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Sanders Drops Out of the Democratic Primary Election Leaving Biden to Become the Presumptive Nominee

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders officially dropped out of the Democratic Primary on April 8 following major losses in key states, clearing the way for former Vice President Joe Biden to become the presumptive nominee. 

Sanders, who experienced an early lead in the race winning states like New Hampshire and Nevada, announced the suspension of his campaign through a live-streamed speech on April 8, attributing his decision to the current COVID-19 crisis. 

“As I see the crisis gripping the nation, exacerbated by a President unwilling or unable to provide any kind of credible leadership … I cannot in good conscience continue to mount a campaign that cannot win and which would interfere with the important work required of all of us in this difficult hour,” Sanders said in the speech. 

Despite his campaign’s suspension, Sanders said that he will remain on the ballot through the remainder of the primary, in order to accumulate more delegates that could potentially provide him with the leverage to “exert significant influence over the party platform.”

“This race has never been about me,” Sanders said in his speech. “I ran for the presidency because I believe that as a president, I could accelerate and institutionalize the progressive changes that we are all building together.”

Following this announcement, Sanders joined other former contenders, including California Sen. Kamala Harris and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, in endorsing Biden — a move aimed at easing a mounting skepticism from his progressive base in rallying behind the more moderate candidate.

Biden’s campaign has followed suit, accelerating overtures to Sanders’s more progressive base in hopes of uniting the party around his nomination.

In a statement released shortly after the announcement of Sanders’s campaign suspension, Biden addressed Sanders’s supporters directly. “I see you, I hear you and I understand the urgency of what it is we have to get done in this country,” the statement read.

Sanders announced his endorsement of Biden in a joint live-stream with the former vice president. “It’s imperative that all of us work together, not only in this moment but beyond this moment in the future of this country,” Sanders said.

Biden’s string of victories in more recent primary states have been attributed by political analysts to strong support among primarily black and suburban white voters, alternatively struggling to galvanize support from younger voters  — a key portion of Sanders’s base.

In the California primaries, this generational divide was particularly evident — support for Sanders and Biden divided around the age of 45. Sanders, who ultimately won the state, received strong support from voters under the age of 45 while Biden received support from voters over the age of 45. 

According to exit polls released by the Washington Post, approximately two-thirds of California voters under the age of 45 expressed support for Sanders. With voters over the age of 45, 27% of voters between the age of 45-64 and 38% of voters over the age of 65 expressed support for Biden. Sanders received support from 26% of voters between the age of 45-64 and 18% of voters over the age of 65. Approximately half of voters over the age of 45 voted for another candidate.

Many political analysts note that younger voters have tended to vote for Democratic candidates during the general election in recent years, but historically low voter turnout rates among this demographic could create a potential obstacle to Biden in November.

According to a New York Times focus group aged 17 to 34, about one third of the voters surveyed said that they would stay home in the general election or vote for a third party candidate unless Biden made “significant concessions” to the party’s more liberal wing.

“We’re going to talk to [younger voters] and we’re going to reach out to them,” Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), one of the national co-chairs for Biden’s campaign, said to the New York Times. “They can help us chart their future. They don’t have to be bystanders as other people do. It means going and talking to them, inviting them to the table.”

As of April 16, Biden has a total of 1,288 delegates. Sanders remains significantly behind, sitting at only 942 delegates. 

In order to win the nomination on the first ballot at the Democratic National Convention in August, Biden must accumulate a majority of pledged delegates, which is at least 1,991 of the total 3,979 possible delegates.

Danielle Dawson is a Staff Writer. She can be reached at dmdawson@uci.edu.