Bernie Sanders says notion that he should quit Democratic US presidential race is 'absurd'

US presidential candidate Bernie Sanders during a campaign rally in Phoenix, Arizona, on March 15.
US presidential candidate Bernie Sanders during a campaign rally in Phoenix, Arizona, on March 15. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, responding to reports United States President Barack Obama called on Democrats to rally around Mrs Hillary Clinton as the likely nominee, said on Thursday (March 18) it was "absurd" to suggest he drop out of the race.

Mr Obama privately told a group of Democratic donors last Friday that Sen Sanders was nearing the point at which his campaign against Mrs Clinton would end, and that the party must soon come together to back her, the New York Times reported.

Sen Sanders, a Vermont senator and self-proclaimed democratic socialist, while saying he did not want to comment directly on Mr Obama's reported remarks, pushed back on the idea that his campaign had run its course and he should throw in the towel.

"The bottom line is that when only half of the American people have participated in the political process... I think it is absurd for anybody to suggest that those people not have a right to cast a vote," Sen Sanders told MSNBC in an interview.

The White House on Thursday said Mr Obama did not indicate which candidate he preferred in his remarks to the donors.

Mrs Clinton, a former secretary of state in the Mr Obama administration, has a large lead in the race for the Democratic nomination and she won all five states that were contested on Tuesday.

Sen Sanders said he will do better in upcoming contests in western states, after losing to Mrs Clinton in a number of south-eastern states.

"To suggest we don't fight this out to the end would be, I think, a very bad mistake. People want to become engaged in the political process by having vigorous primary and caucus process. I think we open up the possibility of having a large voter turnout in November. That is exactly what we need," Sen Sanders said.

"A low voter turnout, somebody like a Trump can win. High voter turnout, the Democratic candidate will win," he said, referring to Mr Donald Trump, the front-runner in the race to pick the Republican nominee for the November presidential election.