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Bernie Sanders, eyeing a ‘contested convention,’ urges media to hold off on calling race

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks during a town hall format talk on Saturday June 04, 2016 in Los Angeles, CA. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

LOS ANGELES — Bernie Sanders urged news organizations on Saturday to hold off on declaring a victor in the Democratic presidential race following Tuesday’s primaries and vowed to soldier on to the party’s convention in July.

Sanders comments come as his rival, Hillary Clinton, is poised to effectively clinch the nomination following the close of the polls Tuesday in California, New Jersey, and four other states.

The Fix's Chris Cillizza explains why the June 7 California primary isn't the showdown between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton that it's being portrayed as. (Video: Peter Stevenson/The Washington Post)

But the Vermont senator insisted that the delegate count is fluid. And he expressed confidence that he could persuade some “super delegates”— the party leaders who are not locked into voting for a particular candidate — to peel away from Clinton in the “six long weeks” before Democrats gather in Philadelphia.

“Now, I have heard reports that Secretary Clinton has said it’s all going to be over on Tuesday night. I have heard reports that the media, after the New Jersey results come in, are going to declare that it is all over. That simply is not accurate,” Sanders said at a news conference here.

Sanders then added, with emphasis, that the “Democratic National Convention will be a contested convention.”

Sanders’s defiant analysis served as a kickoff for a whirlwind day of campaigning throughout the Los Angeles area. He later made an unannounced stop at Echo Park to shake hands with weekend revelers and held a town-hall meeting that focused on immigration policy.

Sanders ended the day at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, where he spoke beneath the stadium's famed Olympic flame, which fluttered in the wind above a crowd of more than 13, 000.

According to the Associated Press count late Saturday, Clinton is only 67 delegates short of reaching the 2,383 delegates necessary for securing the nomination, based on her combined number of “super delegates” and pledged delegates.

But because Clinton is unlikely to reach that threshold without the boost of the hundreds of “super delegates” supporting her, Sanders still sees a path to victory.

“We have come a very long way and steep climbs and challenges are not something that this campaign shies away from,” Sanders said at the news conference.

Sanders also did not shy away from sharing his objections to the way the Democratic race has unfolded. He called the process “deeply flawed” and said he will “do everything that I can to change it."

But Sanders resisted the plea of "Jeff for Justice," a 35-year-old activist who sneaked into the conference room and suggested that Sanders should abandon the Democratic Party to run as an independent.  (The man would not share his legal name with reporters but did reveal his age.)

"Aren't you selling out to the two-party system?" the man asked Sanders.

"Ha ha," Sanders chuckled.

The man soon spoke up again about Sanders "selling out." Sanders's smile disappeared as his aides looked on.

"Excuse me! Excuse me!" Sanders bellowed as the man mumbled. "I'm going to ask you to leave if you interrupt again."

The man did not interrupt again. And Sanders left minutes later, still a Democrat but far from enthused.

Highlights from Bernie Sanders’s campaign, in pictures

WASHINGTON, DC- JUNE 14: Presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders arrives at the Capital Hilton to meet with Hillary Clinton on Tuesday June 14, 2016. (Matt McClain/ The Washington Post)