The Bern ain’t done yet.
Bernie Sanders vowed to continue his struggling presidential campaign Wednesday even after suffering another crushing defeat at the hands of rival Joe Biden.
The balding lefty insisted that he would debate Biden Sunday ahead of another crucial round of primaries next Tuesday in Florida, Illinois, Ohio and Arizona.
“I very much look forward to the debate in Arizona with my friend, Joe Biden,” Sanders said.
“Donald Trump must be defeated, and I will do everything in my power to make that happen,” Sanders said. “On Sunday night, in the first one-on-one debate of this campaign, the American people will have the opportunity to see which candidate is best positioned to accomplish that goal.”
Sanders broke his silence a day after he was decisively beaten by Biden in the crucial swing state of Michigan, a Rust Belt battleground, and several other key states.
He boasted that his campaign had rallied young people and progressive voters behind a movement like no other.
Despite his insistence that he would stay in the race, Sanders sounded an almost valedictory note.
He repeatedly referred to Biden as “my friend” and conceded that millions of Democratic voters see Biden as a better bet to beat President Trump in November.
“I cannot tell you how many people … have said, ‘I’m going to vote for Joe Biden because I think Joe is the best candidate to defeat Donald Trump.’” End of quote,” Sanders said. “We have heard that statement all over this country.”
Sanders said he will grill Biden Sunday on a series of crucial policy disagreements, including climate change, student debt and most importantly his signature issue of health care.
“Joe, what are you going to do to end the absurdity of the United States of America being the only major country on Earth where health care is not a human right?” Sanders said, previewing a line of argument against Biden.
The tone of Sanders, who commands a devoted army of progressive supporters, was far different from the stubborn anger he displayed during his bitter primary fight against Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Four years ago, he refused to concede defeat for months even as Clinton rolled up an insurmountable delegate lead. Many of his supporters refused to back Clinton or voted for third-party candidates in November, a crucial factor in Trump’s narrow electoral college win.
This time, Sanders stressed the importance of Democrats coming together to back the eventual nominee to oust Trump.
Sanders made the decision to soldier on after spending the morning cloistered with his wife, Jane, CNN reported. Aides were tight-lipped about Sanders’ future plans until just a few minutes before the speech in his hometown of Burlington, Vermont.
The crushing defeats on Tuesday, combined with his disastrous performance on Super Tuesday left the Vermont senator without a viable path to winning the Democratic nomination.
Things look even grimmer for Sanders in the upcoming contests, where polls show Biden with huge leads, especially in battleground Florida.
Despite the daunting electoral math, few allies expected Sanders to pull the plug on his crusade, especially before he gets a chance to joust with Biden in a man-on-man debate with Biden.
He will apparently get that wish on Sunday, albeit in an unorthodox setting of a debate with no audience due to the coronavirus crisis.
The announcement came amid inescapable evidence that Sanders has failed to turn his progressive activist movement into a winning Democratic presidential campaign.
Sanders seemed on the brink of wrapping up the nomination after winning early voting contests in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada. Biden faced a do-or-die contest in South Carolina with polls showed his support wavering even among his “firewall” of black support.
But Biden turned the campaign around in a flash, riding an overwhelming victory among black voters to a decisive victory over Sanders in South Carolina. He then unexpectedly won the support of several erstwhile rivals who had battled him for support of moderate voters.
Just three days later, Biden rocked Sanders on Super Tuesday with a shocking upset in Texas and lopsided wins across the Deep South. He also beat Sanders in his supposed strongholds of Minnesota and the New England states of Massachusetts and Maine.
Sanders did manage to ride his popularity among young voters and Latinos to victory in delegate-rich California, but even that win was mostly powered by voters who cast ballots early before Biden’s remarkable surge.
Michigan was seen as a crucial test for Sanders’ claim that he can rally working-class white voters and young people into a winning coalition. Along with Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, it was one of three bricks in the Democratic “blue wall” that Trump famously won on his road to a surprise victory.
Sanders shocked Clinton by sweeping the battleground state. This time, Biden won every single county in the state.
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