Bernie Sanders ended his campaign for president this morning, reports CBS News campaign reporter Cara Korte. "Today, I am announcing the suspension of active campaigning, and congratulate Joe Biden, a very decent man, on his victory," he said, addressing supporters from his Burlington, Vermont, home via livestream.
Sanders, who early in the primary process was seen as the favorite to win the Democratic nomination, said, "If I believed we had a feasible path to the nomination I would certainly continue the campaign. But it's not there." Sanders told supporters the COVID-19 crisis played a large role in his decision to leave the race. "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," he said.
Remarkably, Sanders never made a speech like this in 2016. He rode the campaign into the convention, without ever having said the words he did today. But what is similar to 2016 is that Sanders is not yielding all his influence just yet.
"I will stay on the ballot in all remaining states and continue to gather delegates," he said. "While Vice President Biden will be the nominee, we should still work to assemble as many delegates as possible at the Democratic convention where we will be able to exert significant influence over the party platform and other functions. Then, together, standing united, we will go forward to defeat Donald Trump, the most dangerous president in modern American history."
The move is signature Sanders. The senator is throwing his metaphorical support behind Biden, whom he has always called a friend, all the while fanning the movement he leads. "We will fight to elect strong progressives at every level of government – from Congress to the school board."
Sanders has always referred to his progressive platform as a growing tide that represents the inevitable future of the party. "While the path may be slower now, we will change this country and, with like-minded friends around the globe, the entire world," he said. In his final words to supporters today, he said, "Please stay in this fight with me. Let us go forward together. The struggle continues."
Joe Biden and Sanders spoke around midday today about the senator's decision to suspend his campaign, a source familiar with the call told CBS News political correspondent Ed O'Keefe. This was one of several calls between the two opponents in recent weeks to discuss the future of their campaigns.
Former President Barack Obama has been in touch with Sanders a few times in recent weeks as the senator mulled his campaign's future, according to a person familiar with those calls who was granted anonymity to speak frankly about them. But that's in keeping with the former president's interactions with most of the Democratic contenders. Keeping close tabs on the campaign, the former president has spoken with most of the Democratic presidential contenders in recent months, usually right after they decided to end their respective bids.
FROM THE CANDIDATES
Joe Biden is now the likely 2020 Democratic presidential nominee after his last remaining opponent, Bernie Sanders, dropped out of the race on Wednesday morning, reports CBS News campaign reporter Bo Erickson. After Sanders announced the end of his presidential campaign, Biden told Sanders in a statement, "You will be heard by me. As you say: Not me, Us." He also addressed the senator's supporters: "I see you, I hear you, and I understand the urgency of what it is we have to get done in this country. I hope you will join us. You are more than welcome. You're needed." Now, sources tell CBS News that Biden is already in a "pre-vetting" stage to find a running mate, winnowing a larger list of women-only candidates, since the vetting process requires immense resources.
Biden launched his third bid for the White House in Pittsburgh 349 days ago. The trail for him at times has been rocky but his campaign's core message of "electability" won out as Democratic voters consolidated around him as other moderate Democratic candidates left the race. If elected, Biden would be just the fourth former vice president to be elected president since the ratification of the 12th Amendment and the only other one besides Richard Nixon to do so in non-consecutive administrations.
In the wake of Senator Bernie Sanders' departure from the trail, the Trump campaign has launched a new digital ad comparing the Vermont senator to former Vice President Joe Biden. CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga says the organization plans to spend six figures on the 30-second spot, according to a Trump campaign spokesperson. "Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden – a big government socialist and a big government liberal," the advertisement reads in part. "They're more alike than you think. But at least Bernie remembers his positions."
"With Bernie Sanders suspending his campaign, it's all but official that the Democrat establishment got the candidate they wanted in Joe Biden, as well as the candidate President Trump will destroy in November," Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement following the Sanders announcement. "President Trump is still disrupting Washington, DC, while Biden represents the old, tired way and continuing to coddle the communist regime in China. Democrat elites shoved Bernie Sanders to the side for a second time, leaving many of his supporters looking for a new home."
Official or not, the Trump campaign has treated the former vice president as the presumptive Democratic nominee for several weeks, targeting Biden in a number of tweets, editorials and digital livestreams. Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called Joe Biden's recent TV appearances "sad," while appearing on a digital campaign livestream alongside Trump campaign senior adviser Lara Trump just last night. "It's very easy for Joe Biden to sit in his basement bunker and attack the president," she told thousands of viewers tuning in live. "But what is really hard is leading a country in a time of crisis."
LIFE AFTER 2020
During an interview on ABC's "The View", Sen. Kamala Harris called for a suspension of credit card interest, fees and penalties for 120 days amid the coronavirus outbreak. Harris also called for the end of negative reporting to credit scores, according to CBS News campaign reporter Tim Perry.
"People are not going to pay their bills on time. A lot of folks just are not, and at the end of this pandemic, it's going to be awful for them to be trying to get back on their feet," Harris said, adding, "It's going to go on their credit score. It takes a lifetime for people to clean up their credit scores, and folks should be able to have as much as possible to get back on their feet after this pandemic."
Following the exit of Sanders from the race, a man Harris called "an extraordinary leader," Harris was also asked if she was interested in being the vice presidential pick for Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee. "So I know that conversation is taking place in the press and among pundits and I'm honored to even be considered if that is the case, but I have to be very, very honest with you. I am full-time focused on what we need to do to address the coronavirus."
Following Sanders' announcement, other former presidential candidates also showed support for Sanders through statements and on Twitter, says CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro. Senator Elizabeth Warren, long considered as another progressive option to Sanders during the race, Tweeted that Sanders' "fight for progressive ideas moved the conversation and charted a path for candidates and activists that will change the course of our country and party. That fight does not end today. We'll continue it together in the Senate."
Other candidates were blunt in their praise of Senator Sanders. Andrew Yang tweeted, "Bernie Sanders is a f**cking hero. Let's come together and beat this guy." Marianne Williamson, one of the few former presidential candidates to back Sanders, called for Biden supporters to "be neither patronizing nor condescending nor disrespectful nor critical -today, tomorrow, or the next day - to people who sincerely believed that Bernie was their only chance for healthcare, higher education & a fair shot in America."
BY THE NUMBERS
When Biden entered the race for the Democratic nomination in April of 2019, he was widely seen as the front-runner. Now, 348 days later, Biden is the presumptive Democratic nominee after Sanders suspended his campaign late Wednesday morning. CBS News campaign reporter Musadiq Bidar notes Biden outlasted 28 other candidates vying for the Democratic Party nomination. The historically large field of candidates included seven members of the House of Representatives, four of them current and three former.
At one point seven senators currently in office and one former senator were also fighting to become their party's nominee. With six women and seven candidates of color, the diversity of the field was a storyline throughout a primary season that essentially began nearly three years ago in the summer of 2017 when former Maryland Congressman John Delaney first entered the race.
There were four mayors, two of them from New York City and two of them from small cities that many hadn't heard of before this primary season. A few governors, two that are still in office and one former also threw their names into the ring. The two billionaires looking to win the nomination combined to spend $1.2 billion on their campaigns. One didn't even enter the race until November but still managed to spend at least $875 million through February.
Nearly a year after Biden first entered the race, the 2020 Democratic primary season is over. In the end, for a 77-year-old former vice president, the third time was indeed the charm. Biden, unsuccessful in his previous two attempts to win the Democratic nomination, is now the party's standard bearer. The November election is only 208 days away.
POLLS, POLLS, POLLS
Two new polls out Wednesday find confidence in the federal government's response to the coronavirus pandemic is down, according to CBS News political unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice. In the Quinnipiac University Poll, only 46% approve of President Trump's handling of the coronavirus while 51% disapprove. At the same time, only 44% approve of Congress' handling of the virus, while 46% disapprove. In general, Monmouth polling found Americans have become less satisfied with the federal government's actions to slow the spread of the virus over the past few weeks. Fifty-four percent say the measures have not gone far enough, up from 45% in late March. At the same time, Monmouth found 55% of Americans say that the federal government is not doing enough to help states that have been hit hard by the outbreak.
While the majority of Americans want the federal government to do more, state leaders and governments are receiving higher marks for their efforts. According to Monmouth, six in 10 Americans say the steps taken by their individual states have been appropriate, while just 30% say they have not gone far enough. That same poll found 72% believe the state governors are doing a good job, and public praise for governors remains bipartisan. At the same time, Quinnipiac found 74% approve of the job their state's governor is doing, while 24% disapprove.
While his presidential campaign has been sidelined by the virus, there was some good news for Biden in the latest polling. Quinnipiac found a majority of Americans believe he would have done a better job handling the crisis than Trump, 51% to 42%.
Overall, in a head-to-head general election matchup, the national poll found Biden beating Trump 49% to 41%. But across the board, the person with the highest marks right now in their coronavirus response is Dr. Anthony Fauci. Monmouth found more than 1 in 3 Americans named Fauci the person they trust the most among the public officials who appear on TV talking about the COVID-19 outbreak. In the Quinnipiac poll, he had the highest approval at 78% to 7% disapproval.
Two Democratic super PACs are ramping up their digital efforts focused on President Trump's coronavirus response, according to CBS News political unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice. Priorities USA Action announced Wednesday that it's launching seven new ads online as part of its $7.6 million effort in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and Florida. One of the ads focuses on the doctors and nurses on the frontlines who lack adequate personal protective gear, or PPE.
Another ad focuses on a shortage of ventilators, while a third highlights the rise in U.S. cases to those in other countries. Two spots also compare the Trump administration and president's words to former Vice President Joe Biden's comments.
"We're paying close attention to voters' consumption habits during this crisis to ensure we're reaching voters where they are spending their time, even in a changing environment," said Priorities USA Action director of paid media Danielle Butterfield in a statement. The ads are running on pre-roll video, social media, and streaming TVs and are airing at a greater frequency in areas where the group is not running TV ads.
Meanwhile, American Bridge is expanding its digital ad effort in Pennsylvania. The Super PAC announced a five-figure ad buy will begin running Wednesday in the keystone state targeting former Trump supporters and swing voters. The ad also focuses on Trump's early response to the pandemic while highlighting some of the projected numbers in Pennsylvania. American Bridge has already been running some ads in the battleground states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.
Ahead of Georgia's May 19th primary election, the state Democratic Party and the DNC will text more than one million Georgia voters to encourage them to fill out and mail in absentee ballot applications. CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell reports this move comes one week after the state began mailing absentee ballot request forms to its 6.9 million active voters in an effort to reduce the amount of in-person interaction amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Georgia's governor and top legislators extended the state's public health state of emergency Wednesday as more than 9,000 cases have been confirmed and 362 deaths have been reported throughout the state. In a release sent Wednesday, the Georgia Democratic Party stated that this is the first time in the state's history that voters have been proactively sent an application to vote by mail and as a result many voters may be unfamiliar with the process.
"In 2018, only 7% of voters voted absentee by mail," the release stated. "However, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and with in-person voting locations closing at alarming rates, the state, along with the Democratic Party of Georgia, are encouraging all voters to vote by mail who are able."
As the DPG and DNC encourage Georgia voters to vote by mail, the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday against Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and the Dekalb County Board of Registration and Elections. The complaint challenges whether Georgia voters should be required to provide their own postage stamps when returning their absentee ballots and ballot applications by mail. The ACLU on behalf of Black Voters Matters filed the complaint, calling it a poll tax for voters to have to buy postage. "By refusing to provide voters with postage paid envelopes, the secretary of state has not only imposed a poll tax on individual voters, he has placed an undue burden on the organizations dedicated to increasing voter turnout," said Cliff Albright, co-founder and executive director of Black Voters Matter Fund, in a statement. "Every minute and every dime we spend helping voters to navigate the postage requirement means we have fewer resources for other voter mobilization efforts. Given the history of the secretary of state's office viewing voter mobilization organizations as threats…one can't help but wonder if this undue burden was actually one of his objectives."
The ACLU said the group would seek a preliminary injunction to require election officials to provide prepaid returnable envelopes for absentee ballots and absentee ballot applications. During a press conference earlier this week to announce the creation of an absentee ballot fraud task force to investigate potential absentee ballot discrepancies, Raffensperger noted in his remarks that Georgians could use an email address that was provided to send theirs if they didn't have access to stamps. Georgia Democratic Party chair Nikema Williams told Mitchell in an interview Monday that the creation of the task force was an attempt to intimidate and dissuade voters from using absentee ballots and potentially not cast their votes.
The ACLU lawsuit outlines in part that many lower-income voters don't have postage stamps, lack transportation access to get postage stamps in rural communities, and don't have internet access or a credit card to buy stamps online. The complaint adds that voters "cannot be expected to needlessly expose themselves to the pandemic just to get stamps in order to vote."
In a statement, Sophia Lin Lakin, deputy director of the ACLU's Voting Rights Project, said, "No one should have to choose between protecting their health and their right to vote." She added, "In failing to provide prepaid postage for absentee ballots, Georgia is creating an unconstitutional obstacle to voting. We won't allow for a modern-day poll tax."
Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon officially pushed to expand mail voting on Wednesday by proposing legislation to a state house subcommittee on elections. His proposal calls for sending mail-in ballots to all registered voters, to change any polling places in vulnerable areas like senior centers, and to allow extra time to be able to process the votes. Simon hinted to this during Wisconsin's Tuesday elections, and Tweeted, "What's happening today in Wisconsin's election is a tragedy. If we want a better outcome in Minnesota, we'll need changes to our laws - which means legislative cooperation. This is a time for action, not political games."
Minnesota's federal Congressional elections are slated for August 11. CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro reports Simon's proposals still needs to be passed in the state legislature, a potential uphill battle as Republicans, in state and nationwide, have expressed concerns about fraud and people taking advantage of mail ballots.
New Jersey has become the latest state to postpone its presidential primary, reports CBS News political unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice. Governor Phil Murphy announced Wednesday that he's signing an executive order to move the state's elections from June 2 to July 7. In a tweet, Murphy wrote, "Our democracy cannot be a casualty of #COVID19. We want to ensure that every voter can vote without endangering their health or safety."
New Jersey joins 11 other states and Puerto Rico which have all postponed primaries. Murphy also indicated that while the state is looking to move forward with in-person voting, should the public health situation not improve, the move will also give them more time to implement all vote-by-mail for the first time.
On Wednesday, Democratic Governor Ralph Northam used his executive powers to move all June 9 primary elections, including the state's congressional primaries, to June 23 in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, according to CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro. He's also requested that the state's general assembly move the May local general elections and any other special elections be moved to November 3.
"As other states have shown, conducting an election in the middle of this global pandemic would bring unprecedented challenges and potential risk to voters and those who work at polling places across the Commonwealth. Making these decisions now will help election officials prepare and implement the necessary changes," said Northam. Under the authority granted to Northam, he is able to move elections by a maximum of two weeks, without full approval from the state legislature.
A day after Wisconsin held its election during a pandemic, CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster says some voters are reporting that absentee ballots are only just arriving in the mail. The late-arriving ballots could be one issue that prompts legal action related to Tuesday's election. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Monday night that absentee ballots had to be postmarked by Tuesday or returned by the time polls close in order to be counted. While it's not clear yet how many people this affected, Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) Administrator Meagan Wolfe said there isn't any action these voters can take to cast their ballot at this point.
"There really isn't any additional things for this election that a voter could do if their ballot didn't make it by the deadline," Wolfe told reporters on Wednesday. There were many reports from voters on Tuesday who didn't receive their ballot in time, even if they requested the ballot weeks ago. Wolfe said that the WEC has asked the U.S. Postal Service if they're aware of any "group of ballots that are still in the processing facility or may have experienced problems."
Earlier on Wednesday, Wisconsin Republican State Senator Dan Feyen tweeted about a postal worker who just found "3 large tubs of absentee ballots from Oshkosh and Appleton." Wolfe told reporters they were aware of the situation and are working to figure out whether those were outbound ballots that never reached voters or ballots that were in the process of returning to clerks offices. The WEC reported this morning that more than 1 million absentee ballots have been returned out of the 1,287,827 requested.
IN THE SENATE
Incumbent Senator Ed Markey is behind on the number of signatures his campaign needs to submit to the secretary of state in order to make the ballot for the Senate primary. In order to make the ballot, Markey needs to submit 10,000 signatures by May 5. His campaign is a few thousand signatures short and signature collecting will be hard during coronavirus.
Markey's campaign manager, John Walsh, said in a statement to CBS News associate producer Eleanor Watson, "Because we can no longer organize in the traditional face-to-face venues, our campaign is utilizing all the virtual tools available such as phone calls, Twitter, Facebook and other social media, and email to collect signatures, with delivery of the physical pieces of paper by good old fashioned mail through the USPS — all of which is strengthening our campaign's connection to the voters." Even though he's falling short in signatures, Markey will receive the endorsement of the state's Democratic party because he received the majority of delegates in the caucuses that took place before coronavirus struck.
IN THE HOUSE
Most of the nine House members that endorsed now former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders immediately thanked him for his campaign, and for furthering the progressive movement, CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro reports. New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, one of the higher-profile campaign trail surrogates for the senator, Tweeted, "Thank you Bernie - for doing your best to fight for all of us, from the beginning, for your entire life. Thank you for fighting hard, lonely fights in true devotion to a people's movement in the United States. Thank you for your leadership, mentorship, and example. We love you."
Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Pramila Jayapal both emphasized the importance of unifying the party and voting Trump out of office. "For those of you who plan to sit this election out or vote for Trump, just stop. The livelihoods of millions of marginalized people are at stake. We must all fight like hell to get Donald Trump out of the White House and end the rise of fascism in this country," Omar tweeted. Independent Congressman Justin Amash of Michigan, who notably dropped his affiliation with the Republican party last year, tweeted that "Trump versus Biden is not the contest America deserves or the one it needs right now." Amash had been previously considered as a potential Libertarian Party presidential nominee.