New York, April 8 : The socialist contender for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination, Senator Bernie Sanders, has dropped out of the race paving the way for former Vice President Joe Biden to become the party's unchallenged candidate to take on President Donald Trump in November.
By conceding to Biden on Tuesday, Sanders will allow him and the party to focus on Trump instead of spending resources on infighting by party candidates.
"I congratulate Joe Biden, a very decent man, who I will work with to move our progressive ideas forward," Sanders said in his live-streamed announcement.
Biden said he realised "how hard a decision this was for him to make, adding: "Bernie has put his heart and soul into not only running for president, but for the causes and issues he has been dedicated to his whole life." "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 finally recognising the changed the environment in a nation ravaged by Covid-19.
Sanders and Biden have not been able to hold rallies or even have house-to-house campaigns.
The party convention scheduled for July to officially make the nomination was was in question because of the pandemic.
Biden has suggested holding it virtually because of the socially distancing rules that may in force for months.
"We're going to have to do a convention, may have to do a virtual convention," he told a television interviewer on Sunday.
Sanders dropping out of the race would make this easier removing one of the possible challenges.
Although he was seeking the Democratic Party nomination, Sanders was officially an Independent member of the Senate and not a party member. The rules allowed him to run in the party election for the presidential nomination.
Intra-party elections - either by secret ballot known as primaries, or open, in-person balloting known as caucuses - have been held in only 28 of the 50 states.
Of the remaining states, 15 have postponed the party elections because of the Covid-19 pandemic and 12 will have postal ballots.
Although Sanders announced that although he is suspending his campaign, he said would continue to stay on the party ballot so that he can have delegates at the party convention "to exert significant influence over the party platform".
"While this campaign is coming to an end, our movement is not," Sanders said, referring to his socialist cause like higher minimum wages, universal healthcare and free college education.
Acknowledging Sanders's ideological appeal, Biden said: "Bernie has done something rare in politics. He hasn't just run a political campaign; he's created a movement." Biden, who advocates a centrist agenda, is against some Sanders's proposals like nationalised health care.
The selection of the party candidate is by an indirect process with the primaries and caucuses electing delegates pledging to support one of the candidates to the party convention where the party nomination will be officially made.
With 3,979 elected delegates, a candidate will need 1,991 delegates to win the nomination and Biden leads the delegates count with 1,217 to Sanders's 914.
Sanders has only won in eight states, while Biden, who had a slow start and was almost written after losing in the first three states, staged a powerful comeback, winning in 19 states.
Biden has an array of endorsement from Democratic leaders, and he is leading with a large margin among African-Americans, an important segment of the party, to whom Sanders could not appeal.
While the race started last year with 20 credible candidates qualifying for the first party debate, candidates started dropping out seeing no prospects for themselves leaving only Biden and Sanders till today.
Among the candidates dropping out were Senator Kamala Harris, who is of Indian and Jamaican-African descent, and Tulsi Gabbard, who is Hindu by faith.
Despite being out of the running at the request of several Democratic leaders who want to present a united front against Trump, Sanders has a large, vociferous support base dominated by young people.
Reaching out to them, Biden said he realised "how hard it is for the millions of his supporters - especially younger voters - who have been inspired and energised and brought into politics by the progressive agenda he has championed." (Arul Louis can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @arulouis)