WASHINGTON — Sen. Bernie Sanders, who saw his once-strong lead in the Democratic primary evaporate as the party’s establishment lined swiftly up behind rival Joe Biden, ended his presidential bid on Wednesday, an acknowledgment that the former vice president is too far ahead for him to have any reasonable hope of catching up.
The Vermont senator’s announcement makes Biden the presumptive Democratic nominee to challenge President Donald Trump in November.
Sanders initially exceeded sky-high expectations about his ability to recreate the magic of his 2016 presidential bid, and even overcame a heart attack last October on the campaign trail. But he found himself unable to convert unwavering support from progressives into a viable path to the nomination amid “electability” fears fueled by questions about whether his democratic socialist ideology would be palatable to general election voters.
The 78-year-old senator began his latest White House bid facing questions about whether he could win back the supporters who chose him four years ago as an insurgent alternative to the party establishment’s choice, Hillary Clinton. Despite winning 22 states in 2016, there were no guarantees he’d be a major presidential contender this cycle, especially as the race’s oldest candidate.
Sanders, though, used strong polling and solid fundraising — collected almost entirely from small donations made online — to more than quiet early doubters. Like the first time, he attracted widespread support from young voters and was able to make new inroads within the Hispanic community, even as his appeal with African Americans remained small.
Following Sanders' announcement, Tom Perez, chair of the Democratic National Committee, released the following statement on Biden becoming the presumptive Democratic nominee:
“This primary has been one of the most inclusive and transparent in our party’s history. It has showcased the best of our party, and I’m so inspired by all of our candidates. All of them brought integrity to this contest. All of them brought talent, drive, and enthusiasm. And most importantly, all of them showed an unwavering commitment to improving the lives of the American people. I want to congratulate Vice President Biden and his team on their victory, and I also want to congratulate Senator Sanders and his team on theirs. His energy, ideas, and leadership have strengthened our Democratic Party, and we need Sen. Sanders and his team to continue leading in this fight.
“Now it’s time to come together and unite around our presumptive nominee. It’s time to finish the job and send Joe Biden to the White House. For more than half a century, Joe Biden has fought for the underdog – from lifting up workers and middle-class families, to protecting survivors of domestic abuse through the landmark Violence Against Women Act, to leading the fight against the NRA and the gun lobby in the United States Senate. And as labor secretary under President Barack Obama, I got to see Vice President Biden’s invaluable leadership firsthand as he helped to lift our economy out of a recession, rescue the auto industry from collapse, and expand health care coverage for millions of Americans, including those with preexisting conditions.
“Joe Biden is Donald Trump’s worst nightmare. And you don’t have to take my word for it. Even Trump’s own advisors have admitted Trump is terrified of running against Vice President Biden. The choice for the American people could not be clearer: Donald Trump is a man of chaos and cruelty; Joe Biden is a man of character and compassion. Donald Trump has failed every test of presidential leadership and broken just about every promise he’s made, including during this public health crisis; Joe Biden has a decades-long record of delivering results for the American people.
“Now more than ever, we need a change in leadership to get our country on the right track. The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the utter incompetence, inexperience, and ineffectiveness of Donald Trump. His failure to prepare for this crisis and to listen to health experts has cost people their jobs, their savings, and even their lives. In times of crisis, we need a president with the experience and empathy to lead the way forward. We need Joe Biden.
“The American people know the Democratic Party has their back. They know Democrats are the only party fighting to protect their health care, their jobs, their homes, and their future. They know Democrats are the only party fighting to end gun violence, combat climate change, and protect reproductive rights. They know Democrats are the only party who will give them a fair shake – no matter what they look like, where they come from, who they love, or how they pray. That’s why they’re ready to elect Joe Biden as the next president of the United States.”