UPDATED: 2:32 p.m. ET, April 13 —
Bernie Sanders has finally offered his full-throated endorsement of Joe Biden‘s campaign for president. The unexpected announcement on Monday came days after he suspended his own candidacy. Sanders appeared on a live stream alongside Biden to make the announcement, according to the New York Times.
“We need you in the White House,” Sanders told Biden on the live stream. “And I will do all that I can to make that happen.”
Biden responded: “I’m going to need you. Not just to win the campaign, but to govern.”
Sanders had been assessing the state of his campaign prior to suspending it on Wednesday when he made the announcement via his social media channels.
The move cleared the way for former Biden to become the Democratic nominee.
With his announcement Monday, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren became the only remaining former candidate to withhold an endorsement. That gave her the distinction bestowed upon Sanders four years ago that she was betraying the Democratic Party and not readily rallying behind the presumptive nominee. In 2016, it took Sanders more than a month to announce his endorsement for Hillary Clinton. In 2008, it took Clinton just four days to endorse Barack Obama. Warren suspended her campaign more than a month ago.
Sanders hinted during his announcement on Wednesday that he would endorse Biden, but he also vowed to “stay on the ballot” in an effort to gather as many delegates as possible. Sanders said he would work with Biden to advance the progressive ideas they both share and “then, together, standing united, we will move forward to defeat President Trump.”
Sanders had been pretty adamant about what he called his “narrow path” to win the Democratic nomination and recently came across as resentful of the suggestion that he suspend his campaign before all of the primaries were held. But now, less than two weeks after facing off with Whoopi Goldberg on national TV about the topic, Sanders may be having second thoughts. The Washington Post had already reported that some of Sanders’ “top aides and allies” have been encouraging him to consider dropping out.
Sanders seemed defiant on the popular daytime talk show, “The View,” when he had a contentious interview with hostess Goldberg, who asked him point-blank why he was still in the race.
“Last I heard, people in a democracy have a right to vote,” he responded.
When pressed, Sanders has vowed to support the eventual Democratic nominee. But since that won’t be formally decided until the Democratic National Convention this summer in Milwaukee, there was fear he might not make a formal endorsement until then. That was also the perceived treatment from Warren, who was initially rumored to have been coordinating with Sanders’ campaign to determine a way to endorse him, but that never happened.
Super Tuesday 2 saw Sanders lose support to Biden from among white college-educated voters and independent voters, according to exit polls cited by CNN.
In the meantime, there remains the lingering question of whether supporters of both Sanders and Warren will gravitate toward Biden in the name of Democratic Party unity. If anything, it seems more than likely that Warren’s supporters will rally around Team Biden sooner than Sanders’ supporters would, seeing as the two senators were not that far removed from their very public spat when she accused him of making a sexist remark about her chances of becoming president this year.
Having Warren’s supporters coalesce around Biden’s campaign would be a huge boon for the former vice president, who would gladly welcome them all, including Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley, an influential Black woman congressman who has been one of the most staunch opponents of President Donald Trump, the man who in theory should be uniting Democrats heading into the 2020 Election.
Whether true or not, the perception has largely been that Warren is taking too long to endorse a candidate, harkening back to four years ago when Sanders dropped out of the race but did not immediately endorse Clinton. Sanders finally endorsed Clinton weeks after Warren and even Obama announced their support for her. In that case, the Washington Post speculated that Sanders may have been hesitant to endorse Clinton because he thought that might anger his supporters.
“A Clinton endorsement so soon after railing against the establishment she represents might have rung hollow to his supporters, more than a few of whom said they were motivated to get involved in politics for the first time because of Sanders,” the Post wrote at the time.
It looks like that may not have been a concern for him this time around despite what the data says.
A poll in January showed that more than half of Sanders’ supporters said they would definitely support the Democratic nominee if it’s not Bernie, Newsweek reported. The implication was that the remaining 47 percent of Sanders’ supporters would either abstain from voting altogether, write in a third-party candidate with no chance of winning, or vote for Trump. If either of those three scenarios happen, it would arguably be a repeat from Election Day 2016, when exit polls showed that one out of every 10 Sanders supporters voted for Trump, according to NPR.
However, even if that does happen, Biden could still have the edge as he continues to turn out levels of Black voters not seen since the last two times he did this — alongside Obama in 2008 and 2012. The share of Black voters fell decidedly in 2016 compared to 2012, according to statistics compiled by the Center for American Progress, an independent nonpartisan nonprofit organization. That may have been because of a false sense of confidence Democratic voters and especially Black folks were lulled into based on inaccurate polling that predicted Trump would lose to Clinton.
Perhaps having learned their lesson the hard way, Black voters could ensure a Democratic victory in the general election this time around in addition to Trump’s departure from the White House if they turn out at the ballot box the same way as 2012.
All of which brings us back to Sanders and his decision about who to support and when that decision is made — factors that will determine what his supporters will do moving forward which, if history is any indication, is no guarantee of anything.