WASHINGTON -- U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders dropped out from the race Wednesday, paving the way for the party's only remaining candidate Joe Biden to become the Democratic nominee.
In a speech delivered via live stream to supporters in the morning, Sanders said his "path toward victory is virtually impossible," with some 300 less delegate votes than Biden's.
"So while we are winning the ideological battle and while we are winning the support of so many young people and working people throughout the country, I have concluded that this battle for the Democratic nomination will not be successful," he said. "And so today I am announcing the suspension of my campaign."
A senator from Vermont and a self-proclaimed democratic socialist, Sanders has been lagging behind former Vice President Biden in several past primaries, starting in South Carolina in late February and culminating in the crucial states of Michigan and Florida last month, before the coronavirus outbreak disrupted the election process.
While admitting he cannot continue a "campaign that cannot win and which would interfere in the important work required of all of us in this difficult hour," Sanders insisted that he and his supporters have won on the ideological front.
"Few would deny that over the course of the past five years our movement has won the ideological struggle," said 78-year-old Sanders.
Over the course of the nominating contest, Biden - a moderate as opposed to Sanders' progressive stance - has built up a virtually insurmountable lead in the decisive delegate votes, garnering over half of the 1,991 votes needed for nomination, thus continuously narrowing Sanders' path toward a one-on-one with incumbent President Donald Trump in the general election.
The veteran politician said he will remain on the ballot in states that still expect to have primaries despite the COVID-19 pandemic, and that he will continue to gather delegates in order to carry his message forward. "While this campaign is coming to an end, our movement is not."
Sanders has campaigned on a progressive policy agenda that includes Medicare for All through a government-led healthcare system, the Green New Deal to cope with the climate change, and College for All that guarantees tuition- and debt-free public college, among other proposals.
In a tweet following Sanders' dropping out, Biden said: "I know Bernie well. He's a good man, a great leader, and one of the most powerful voices for change in our country. And it's hard to sum up his contributions to our politics in one, single tweet. So I won't try to."
While trying to appeal to Sanders' supporters by saying "I need to earn your votes," Biden vowed: "Together we will defeat Donald Trump," with a particular emphasis on issues of climate change, affordable college education, as well as universally available healthcare.
"I want to commend Bernie for being a powerful voice for a fairer and more just America," Biden said in a lengthy statement eulogizing his rival. "While the Sanders campaign has been suspended - its impact on this election and on elections to come is far from over."
Trump reacted on Twitter as well, saying Sanders' exit was what the Democrats and the Democratic National Committee "wanted."
Having repeatedly claimed in the past that the Democratic race is "rigged against" Sanders, the president in his latest tweet took a name-calling blame on progressive-leaning former Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren, saying had it not been for the Massachusetts senator, "Bernie would have won almost every state on Super Tuesday" in early March.
The president called on Sanders' supporters to "come to the Republican Party."
Now trailing presumptive nominee Biden in delegate votes 914 to 1,217, Sanders ran for president in the 2016 race but was defeated by Hilary Clinton in the Democratic nominating process.