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Bernie Sanders Leaves 2020 Presidential Race


Bernie Sanders dropped out of the presidential race today. Here's the Vermont senator speaking to supporters via livestream video.


BERNIE SANDERS: I wish I could give you better news, but I think you know the truth. And that is that we are now some 300 delegates behind Vice President Biden, and the path toward victory is virtually impossible.

KELLY: Sanders indicates there his departure means former Vice President Joe Biden is now the presumptive Democratic nominee. Let's bring in NPR's Asma Khalid.

Hey, Asma.


KELLY: So this was not unexpected given the clear delegate lead that Joe Biden holds. But how did Bernie Sanders explain his decision today?

KHALID: Well, you're right, I should say, Mary Louise. This was not unexpected, and that's in part because the Sanders campaign had said itself a few weeks ago that he would be reassessing things. And that came after a series of pretty crippling losses he had in early March. You know, the way that he explained things today is - I should point out, he would have needed at least 64% of the remaining delegates in order to become the nominee. And while that's not mathematically impossible, it is rather unlikely just given the momentum that he's had in this race and the fact that, frankly, he was not able to broaden the base of progressive supporters that he's had. So I think, you know, today what we heard from him was an acknowledgment of that numerical reality, especially as the coronavirus pandemic has also just upended the entire campaign. And he said in this particular moment, he did not feel like he could continue on in good consciousness.

KELLY: He did also speak about what he had accomplished with his campaign, what he feels he has accomplished. Give us some more detail on that.

KHALID: He did. You know, he talked about the ideas that he has long championed now being a part of the more mainstream conversation in the Democratic Party, things like a $15 minimum wage, universal health care.


SANDERS: It was not long ago that people considered these ideas radical and fringe. Today, they are mainstream ideas, and many of them are already being implemented in cities and states across the country.

KHALID: And he also talked about the backbone of his coalition. These are young people.


SANDERS: Please also appreciate that not only are we winning the struggle ideologically, we are also winning it generationally. The future of our country rests with young people.

KHALID: And, you know, Mary Louise, he has had, I would say, a rather large policy influence in the Democratic Party. You know, how many Democratic debates focused on health care specifically around his ideas around "Medicare for All?" And, you know, though he was conceding here in these livestream remarks, he was also touting those ideological gains that he's made.

KELLY: One big question now, of course, is whether Sanders supporters will shift their support to Joe Biden. Did Sanders endorse Biden today?

KHALID: Well, he did not explicitly use those words I endorse Biden. But he has long said that he would support whoever the nominee is. And he reiterated that desire to unify, you know, the entire Democratic Party behind a candidate who could beat Donald Trump. He called Joe Biden himself a very decent man. But Sanders also said something that kind of was unusual. It caught my ear. He said he's going to stay on the ballot for upcoming primaries. The thought is that he'd continue to accumulate delegates, which he could then use at the Democratic National Convention to influence the party's platform and rules. But again, you know, I think he has made it pretty clear throughout this campaign cycle that he would stand behind whoever was the likely nominee.

KELLY: What has been the reaction from the Biden camp to the fact that Sanders says he's going to stay on the ballot, he will keep accumulating delegates?

KHALID: Well, Biden praised Sanders as a whole. They didn't even acknowledge that. He said that he had, you know, touted these ideas for a long time, that he had not just created a political campaign, he had created a movement. And a lot of this is around the focus that, you know, they're aware of what happened in 2016. They don't want a repeat of that. They want to unify the Democratic Party.

KELLY: NPR's Asma Khalid reporting there on the news today, Bernie Sanders dropping out of the 2020 presidential race.

Thank you, Asma.

KHALID: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Asma Khalid is a White House correspondent for NPR. She also co-hosts The NPR Politics Podcast.