Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont ended his presidential candidacy on Wednesday, concluding a quest that elevated him as a standard-bearer of American liberalism and clearing the way for a general election between the presumptive Democratic nominee, Joseph R. Biden Jr., and President Trump at a time of national crisis.
In a live-streamed speech, Mr. Sanders, eloquent but without his characteristic spark, cast his decision in the broader context of the fight against the coronavirus. “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,” Mr. Sanders said, adding, “While this campaign is coming to an end, our movement is not.”
If Mr. Biden, the former vice president, can now lay claim to the Democratic nomination, he still faces considerable challenges in uniting the party and mobilizing a broad base of voters for the November election. Unlike Mr. Sanders, Mr. Biden inspired little enthusiasm among young voters, nor did he develop signature policy proposals. He triumphed because many voters rejected Mr. Sanders’s policy agenda as too far to the left and prohibitively expansive, and were convinced that Mr. Biden had the best chance to beat Mr. Trump in November.
To motivate liberal Democrats who find him frustratingly conventional, Mr. Biden, 77, will most likely need to do far more to articulate an agenda on foundational Democratic issues like health care and climate change.
Those issues are central to Mr. Sanders’s candidacy, and in recent days, as Mr. Sanders began to consider dropping out more seriously, his aides intensified talks to find common ground with the Biden campaign. Mr. Sanders ultimately became satisfied that there was movement in directions that he wanted, a top aide said. The Biden campaign is expected to roll out a series of policy agreements with Mr. Sanders on health care and other issues — potentially including student loans — starting on Thursday, according to three people with direct knowledge of their plans.
The two camps were still negotiating the details on Wednesday, and while Mr. Biden is not expected to embrace Mr. Sanders’s full-throated call for “Medicare for all,” for example, they are striving to arrive at positions with which they are both comfortable.