And then there was one.
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders ended his presidential campaign on Wednesday, leaving former Vice President Joe Biden, 77, as the sole remaining candidate in a once-crowded Democratic presidential primary that featured a record number of African-American and female candidates.
Sanders made the announcement shortly before noon.
“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.”
“I have concluded that this battle for the Democratic nomination will not be successful,” Sanders said. “I do not make this decision lightly.”
Sanders said he would remain on the ballot in all of the remaining primaries and continue gathering delegates to “have influence over the platform” at the now-postponed Democratic National Convention.
President Donald Trump sought to foment the tension among Democrats by tweeting Wednesday that the party stacked the race against Sanders.
Biden, who is backed by much of the party’s establishment, told supporters at a virtual fundraiser that he had a “short conversation” with Sanders on Wednesday.
“He didn’t just run a political campaign. He created a movement,” Biden said. “That’s a good thing for our nation and our future. His campaign has ended, but I know his leadership will continue.”
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.
Sanders, though, used strong polling and solid fundraising — collected almost entirely from small donations made online — to more than quiet early doubters. Like the first time, he attracted widespread support from young voters and was able to make new inroads within the Hispanic community, even as his appeal with African Americans remained small.
Sanders amassed the most votes in the nationally ridiculed Iowa and New Hampshire, which opened primary voting, and cruised to an easy victory in Nevada — seemingly leaving him well positioned to sprint to the Democratic nomination while a deeply crowded and divided field of alternatives sunk around him.
But a crucial endorsement of Biden by influential South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, and a subsequent, larger-than-expected victory in South Carolina, propelled the former vice president into Super Tuesday, when he won 10 of 14 states.
In a matter of days, his top former Democratic rivals lined up and announced their endorsement of Biden. The former vice president’s campaign had appeared on the brink of collapse after New Hampshire but found new life as the rest of the party’s more moderate establishment coalesced around him as an alternative to Sanders.
Things only got worse the following week when Sanders lost Michigan, where he had campaigned hard and upset Clinton in 2016. He was also beaten in Missouri, Mississippi and Idaho the same night and the results were so decisive that Sanders headed to Vermont without speaking to the media.
Sanders had scheduled a rally in Ohio but canceled it amid fears about the spread of coronavirus, and the outbreak kept him home as his campaign appeared unsure of its next move. The senator addressed reporters the following day, but also sounded like a candidate who already knew he’d been beaten.
“While our campaign has won the ideological debate, we are losing the debate over electability,” Sanders said then.
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