WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Declaring that he is "in this campaign to win and become the Democratic nominee," U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders on Wednesday told a rally at Purdue University that he is the Democrats' best hope to defeat Donald Trump in November.
"If you want the candidate who will be the strongest nominee, you're looking at that candidate right now," Sanders told 2,267 cheering supporters at the rally in a student center. "The reason I am the strongest candidate is that our campaign is appealing not just to Democrats but to independents all over this country and even some Republicans."
In poll after poll, Sanders fares much better than Hillary Clinton in matchups with Trump and other Republican White House hopefuls.
Sanders' appeal to independents was evident on Tuesday when he won by 12-points in Rhode Island, a state with an open primary where independents could vote. That outcome should send a message to delegates going to the Democratic National Convention this summer, he said.
Sanders acknowledged that Clinton currently leads in the number of delegates headed to Philadelphia, but he said sees a narrow path to victory as voters in Indiana go to the polls next Tuesday and nine more states have elections on the calendar before the primary process comes to a close in June.
"We are behind today. But you know what? Unusual things happen in politics," he said. "With your help, superdelegates may reach the conclusion that Bernie Sanders will be the strongest candidate against Donald Trump or any other candidate."
Sanders was headed later Wednesday to another rally in Bloomington, Indiana, before flying to Oregon, another state where voters have yet to weigh in on who should be the Democratic Party nominee for president.