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Bernie Sanders Suspends Presidential Campaign


Significant news this morning in the presidential race. Senator Bernie Sanders is ending his campaign. This news was delivered in a call to staff this morning, and it leaves former Vice President Joe Biden as the Democratic Party standard-bearer heading into the November election. Let's bring in NPR senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro. Hi, Domenico.


GREENE: So what do you see in terms of the timing of this decision? Why did Sanders make this move now?

MONTANARO: Well, this is the day after the Wisconsin primary. We know last month that Bernie Sanders said that he would be weighing his decision and that there was not an election for a few weeks. That was Wisconsin. You know, we don't have results on Wisconsin, but he was trailing badly in the polls going in in a state that he had won by 13 points last time around.

And, look; the writing has been on the wall for some time. You know, since Super Tuesday, Joe Biden's lead, the former vice president - his lead has only grown in the delegate count. He's up by some 300 delegates. And while that may not seem like a huge lead that couldn't be, you know, overcome, when you do the math for it, it means that Sanders would've needed about 64% of all the remaining delegates to become the nominee. In other words, he would've had to have won 64% on average of all the remaining vote to do it. Very difficult to do.

GREENE: Well, given how difficult it was looking, I mean, in many ways, Joe Biden has been seen as the presumptive nominee even though it wasn't official. So how much does this official decision by Bernie Sanders change things?

MONTANARO: Well, it certainly, you know, makes the possibility for the Democratic Party to unify in a timely way all the more possible. You know, you remember the 2016 race. There was certainly a bitter fight all the way to the convention pretty much, with people protesting from Sanders' side against Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party, feeling like that they had been, you know, wronged by the party. This time around, we see a big difference, and part of that is political, part of that is personal.

You know, on the political side of this, the Sanders folks had worked for years with the Democratic Party. Tom Perez had worked with, you know, people who are surrogates of the Sanders campaign to try to, you know, give them some rules and things that they felt better about than they did in 2016. For example, superdelegates not being able to vote on the first ballot at the convention - that is still very important to a lot of people associated with Sanders' world. One person told me - Larry Cohen, who runs Our Revolution, a PAC that has been supporting Sanders from the outside, saying that, look; he wants to see things like superdelegate rules not allowing them to vote on first ballot at convention extended through at least 2024. They want to be able to fight for that. That's why people like him wanted Sanders to stay in - to have as much impact as possible. But clearly, now Sanders seeing the long game here, wanting to beat Donald Trump.

The personal side of this is that Sanders and Biden just have a pretty warm relationship, and Biden has been very respectful toward Sanders and his movement.

GREENE: I mean, it is certainly worth saying, I mean, Bernie Sanders was not the nominee in 2016. He's not going to be the nominee this time. But he has really had a huge impact on the direction of the Democratic Party. Is that fair?

MONTANARO: Absolutely. I mean, look; Bernie Sanders has been able to at least move the debate on what the country should look like, what the country should be like. And he has fervent and ardent supporters, a lot of them young, who've come up through, you know, a country at war, in economic struggle and now this pandemic that they feel bolsters their argument that, you know, health care tied to corporations is not the way forward. They certainly want a piece of the Democratic Party platform to reflect their values.

GREENE: NPR's Domenico Montanaro on this news that Bernie Sanders is dropping out of the presidential race today. Domenico, thanks a lot.

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

Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.
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