Sanders set to capitulate in person to Hillary tonight?

Tonight’s poll closings in the final Democratic primary contest of 2016 may end up even more anti-climatic than presumed. Hillary Clinton already clinched the presidential nomination, but Bernie Sanders pledged to compete for Washington DC’s 20 delegates anyway. Rather than campaign down to the wire, however, Sanders plans to spend the day hanging out with Senate colleagues … and then spend the evening with the presumptive nominee:

After more than 12 months of competing against each other for the Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders will, for the first time all year, sit down with each other in person and talk.

Sanders headed back to Washington, D.C., this morning for the much-anticipated meeting with Clinton, now the likely Democratic nominee.

Sanders plans to meet with Clinton one-on-one, according to his staff, who have been working to arrange the meeting since the California primary last week. The sit-down is expected to take place this evening, after polls close in the District of Columbia, which is holding the final primary in the Democratic Party’s nominating process.

After the polls close? Usually, candidates prepare speeches and schedule rallies for those evenings. Of course, they also usually spend the day working on GOTV efforts and rallying their team, even while expecting defeat. What’s on Bernie’s schedule today? Hanging out with Senate Democrats, and then socializing at the White House:

Prior to the meeting, Sanders plans to speak to his colleagues in the Senate and then attend a picnic for members of Congress and their families at the White House.

That puts to rest the notion that Bernie has any intention of opposing Hillary or wants to continue campaigning for superdelegate switches. This looks more like another kind of campaign entirely — one intended to repair any damage done to Sanders’ standing with establishment Democrats. Bernie recently said that his fight to the convention will focus on transforming the party to more fully embrace the progressive agenda, and he appears to have belatedly realized that he’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

The tête-a-tête with Hillary this evening sends more signals about his new direction, too. Sanders could have met with Hillary earlier in the day, or tomorrow morning. Instead, just when Sanders had one last moment to detail the differences between his movement and Hillary, he’ll spend the evening putting on a show of unity. Even if he does give a speech tonight, it will be overshadowed by his choice of happy-hour companion.

The big question will be whether the two will issue a joint statement tonight to close out the primaries, or whether Bernie will wait until Thursday — when he’s scheduled a livestream announcement to his supporters. I’d bet on both: a joint unity statement tonight, while using the Thursday event to push his supporters back into the Democratic coalition by promising to be their voice with Hillary.