WASHINGTON — Bernie Sanders may be drawing thousands of people to his rallies and raising millions of dollars online, but increasingly he's also having to make the case that his campaign isn't a lost cause.
Sanders is favored over Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton in this weekend's contests in Washington state, Hawaii and Alaska. The Vermont senator also points to April contests in Wisconsin and New York, and California's June 7 primary, as elections where he could cut into her wide lead in delegates who will decide the Democratic nomination.
That lead, however, is more than 300 pledged delegates — roughly about double the margin that then-Illinois Sen. Barack Obama held over Clinton during the 2008 primaries. It's math that has forced Sanders to defend his path to victory amid whispers he should drop out.
"There's some mythology going around that we can't win this election — that is mythology," Sanders thundered at a Los Angeles rally Wednesday night.
Sanders' overwhelming victories in Tuesday's caucuses in Idaho and Utah helped him offset a loss in Arizona, where he campaigned extensively but failed to win more than 40 percent of the vote. He netted about 20 more delegates than Clinton in the three states, but he ended the night still far behind Clinton in the overall delegate count.
Even as Clinton focuses on GOP front-runner Donald Trump, Sanders has yet to ease up on the ex-secretary of state, regularly assailing her use of super PACs and her vote to authorize the war in Iraq. He has demanded she release the transcripts of her private speeches before Wall Street banks, adding with sarcasm that they must have been "written in Shakespearean prose" to merit the $225,000 paydays she received for making them.
Clinton enters Saturday's contests with 1,223 pledged delegates compared to 920 for Sanders, according to an Associated Press count. Including superdelegates, the elected officials and party leaders free to support any candidate, Clinton's lead is 1,690-946. It takes 2,383 delegates to win the Democratic nomination.