Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders suspended his presidential campaign Wednesday, clearing the way for former Vice President Joe Biden to win the Democratic nomination.
In a speech streamed over the internet, the 78-year-old independent told supporters the ideas he pushed won support in states across the political spectrum, including a $15 minimum wage, health care for all, moving away from fossil fuels for energy and tuition-free college education.
“It was not long ago people considered these ideas radical and freakish,” Sanders said.
The announcement caps a surreal couple of weeks during which Sanders refused to clear the way for Biden, even as the mathematical odds of him winning the nomination became increasingly narrow and both campaigns shut down public events amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Sanders, standing alone in front of framed prints of a red barn in the snow and autumn foliage in a riverside town, said he had made his decision after coming to terms with his “virtually impossible” path to victory and the need to focus on the Senate’s response to the pandemic.
“I cannot in good conscience continue to mount a campaign that cannot win and that would interfere with the important work required of all of us,” he said.
But he said he would stay on the ballot in the remaining primaries, continuing to collect delegates he said would force Democratic leaders to include the ideas he has championed in the party’s 2020 platform .
“Joe Biden is a decent man, who I will work with to move our progressive ideas forward,” he said.
Biden, who lost two previous campaigns for president, said in a statement that understood how hard the decision to drop out is. He praised Sanders’ passion in the fight against income inequality and appealed to his supporters — “especially younger voters” — by noting that Sanders “hasn’t just run a political campaign; he’s created a movement.”
Biden pledged to address climate change, confront income inequality and make health care affordable and college education free, and said he understood the urgency Sanders’ supporters feel about what needs to be done.
“I hope you will join us. You are more than welcome. You’re needed. Together we will defeat Donald Trump,” Biden said.
Sanders had been seen as the front-runner going into Super Tuesday on March 3, when Biden rallied from his poor showings in the earlier voting states. That was spurred by the rapid winnowing of the once-sprawling field after Biden convincingly won the South Carolina primary and caused the Democratic establishment — distressed at the prospect that a self-identified democratic socialist could win the nomination — to coalesce.
Since the beginning of March, Biden had picked up 55 endorsements from members of Congress, including three former rivals, Sens. Cory Booker, Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar. During the same time, Sanders added one congressional endorsement, from California Rep. Mark Takano.
Sanders had vowed to continue to wage an aggressive campaign, to the alarm of many Democrats still convinced that his refusal to give his enthusiastic support for Hillary Clinton in 2016 contributed to her eventual defeat to Donald Trump.
Trump, as he has with other Democratic contenders’ withdrawals, gloated on Twitter by suggesting Sanders’ fate was sealed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren remaining in the race until after Super Tuesday. He also appealed to disappointed Sanders supporters to join him.
“This ended just like the Democrats & the DNC wanted, same as the Crooked Hillary fiasco. The Bernie people should come to the Republican Party, TRADE!” Trump wrote.
At last count, Sanders had secured 914 delegates, compared to Biden’s 1,217, according to The Associated Press. To win the nomination, he would have needed 1,991.