By WILL WEISSERT
WASHINGTON (AP) — 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 April 8, 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.
“The path toward victory is virtually impossible,” Sanders told supporters as he congratulated Biden. The former vice president is “a very decent man whom I will work with to move our progressive ideas forward.”
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. 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.
The coronavirus outbreak essentially froze Sanders’ campaign, preventing him from holding the large rallies that had become his trademark and shifting the primary calendar. It became increasingly unclear where he could notch a victory that would help him regain ground against Biden.
In 2016, Sanders kept campaigning long after the primaries had ended and endorsed Clinton less than two weeks before their party’s convention. This cycle, he promised to work better with the national and state parties. His dropping out of the race now could be a step toward unity.