Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) has ended his presidential campaign, clearing the final hurdle for former Vice President Joe Biden to secure the Democratic nomination.
"I wish I could give you better news, but I think you know the truth," Sanders said in a livestreamed address to supporters Wednesday morning. "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."
Sanders said he would have continued his campaign if there was a "feasible path" to the nomination, but that path does not exist. He congratulated Joe Biden as "an honorable man" and promised to work with him toward defeating President Donald Trump.
Sanders said he will remain on the ballot in remaining states and will continue accumulating delegates in the hopes of having greater influence over the internal party deliberations at the Democratic National Convention.
Today I am suspending my campaign. But while the campaign ends, the struggle for justice continues on. https://t.co/MYc7kt2b16
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) April 8, 2020
As recently as the morning of March 3, Sanders appeared to be the front-runner for the nomination after having won (or narrowly lost) the first few contests in the nominating process. But Biden turned a strong showing in South Carolina's February 29 primary into a national cascade on Super Tuesday that lifted him into first place and considerably narrowed Sanders' prospective path to victory. A week later, Biden swept a slate of four primaries and cemented his lead.
It was a stunning reversal of fortune in the span of just a few days—a reversal that was aided by several other Democratic candidates dropping out of the race and by Sanders himself, who chose the week before Super Tuesday to offer a bizarre defense of Cuba's communist regime.
But the real problem for Sanders during this election cycle was not his pie-in-the-sky economics or his history of praising communist dictators. It was the fact that he wasn't running against Hillary Clinton.
Sanders entered the 2020 race promising to build upon the large coalition he'd built during his surprisingly strong upset bid against Clinton in 2016. But the self-described democratic socialist found voters less enthusiastic about his promised political revolution this time around. By the end of March, it was obvious that Sanders was underperforming his 2016 marks. The true believers were still with him, but the sizable anti-Clinton vote that had inflated his support four years ago was now absent.
Sanders' decision to drop out of the race solves at least a few headaches for the Democratic Party. Several states have postponed primary elections in light of the coronavirus pandemic, and while those elections will still have to take place at some point, they can be scheduled without one eye toward the presidential race. It also precludes the possibility of a brokered convention—something that once seemed possible, or even likely—whenever the Democratic National Committee meets to officially decide the nominee (the convention has already been postponed from July until August).
Still, Sanders' defeat in 2020 (and 2016) has undoubtedly had an effect on the Democratic Party. As he pointed out in his address on Wednesday, the 78-year-old Sanders has done remarkably well with younger voters during both his presidential campaigns.
"In other words, the future of this country is with our ideas," Sanders said Wednesday.
In a statement, Biden praised Sanders for having "changed the dialogue in America" and credited Sanders for having put his "heart and soul" into the campaign.
"While the Sanders campaign has been suspended, its impact on this election and on elections to come is far from over," Biden said. Coming from a figure who has always been a reliable indicator of where the party's center falls, Biden's assessment is a telling one.
If the arc of the Democratic Party continues to bend toward the left, Sanders may be remembered as something of a Moses figure for the next generation of the party. He's led blue America to the edge of democratic socialism. But in 2020, at least, Democratic voters looked over and rejected what they saw.