"Once a candidate has won a majority of the pledged delegates and a majority of the popular vote, which Secretary Clinton has now done, we have our nominee," Merkley, who is Sanders' sole supporter in the Senate, told me. "This is the moment when we need to start bringing parts of the party together so they can go into the convention with locked arms and go out of the convention unified into the general election." [...] Grijalva, meanwhile, told me that he expected Sanders to continue trying to win over super-delegates, but only for a limited period of time. "The reality is unattainable at some point. You deal with that. Bernie is going to deal with this much more rapidly than you think," said Grijalva, who is also a super-delegate. "At some point, when we're trying to flip 400 super-delegates, and it's not gaining traction, I think you have to come to the conclusion that it's not going to happen. You just move into a different direction. And that different direction is that we begin to try to integrate the party."
It's a truth that Bernie Sanders has bragged about for months: most of the senator's congressional colleagues aren't supporting his presidential campaign. This is proof, he's said, of his outsider, anti-establishment status.
But the Vermonter has picked up some endorsements from Capitol Hill allies. In October, Sanders picked up his very first congressional endorsement when Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, announced his support for the senator. Six months later, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) became the first and only member of the upper chamber to back Sanders.
In light of yesterday's primary and caucus results, quite a few Democrats are acting as if the nominating fight is over and Hillary Clinton has prevailed, but in most instances, these are Dems who supported Clinton anyway, making it easier for Sanders to disregard their pressure. It's harder to ignore the fact that both Grijalva and Merkley told the Washington Post's Greg Sargent this morning that they're ready to start bringing the party together behind Clinton, too.
Grijalva added that Sanders will "do the right thing," though he didn't indicate when.
Team Sanders has long recognized this shift was possible, if not likely. It's one thing to get support from allies during the primary process; it's something else to expect those allies to stick around after a candidate has finished in second place. Grijalva and Merkley have been loyal Sanders supporters, but it's hardly unreasonable to think they'll rally behind the people's choice once the general-election phase begins in earnest.
If Grijalva, Merkley, and other Sanders backers on the Hill were saying the opposite -- if they were imploring Sanders to fight even harder, vowing to help him win over party elites willing to hand him the nomination despite the election results -- the senator and his team might have an incentive to ignore the writing on the wall.
But their comments this morning suggest Sanders' base of institutional support is about to shrink, not grow.