Credit Jim Wilson/The New York Times
DAVIS, Calif. — In a rally here last week, 9,000 people came to hear Senator Bernie Sanders speak, some catching a glimpse from a parking garage roof.
In Palo Alto, Calif., some of his 4,000 fans there pitched tents and put up umbrellas for shade from the sweltering sun. The wait to get into his speech in Irvine, Calif., where 6,000 people packed into an amphitheater, stretched to five hours.
One of those waiting was Al Pappalardo, 59, a school psychologist, who brought his daughter Alix, 22, along to what he called Mr. Sanders’s “last stand.”
“It is like a farewell tour,” Mr. Pappalardo said. “She’s going to think back and say, ‘I actually participated. I didn’t sit back.’”
Mr. Sanders’s chances of winning the Democratic presidential nomination have been fading since Hillary Clinton’s big win in April in New York. With her victory on Sunday in Puerto Rico, she stands only 28 delegates short of securing the nomination, and she is almost certain to clinch it on Tuesday when New Jersey, California and four other states hold primaries. But one would not know that from the enthusiastic throngs of supporters who still flock to hear him call for a transformation of America’s economy and for a political revolution.
Some are there in solidarity with his message, and others because they believe Mr. Sanders when he says, against the odds, that he can still snag the nomination at the party’s convention in July.
And then there are many who, regardless of their outlook on the race, are streaming in for what they believe may be their last glimpse of a political phenomenon.
Credit Monica Almeida/The New York Times
Hafeez Alam, 26, a mechanical engineer from Irvine, said that his mother regretted not seeing Barack Obama in person in 2008, and that he was not going to have similar regrets.
“It’s kind of like you listen to your favorite band on YouTube and you watch their concerts and DVDs, but when you go to a live event, it’s a totally different experience,” Mr. Alam said last month at the Irvine rally.
Diana Modica let her children, Charlie Baldwin, 15, and Harriet Baldwin, 14, skip school to attend the Palo Alto rally last week. She said she was holding out hope that Mr. Sanders would win but also wanted to give her children a lesson in political participation. “The last time I saw a presidential candidate was Jesse Jackson in ’84 at Stanford, so you don’t get a lot of chances,” she said.
Asked why she went to see Mr. Sanders last month in her hometown, National City, Calif., Angelica Arroyo said it was like watching a “superstar.”
“I just feel like this is, like, for a bucket list,” said Ms. Arroyo, 21.
Mr. Sanders’s rallies — he has held at least one virtually every day for the past couple of weeks — have not had the feel of a vanishing campaign. His fans recite well-known parts of Mr. Sanders’s stump speech, chanting, “Health care is a right, not a privilege,” and screaming the average size of a donation to his campaign: “$27!” They carry handmade signs: “Bernie or Bust.” “Bernie Sensation.” “Wake up America. Smell the Coffee. It’s Berning.” They sway and dance to “Talkin’ Bout a Revolution” by Tracy Chapman and “Power to the People” by John Lennon.
Vendors are still selling Sanders T-shirts, buttons and hats. Lauren Steiner, 58, the lead organizer of Los Angeles for Bernie and one of several people selling T-shirts outside a rally in Santa Monica, Calif., said that Mr. Sanders had only a “slim chance” to win the nomination, but that a Bernie 2016 shirt was worth owning anyway, at least for sentimental reasons.
“I have a shirt that says ‘Impeach George Bush’ that I still wear,” she said. “It’s like a poster. It’s like a button. I’ve saved posters and buttons from things that have been important to me through the years.”
Mr. Sanders, who declined to be interviewed, has been effectively camping out in California, hoping a win in the state will help him persuade hundreds of superdelegates — party leaders who can change their votes at any time before the convention — to withdraw support from Mrs. Clinton and back him. There appears to be little chance of that happening, and Mr. Sanders’s recent rallies have carried an angrier tone, punctuated with loud boos and insults at mentions of Mrs. Clinton or Donald J. Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee.
Credit Monica Almeida/The New York Times
Some of his supporters, like Mr. Sanders himself, refuse to concede. “I think he has good chances,” said Bianca Villegas, 28, a paralegal from San Diego who went to a rally last month in National City. “He is going to have a hell of a fight, but I think that his numbers are there.”
But many realize that they may be seeing the last of Mr. Sanders on the campaign trail. Chuck Hollis, 69, of West Sacramento, who has attended three Sanders rallies in the past few weeks, said some friends have teased him for going to so many.
But he said that being part of the crowd “provides a great deal of satisfaction” and that he wants to show his support for Mr. Sanders in “a very concrete way.”
“He’s 74 years old and he could continue in the Senate, but because he’s older, I don’t know that there is a whole lot more that he can do,” Mr. Hollis said. “But I think, hopefully, he’s ignited a number of younger people to carry on and try to implement some of the proposals that he’s made.”
Angela Collins, 48, of El Paso, does not believe Mr. Sanders has a chance. She is a Clinton supporter, but she attended a rally last month in Vado, N.M., because, she said, she did not want to miss seeing the senator.
Ms. Collins stuffed her Clinton button in her pocket and waved a large Sanders sign the campaign handed out to be “respectful.”
“I know there’s no way Bernie Sanders could ever be president,” she said. “But he enjoys running so much.”
Among the 3,000 other people at that rally was Antonio Gonzalez, 18, a high school senior from El Paso, who showed up despite his belief that it is “unrealistic to think that Bernie is going to win.”
“Coming out here, it’s more for supporting Bernie,” Mr. Gonzalez said. “He’s going out and kind of giving a farewell to the people, kind of giving us his last words of wisdom while he still has the mike in his hands.”