vermont on March 4, 2020. Alex Wong/Getty

Sanders told host Rachel Maddow that his campaign had a "real path towards victory" despite significantly underperforming in several Super Tuesday contests, some of which he had been expected to win before Biden's abrupt turnaround over the weekend. Polls indicated that Sanders would do well in Maine and Minnesota. Sanders was also expected to be neck-to-neck with Sen. Elizabeth Warren in her home state of Massachusetts.

After initially leading in polls for many months, Biden's campaign sputtered and seemed dead in the water by the time the Vermont senator achieved a landslide victory in the Nevada caucus on February 22. However, a big win in South Carolina quickly followed by rivals, former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, dropping out of contention and endorsing him helped the former vice president get back on track.

Although the final tally of votes had not been completed by Wednesday night, Sanders told Maddow that the massive delegate total in California meant he could end up "a little bit" ahead overall due to winning the state. Regardless of the final number, neither candidate is expected to end up with a large lead in delegates, although Biden certainly has the momentum.

Senator Elizabeth Warren also remains in the race but is said to be considering whether she would continue. Sanders said he spoke with Warren Wednesday and that she "deserves the time and the space" to make her decision. Maddow asked Sanders if he would consider her as a running mate if she does drop out.

"It's too early to talk about that, but certainly I have a lot of respect for Senator Warren and would like to sit down and talk to her about what kind of role she can play in our administration," said Sanders.

One scenario that Sanders did rule out was the possibility of running on a "unity ticket" with Biden, who he called "a friend" despite significant policy differences.

"One old white guy is probably one too many for some," Sanders said. "I think we need a little bit more diversity than that."