Sen. Bernie Sanders dropped out of the Democratic primary race Wednesday, paving the way for Joe Biden to be officially declared the party’s nominee.
Addressing supporters in live steam, the self-described Democratic socialist, 78, said the decision to suspend his presidential campaign was “difficult and painful” but he understood there was no path forward.
Still, he said, he will stay on the ballot in the remaining primary states to push his ideological agenda at the Democratic National Convention.
The announcement comes after the former vice president trounced the Vermont independent in three primaries.
It also comes as the nation grapples with the coronavirus pandemic and growing calls for primaries to be postponed to avoid big social gatherings, especially with no clear path to victory left for Sanders.
Biden defeated Sanders in Florida, Illinois, and Arizona last month and holds a large delegate lead, 1,217 to Sanders’ 914.
A candidate needs to gather 1,991 delegates to be nominated at July’s Democratic National Convention.
The senator’s campaign looked all but finished when he suffered a heart attack on the campaign trail in October.
But Sanders stayed in the race and became the front-runner after a series of razor-thin victories in the early states of Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada.
However, Sanders lost his large lead when the Democratic Party rapidly coalesced against the self-described Democratic socialist outsider in early March to boost Biden’s ailing campaign.
Biden, 77, made a pitch to Sanders’ supporters during a live-streamed speech last month after thumping the Vermont senator in the last round of primaries, forecasting the fate of his upstart campaign.
“Sen. Sanders and I may disagree on tactics, but we share a common vision for the need to provide affordable health care for all Americans, reduce income inequality that has risen so drastically, to tackling the existential threat of our time, climate change,” he said.
“Sen. Sanders and his supporters have brought a remarkable passion and tenacity to all of these issues. Together, they have shifted the fundamental conversation in this country,” Biden added.
“So let me say, especially to the young voters who have been inspired by Sen. Sanders: I hear you. I know what’s at stake. I know what we have to do.”