Berned out? Big layoffs coming for Sanders campaign

Bernie Sanders has insisted for weeks that he plans to fight on to the Democratic national convention next month in his bid to wrest the presidential nomination away from Hillary Clinton. If so, the New York Times reports, Sanders will go into battle at half-strength or less. Even before suffering double-digit losses in California and New Jersey last night, Team Bernie planned big layoffs today:

Senator Bernie Sanders plans to lay off at least half of his campaign staff Wednesday as his battered presidential bid continues despite Hillary Clinton’s being declared the presumptive Democratic nominee, according to two people close to the campaign.

Many of those being laid off are advance staff members who often help with campaign logistics, as well as field staff members who have been working to garner votes for the senator, according to both a campaign official and a former campaign staff member, both of whom spoke on condition of anonymity. Some campaign workers may move into jobs at Mr. Sanders’s Senate office, but others will be terminated, they said.

The changes come as Mr. Sanders defiantly continues to campaign while Mrs. Clinton celebrates her acquisition of a majority of the delegates needed for the nomination.

Mr. Sanders insists that he is prepared to challenge Mrs. Clinton at the Democratic National Convention in July, holding out hope that his lobbying of superdelegates — party officials and state leaders who cast their final votes at the convention — will siphon support from Mrs. Clinton as he makes his case that he is a stronger candidate against Donald J. Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee.

Democrats do have one more event in this primary cycle, in Washington DC next Tuesday, where a whopping 20 delegates will be at stake. (Republicans have wrapped up their primaries.) It won’t take much of a campaign staff to work DC, and after that the effort shifts to wooing superdelegates. Sanders will have to do much of that work on his own, so maintaining a large payroll doesn’t make much sense in the short run. However, letting half of the campaign go does make it more difficult to hit the ground running if Sanders somehow succeeds in beating Clinton in the superdelegate game … and that won’t help him make his case to them, either.

That final battle might end up getting pre-empted anyway. Barack Obama called both Democratic candidates last night as a courtesy, but he’s also calling Bernie to the White House to discuss unity … a talk that Sanders himself supposedly initiated:

President Barack Obama called both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders Tuesday night on the final day of multi-state contests in the Democratic primary, the White House announced.

And an initial discussion between Obama and Sanders on unifying the party appears to be in the cards. …

The meeting was scheduled at the request of Sen. Sanders, the White House said. “The President looks forward to continuing the conversation with Senator Sanders about how to build on the extraordinary work he has done to engage millions of Democratic voters, and to build on that enthusiasm in the weeks and months ahead.”

Sanders also plans to meet with Harry Reid on Thursday, and that may be a better indication of what’s coming next. Reid has been critical of Sanders during the campaign (as has most of Democratic leadership), so it’s a pretty good guess that Bernie’s not coming to try out his superdelegate pitch on Reid. It looks like Sanders isn’t waiting until the DC primary to start the rapprochement within the party, and wants unity to come at least partially on his terms.

Call it Bernity — a backing of Hillary Clinton but with significant influence on the campaign going forward. If that’s the case, then the layoffs make perfect sense. He needs to manage his delegates at the convention to get key platform planks passed and influence the rules committee, but that’s now the scope of the campaign. Bernie will want a major speaking slot at the convention, and perhaps he wants a shot at the VP slot, too, but Hillary likely will put the kibosh on that idea. We may see the two sides start papering over their divisions as early as the end of this week.