Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the US presidential election hasbeen set as a contest between President Donald Trump and former Vice PresidentJoe Biden after the socialist Senator Bernie Sanders dropped out of theDemocratic race for nomination.
By conceding to Biden on Wednesday, Sanders will allow himand the party to focus on Trump and get an early start for a campaign directlyagainst Trump stretching for the next seven months instead of spendingresources for several months on infighting by party candidates for thenomination.
"I congratulate Joe Biden, a very decent man, who Iwill work with to move our progressive ideas forward," Sanders said in hislive-streamed announcement.
Biden said he realised "how hard a decision this wasfor him to make," adding, "Bernie has put his heart and soul into notonly running for president, but for the causes and issues he has been dedicatedto his whole life."
"I cannot in good conscience continue to mount acampaign that cannot win and which would interfere with the important workrequired of all of us in this difficult hour," Sanders said finallyrecognising the changed environment in a nation ravaged by COVID-19.
Sanders and Biden have not been able to hold rallies or evenhave house-to-house campaigns.
Trump, who has expressed preference for the self-describeddemocratic socialist Sanders to be his rival, roiled the political watersclaiming the nomination process was "rigged" against "CrazyBernie."
In an email to supporters soon after Sanders live-streamedhis decision, Trump took a dig at his favourite targets: "It's beenobvious from day one that the Democrats, the Fake News Media, the HollywoodElites, and the Deep State all want Sleepy Joe to be president no matter thecost."
An aggregation of the national polls by RealClear Politicsshowed that Biden was leading Trump by 6.3 per cent, but there has been someconcern in the Democratic Party with Trump's approval rating for handling thecoronavirus pandemic, although it has come down from a high of 50.6 last monthto 46.8 on Wednesday.
Sanders has ended a five-year quest for the presidency,during which he put up credible challenges to Hillary Clinton and to Biden, andit may be the last for the 78-year-old who suffered a mild heart attack duringthe current campaign.
In the 2016 party election, there were accusations that theDemocratic National Committee was biased against him and Representative TulsiGabbard, who criticised leadership, resigned as a party vice president to backSanders.
Several Democratic leaders wanted Sanders to drop out so theparty can present a united front against Trump
Although he was seeking the Democratic Party nomination,Sanders is officially an Independent member of the senate and not a partymember. The rules allowed him to run in the party election for the presidentialnomination.
Sanders announced that although he is suspending hiscampaign, he said would continue to stay on the party ballot so that he canhave delegates at the party convention "to exert significant influenceover the party platform."
"While this campaign is coming to an end, our movementis not," 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 apolitical campaign; he's created a movement."
Biden, who advocates a centrist agenda, is against someSanders's proposals like nationalised health care.
Intra-party elections – either by secret ballot known asprimaries, or open, in-person balloting known as caucuses – have been held inonly 28 of the 50 states.
Of the remaining states, 15 have postponed the partyelections because of the COVID-19 pandemic and 12 will have postal ballots.
The selection of the party candidate is by an indirectprocess with the primaries and caucuses electing delegates pledging to supportone of the candidates to the party convention where the party nomination willbe officially made.
With 3,979 elected delegates, a candidate will need 1,991delegates to win the nomination and Biden leads the delegates count with 1,217to Sanders's 914.
Sanders has only won in eight states, while Biden, who had aslow 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 endorsements from Democratic leadersand he is leading by a large margin among African-Americans, an importantsegment of the party, to whom Sanders could not appeal.
While the race started last year with 20 credible candidatesqualifying for the first party debate, they started dropping out seeing noprospects for themselves leaving only Biden and Sanders till today.
Among the candidates dropping out were Senator KamalaHarris, who is of Indian and Jamaican-African descent, and Gabbard, who isHindu by faith.
Despite being out of the running, Sanders has a large,vociferous support base dominated by young people.
Reaching out to them, Biden said he realised "how hardit is for the millions of his supporters — especially younger voters — whohave been inspired and energised and brought into politics by the progressiveagenda he has championed."
Originally scheduled for July and postponed to Augustbecause of the pandemic, the party convention to officially make the nominationwas in question because of the pandemic.
Biden has suggested holding it virtually because of thesocially distancing rules that may in force for months.
"We're going to have to do a convention, may have to doa virtual convention," he told a television interviewer on Sunday.
Sanders dropping out of the race would make this easierremoving one of the possible challenges.