Sanders Lost Delegate Battle, but Won Narrative War

Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, pauses while speaking during
Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, pauses while speaking during a campaign event in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S., on Tuesday, March 15, 2016. In Democratic forums, Sanders and Hillary Clinton argue that deportations are ripping apart hard-working undocumented people who are merely trying to make a good life for their families, and that the president must show them mercy, even if it means stretching the limits of the law. Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images

After Super Tuesday 3.0, it's clear now that the window for Senator Bernie Sanders to become the Democratic Party's presidential nominee has essentially closed.

The week-by-week guerrilla warfare with individual battles over states and delegates is over.

With two-thirds of the needed delegates already locked up for the Party's nomination, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has built an insurmountable lead in the race for the nomination. Short of Sanders deploying some wizard-like magical powers we haven't yet seen, the political headwinds will continue to blow Clinton's way.

And that's OK-- because even though he's lost the delegate battle, Sanders has nonetheless won the narrative war.

As the left-of-Clinton candidate, he's driven the dialogue and successfully forced the frontrunner to engage with him on an expansive series of left-of-center issues throughout this Democratic Primary.

In no way was the Clinton machine planning to run a primary race that centered its discourse around issues like taking on Wall Street, the big banks or the billionaire class. Nor did she plan on making income inequality the dominant issue of the early voting states.

Clinton's campaign also probably didn't anticipate that in the primary they would need a response formula and strategy to push back against attacks for her past support of her husband, President Bill Clinton's, free trade policies. The same goes with the death penalty where Clinton likely didn't ever envision having to defend her pro-death penalty stance against a candidate who adamantly opposes the policy.

Far from the perfect candidate himself, Sanders has represented the manifestation of what so many liberals, young people and Independent voters have been salivating for. They've wanted an authentic figure who they perceive doesn't just blow smoke like many of those in Washington, but rather someone who tells it like it is. At the same time, they've wanted a candidate who is willing to stand up against Washington and fight for a smorgasbord set of populist ideals that reflect more of a socialistic agenda than the capitalism-immersed Democratic Party platform.

These are just a select few topics that, without a Sanders candidacy, there wouldn't have been a conversation around. Had he not ran, Clinton would have been a general election candidate with a center-focused message from the get-go. Sanders changed all that and will no doubt leave a lasting impression on a possible Hillary Clinton Presidency, the Democratic Party as well as its agenda for years to come.

Plus, Sanders isn't done.

In spite of the extreme improbably that he'll ever be in a position to catch up to Clinton on the delegate front, Sanders' campaign is still very much alive and can continue to compete from a message perspective. Given that he's out-resourced Clinton in this campaign, the odds are that he'll stay in this race until the California primary on June 7th. Such a move will help to further anchor Clinton to the left and force her campaign headfirst into the Democratic Party's convention talking about these same populist issues.

Accomplishing this feat will effectively superglue Sanders' populist agenda to much of the Party's platform at convention. It may also bleed into the Clinton campaign's calculus as they determine who to pick as a Vice Presidential nominee. Rather than solely focusing on choosing a purple state candidate, finding someone who also possesses similar liberal leanings and screams authenticity may very well become part of Clinton's V.P. selection strategy. Such a tactical move for the Democratic Party's ticket could help bolster Clinton's appeal and help her tap into the Sanders base as she heads into November.

While the cold hard reality may not have fully set in yet, even though Sanders' campaign is claiming that his performance last night blew away recent polling which showed him far behind Clinton, the fact remains that she won all states that voted yesterday. As a result, this latest setback puts Sanders too far behind to catch up in the delegate battle. Despite losing this battle, however, both Sanders and his supporters have served as a meaningful vehicle for change this cycle, and they will continue to do so in the months ahead. Their effort has transformed this election, and should Clinton prevail in November, Sanders and his groundswell of supporters will have changed the course of history forever.