Sen. Bernie Sanders has ended his quest for the Democratic presidential nomination, clearing the path for former Vice President Joe Biden to face off against President Trump in November.
Sanders, the maverick independent from Vermont, announced his decision shortly before noon ET on Wednesday via a live webcast from Burlington, Vt. Sanders told supporters that he saw no chance of securing the 1,991 delegates needed to clinch the nomination. In his second bid for the White House, Sanders has amassed 914 delegates compared to Biden’s 1,217.
“I have concluded that this battle for the Democratic nomination will not be successful,” Sanders said. “If I believed we had a feasible path toward the nomination, I would certainly continue with the campaign, but it’s just not there.”
Sanders was the frontrunner for the nomination for much of February, after winning New Hampshire and Nevada. But after Biden won a resounding victory in South Carolina, the party rallied behind his campaign. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Mayor Pete Buttigieg dropped out and endorsed Biden, who took an insurmountable lead on Super Tuesday.
Over the last month, many states have postponed their primaries due to the coronavirus pandemic, frustrating any hopes Sanders might have had for a comeback. After extensive legal wrangling, the primary in Wisconsin went ahead as scheduled on Tuesday, with voters were forced to stand in long lines to cast a ballot.
Sanders indicated that the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic contributed to what he called “a very painful and difficult” decision.
“I cannot in good conscience continue to mount a campaign which cannot win and which would interfere with the important work required of all of us in this difficult hour,” Sanders said. He called Biden “a very decent man” and said he would work the former senator from Delaware “to move our progressive ideas forward.”
Sanders thanked his supporters for buoying his progressive agenda calling for universal health care, higher minimum wages and green energy initiatives. The campaign that championed those ideas have “had a profound impact on changing our nation,” he said.
While acknowledging that Biden will be the nominee, Sanders said his name will stay on the ballot in the remaining state primaries. He said he hoped to amass as many delegates as possible to gain leverage to shape the party platform.
Biden issued a statement on Wednesday paying tribute to Sanders and reaching out to his supporters.
“Bernie gets a lot of credit for his passionate advocacy for the issues he cares about,” Biden said. “But he doesn’t get enough credit for being a voice that forces us all to take a hard look in the mirror and ask if we’ve done enough.”
Biden added that the important thing now is for the party to unite against Trump.
To Sanders’ supporters, he said: “I see you, I hear you, and I understand the urgency of what it is we have to get done in this country. I hope you will join us. You are more than welcome. You’re needed.”