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All knew this moment was coming; the only question was when it would happen — after the Wisconsin primary, in later months, or at the Democratic National Convention. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) ended the suspense on Wednesday morning as he also ended his 2020 campaign for president, leaving little chance that former Vice President Joe Biden will become the eventual Democratic nominee.
This presents a departure for him over a similar situation four years ago when he chose to stay in the race for the Democratic nomination and didn't bow out until just before the convention, tearing apart the Party, in a move that some blame for Donald Trump winning the presidency in 2016, as Sanders's supporters just could not find it in them to back the Democratic nominee, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who had beaten Sanders.
"As I see the crisis gripping the nation," Sanders said in a live stream from his Burlington, Vermont, home, with a certain reference to the coronavirus pandemic, noting that it is being "exacerbated by a president unwilling or unable to provide any kind of credible leadership."
Because of that drive to get Trump out of office in November, Sanders concluded, "I cannot in good conscience continue to mount a campaign that cannot win and which would interfere in the important work required of all of us in this difficult hour."
While not coming up with the ultimate Democratic nomination in either of his two presidential campaigns, the senator still beat what seemed like insurmountable odds to come in second place in both primaries, making him the strongest Jewish candidate in U.S. history and the oldest candidate to ever make it that far into the race.
In 2016 he faced off in a bitter battle against Clinton, but she took the nomination. He wasn't initially expected to get that far as a little known independent senator from Vermont. Four years later he was just one in a very large field of two dozen candidates vying for the chance to go up against Trump in November. He outlasted all of them except Biden.
Sanders is still remaining on the ballot as a spoiler, or as he said to gain more delegates to have greater influence at the convention.
He told his supporters on Wednesday, "Together we have transformed American consciousnesses as to what kind of nation we can become," while also noting that some of his progressive ideas had now moved mainstream. "Few would deny that over the course of the past five years, our movement has won the ideological struggle," he added.
It wasn't thought when he jumped into the race one year ago that he would make it this far. On top of that, his campaign suffered the scandal of staffers arguing that they were not being paid the equivalent of $15 an hour, which Sanders has said for years should be the federal minimum wage. In October he suffered a heart attack and had two stents placed to open an artery, yet somehow he kept his momentum without his age and health being questioned much further.
Many crowned him the nominee after the three earliest showings. The Iowa caucuses ended in a virtual tie with former South Bend, Indiana, mayor Pete Buttigieg, and this was followed by two big wins in New Hampshire and Nevada.
However, while Sanders does well with younger voters, he has struggled to pick up the support of the African-American community. Biden, who had been doing poorly to this point, had an explosive win in South Carolina. Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) dropped out and threw their endorsements to Biden, who went on to win Super Tuesday and more states the Tuesday following.
At this point much of the country was shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, leading some to question what would happen. Most remaining elections were postponed. It was unknown if Biden would be able to maintain his momentum. Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers tried in vain to cancel in-person voting for April 7, but he was overruled by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Official results may not be available until May.
Regardless, Sanders officially ended his campaign on Wednesday morning. "I wish I could give you better news, but I think you know the truth, and that is that we are now some 300 delegates behind Vice President Biden, and the path toward victory is virtually impossible," he said in his livestream.
"So while we are winning the ideological battle, and while we are winning the support of so many young people and working people throughout the country, I have concluded that this battle for the Democratic nomination will not be successful. And so today I am announcing the suspension of my campaign."
He congratulated the most-certain nominee, Biden, calling him a "very decent man" and pledged his support for him as the nominee. However, it's unknown whether his supporters will follow or whether they will revolt and refuse to vote for Biden as some did with Clinton in 2016.
After the announcement, Biden referred to Sanders as a "powerful voice for a fairer and more just America" while saying the election isn't over.
He also invited Sanders's supporters to join him. "And to [Sanders's] supporters, I make the same commitment: 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."
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