Hillary Clinton has been waiting (relatively) patiently for Bernie Sanders to recognize the mathematical and political realities of his current situation and either end his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination or heavily scale back the rhetoric he has been using against her.
He has done neither. And in an interview Thursday with CNN, Clinton made clear that she's had enough.
Here's the key piece of what she said to CNN’s Chris Cuomo:
I went all the way to the end against then-Senator Obama. I won nine out of the last 12 contests back in ’08. I won Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia. So I know the intense feelings that arise, particularly among your supporters as you go toward the end. But we both were following the same rules, just as both Senator Sanders and I are following the same rules, and I’m 3 million votes ahead of him and I have an insurmountable lead in pledged delegates, and I’m confident that just as I did with Senator Obama, where I said, you know what? It was really close. Much closer. Much closer than it is between me and Senator Sanders right now.
The not-so-subtle message? Look, man, I’ve walked in your shoes. It sucks. But I did the right thing for the party. Time for you to do the same.
On the merits, Clinton is absolutely right. Her delegate lead over Sanders is both considerable and considerably larger than Obama’s was over Clinton eight years ago.
And no matter how you count it, she has a 2.9 million raw-vote lead over Sanders.
These numbers — in terms of delegates and popular vote — haven’t changed all that much in the past few months. (Sanders’s inability to beat Clinton in New York or Pennsylvania effectively ended any realistic chance he had to win.) What has changed is that the Republican race is now over, meaning that Donald Trump is now free to go after Clinton day in and day out while she remains at least somewhat distracted by Sanders’s ongoing challenge.
It's not just that. Sanders, after a brief rhetorical respite from direct frontal attacks on Clinton, appears to have been re-emboldened by his recent series of victories. (Sanders has won three of the four states that have voted this month.) Those wins, coupled with a high-profile confrontation between Sanders and Clinton supporters during the Nevada Democratic Convention last weekend, seem to have convinced the senator from Vermont that the fight is still very much worthwhile.
The best evidence of his recommitment to it came earlier this week with a VERY strongly worded rebuke of the Nevada Democratic Party over allegations of shenanigans at the convention. He wrote, in part:
The Democratic Party has a choice. It can open its doors and welcome into the party people who are prepared to fight for real economic and social change — people who are willing to take on Wall Street, corporate greed and a fossil fuel industry which is destroying this planet. Or the party can choose to maintain its status quo structure, remain dependent on big-money campaign contributions and be a party with limited participation and limited energy.
Tough language, bordering on a threat that he and his people will either continue to create problems for Clinton or abandon her entirely if she is the nominee.
Clinton, judging from what she told CNN’s Cuomo, doesn’t like to be threatened. She told Cuomo that while she was committed to doing her part to reunify the party, “Senator Sanders has to do his part,” too. She added: “That’s why the lesson of 2008, which was a hard-fought primary, as you remember, is so pertinent here. Because I did my part.”
Later in the interview, Clinton reiterated that Sanders “has to do his part to unify. He said the other day that he’ll do everything possible to defeat Donald Trump. He said he’d work seven days a day week. I take him at his word.”
Message sent. Now we wait to see how Sanders and his loyal supporters react. My guess? Not well.