What Bernie Sanders has touted as his devotion to his home state and his refusal to get negative against Hillary Clinton may be exactly what's hampered his campaign. That's according to more than 15 people in Sanders' camp—either professionally or personally—who tell the New York Times that the Vermont senator missed early opportunities to go after Clinton and gain valuable momentum that could have placed him in a much better position than he is now—even in the front-runner seat. And part of the reason for these "early missteps" in 2015 and early 2016, as the Times frames it, may seem surprising, considering the tenacity and perseverance that Sanders is now showing: He didn't initially think he could win and simply wanted to spread his message about the inequities in America.
Some feel he could have stepped up more aggressively, and sooner, speaking out more about Clinton's email, Goldman Sachs speaking fees, and involvement in Clinton Foundation finances—topics Sanders initially passed on. And some say if he had stumped more in early voting states instead of attending to his senatorial duties, as well as tried earlier to make inroads with black voters in key Southern states, he may have built the momentum he needed. Not everyone agrees: A George Washington University professor recently told the Washington Times that a tough Sanders offensive would have seemed a "selfish power grab" that "wouldn't [have gone] over well with the many idealists ... in his base." Although Sanders has now dug his heels in for the long haul, Clinton has what some say is an insurmountable delegate lead—1,712 to Bernie's 1,011, per Bloomberg. Even his wife, Jane, seems to have regrets. "We didn't run all over the nation last year," she tells the New York Times. "It's something that gives you pause."