SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — More than 5,000 people crowded inside and outside of this city's Kaiser Permanente Arena, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) gave them a familiar warning: Don't trust what you see on TV.

"On Tuesday night, on the 7th, you're going to hear from media saying that Hillary Clinton has received, whatever it is, 80 or 90 delegates, which she certainly will from New Jersey and other states," Sanders said. "And they'll say, the primary process is over, Secretary Clinton has won."

When the crowd finishing booing, Sanders assured them that the media was "not factually correct" if it tried to declare Clinton a winner.

"The Democratic National Committee will tell you it's not factually correct," he said. The truth is, no candidate, not Hillary Clinton, not Bernie Sanders, will receive the number of pledged delegates — that is, the real delegates that people vote for — neither candidate will have received the number of pledged delegates that he or she needs to become the Democratic nominee. What that means is that the superdelegates will be the people who determine who the nominee is."

It wasn't the first time that Sanders or his campaign challenged the legitimacy of superdelegates while hinting that they had the power to flip the nomination his way. According to the Associated Press's count, Clinton has 1,769 pledged delegates, and Sanders has 1,501 — a larger gap between candidates than existed at the same point in 2008. Just 775 pledged delegates remain up for grabs; Clinton needs just 257 of them for a majority, while Sanders would need 525 of them, roughly 68 percent. Winning any less would put Sanders in the position of asking superdelegates to overturn not just the popular vote, but the delegates elected in both primary and caucus states.

"I want to go into the convention with more pledged delegates than Secretary Clinton," said Sanders on last Sunday's episode of "Meet the Press," "and that's going to be an uphill fight."

In his Santa Cruz speech, Sanders hit Clinton harder than in recent days. He resurrected the Clinton-era State Department's advocacy for fracking in other countries, an attack line from the New York primary that mostly disappeared thereafter. He pitched superdelegates, in absentia, by pointing to polling that showed him far ahead of Donald Trump while Clinton struggled. And to tee up the delegate argument, he imagined a run of primary victories that few analysts would be willing to predict.

"We're gonna win here, in the largest state in our country," said Sanders. "And if we win on June 7 in South Dakota, in North Dakota, Montana, New Mexico, New Jersey — if we win the following week in Washington, D.C., if we win Puerto Rico, we'll be marching into the Democratic convention with incredible momentum."