Stoddard: Bernie, it's time to turn up the heat

Stoddard: Bernie, it's time to turn up the heat
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Well, that was fast.

With a solid victory in Nevada last weekend, Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBen Affleck: Republicans 'want to dodge the consequences for their actions' through gerrymandering Republican Ohio Senate candidate slams JD Vance over previous Trump comments Budowsky: Why GOP donors flock to Manchin and Sinema MORE has taken a fire hose to the Bern. Just days after Bernie SandersBernie SandersSenate rejects attempt to block Biden's Saudi arms sale Overnight Defense & National Security — Lawmakers clinch deal on defense bill White House 'strongly opposes' Senate resolution to stop Saudi arms sale MORE shredded her in a historic New Hampshire primary victory by 22 points, she beat him back in the Silver State caucuses with a margin that proves she still owns the path to the Democratic nomination.

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With the road ahead now strewn with obstacles and diminishing opportunities for the Vermont senator, we may finally learn whether he is out to beat Clinton and win the nomination or if he is just along for her pre-ordained ride. 

The challenge for Sanders in South Carolina’s Democratic primary this Saturday and beyond is earning the votes of African-Americans, which the former first lady is forecasted to win handily. She also won them in Nevada, and though Sanders reportedly “won” the Hispanic vote there, according to entrance polling, those numbers have been widely questioned because Clinton prevailed in the most heavily Hispanic areas of the state.

A deflated Sanders conceded the turnout wasn’t high enough Saturday to produce the new and younger voters he needed to succeed, like he had in New Hampshire and in Iowa, where Clinton only passed him by two-tenths of a percentage point. But turnout wasn’t high in any of those contests for Democrats — the number of voters in Nevada, New Hampshire and Iowa was lower in all three states than it was in the last open primary, in 2008. 

Simply put, Bernie’s revolution hasn’t actually begun.

The Sanders campaign insists the Independent senator can do well in upcoming primaries and caucuses in Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Vermont, Michigan, Kansas and Nebraska, and with delegates being allocated proportionally he can continue to amass enough to go all the way to the convention. Sanders received 15 delegates in Nevada to Clinton’s 20, and his advisers maintain the hundreds of superdelegates already pledged to Clinton would switch should he build up a lead against her, just as many of them did with Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaBiden Supreme Court study panel unanimously approves final report To advance democracy, defend Taiwan and Ukraine Press: GOP freak show: Who's in charge? MORE in 2008.

In a press conference this week, Sanders attempted to contrast himself with Clinton. He noted how much money the super-PAC supporting her, Priorities USA, is taking from hedge funds and spoke again about her flip-flop on trade, only just coming out recently in opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership she had previously glowingly touted as secretary of State. Sanders also added: “I am delighted that Secretary Clinton month after month seems to adopting more and more of the positions we have advocated, that’s good.”

So we know Sanders is pure and consistent and pleased Clinton is adopting some of his positions. But we don’t know if he wants to be president, or even the nominee. Perhaps Sanders is wedded to the cause but not the campaign. If so, his goal is unclear, since he may be too old to be Treasury secretary in a future Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenHillicon Valley — Presented by Connected Commerce Council — Incident reporting language left out of package Exporting gas means higher monthly energy bills for American families Senators turn up the heat on Amazon, data brokers during hearing MORE administration.

What Sanders knows is that winning would require fighting the fighter — just the way she fights. Thus far he has refused. But a judge on Tuesday ordered Clinton’s top aides to be questioned under oath about the private email server she set up as secretary of State that violated government policy and circumvented the Freedom of Information Act. She and her employees deliberately moved material from a classified system to her unsecure server, which is illegal and now the subject of an FBI investigation. Sanders can argue the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee is a damaged general election candidate who could face enough legal jeopardy to see her candidacy blow up in smoke.

To bring back the Bern, Sanders may need to bring the heat. Will he?

Stoddard is an associate editor of The Hill.