Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) announced to his staff on an early Wednesday morning phone call that he is suspending his campaign for president and will step aside, giving former Vice President Joe Biden an unimpeded path to the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
CNN reports that Sanders broke the news first to close aides with plans to make an official announcement to his supporters at 11:45am EST.
Sanders told media just last week that he and members of his campaign team were staying in the race because they believed the Vermont socialist still had a “narrow path” to the nomination, but pressure reportedly began to build against Sanders in Democratic circles, particularly as Biden struggled to gain media attention amid the ongoing crisis surrounding COVID-19, the novel coronavirus.
It is likely Sanders believed that, with many states canceling or postponing their Democratic primaries, there remained a chance Biden would not get the 1,991 delegates necessary to secure the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination by the Democratic National Convention in August. In recent days, though, it became clear that even if the convention were to be “brokered” — that is, decided by a vote of delegates and superdelegates rather than handed to the campaign with a plurality of votes — it would not go to Sanders.
The move is a somewhat anti-climactic end to Sanders’ run; the Vermont socialist started off as the front-runner for the nomination, sailing to popular victories in the Iowa caucuses, the New Hampshire primary, and the Nevada caucuses — and leaving Joe Biden scrambling to salvage his campaign.
His streak was stopped short, though, in South Carolina, which handed a decisive victory to the flagging Biden campaign, reigniting Biden’s chances — chances bolstered by a sudden decision, by other potential Democratic nominees, to exit the race and consolidate “moderate” Democrat support behind Obama’s former Veep.
Sanders remained in the race much longer than any other competitor in the hopes of consolidating progressive support, but it was clear, after Biden won the all-important Michigan primary — a contest that Sanders took in an astounding upset victory over then-favorite Hillary Clinton in 2016 — that his chances at the presidency were likely over.
By late March, even Sanders’ top progressive surrogate, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) had broken with the campaign, citing the need to present a unified Democratic Party in order to defeat President Donald Trump in November.
CNN reports that Sanders and his team likely realized the end of the road was near around a month ago. “The Sanders fundraising machine,” the outlet reported, “the most successful grassroots donor effort in American political history, was over the last month re-purposed into a feeder for public health groups.”
Sanders has not said, yet, whether he intends to redistribute his 897 delegates to Joe Biden, who currently has 1,208. More than likely, he will retain the support in order to press for greater influence over the Democratic Party’s platform, which will undergo a major makeover at the convention in August.
Although unofficial, it appears President Donald Trump will now face Joe Biden in the November election.