2016 race

He’s with her: At long last, Bernie Sanders endorses Hillary Clinton

Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders wave together during a campaign rally where Sanders endorsed Clinton in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, U.S., July 12, 2016. (REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont hadn’t yet officially dropped out of the 2016 presidential race or conceded to Clinton, but on Tuesday at a rally in New Hampshire, he threw his support behind the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. Indeed, Hillary Clinton finally “felt the Bern” as he officially endorsed her for president. (A campaign spokesperson, however, told The Atlantic that Sanders is not dropping out of the 2016 race.)

Clinton and Sanders emerged to cheers from an enthusiastic crowd and stood next to one another onstage behind a podium that had the words “Stronger Together” emblazoned across its front, a powerfully symbolic statement that the two had finally united and that the Democratic party is unifying after a tough primary battle. Sanders began his remarks by touting the successes of his campaign, and then pivoted into the moment everyone was waiting for.

“I intend to make certain she will be the next president of the United States,” Sanders told the audience, drawing a round of applause. “I have come here to make it as clear as possible as to why I am endorsing,” Sanders said, pausing amid raucous cheers from supporters, “and why she must become our next president.” Watch the complete video below or read the full transcript of his prepared remarks here.

It’s an occasion that he’s flirted with in recent weeks — at one point saying in an interview on MSNBC that he would vote for Hillary Clinton in the November election — but has repeatedly stopped short of seeing through. Last week, The New York Times reported that the endorsement was imminent, but was weeks in the making. According to the report, Sanders finally reached the decision to back Clinton “after three weeks of private preparations.”

For Clinton, winning the endorsement of Sanders, whose insurgent candidacy shocked the political world, couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. On Tuesday morning, The Associated Press released results of a GenForward poll that focused on young voters’ impressions of the candidates. Clinton, the survey showed, struggles with younger voters. The GenForward poll showed Clinton has weaknesses with younger voters across several demographics. Only 26 percent of young white voters and 49 percent of young Hispanic voters responded that they have a positive opinion of the presumptive nominee.

Young Hispanic voters prefer Sanders to Clinton by a nearly  3-to-1 margin. And more than 40 percent had an unfavorable view of Clinton, the results showed. They were also more likely to say Clinton is untrustworthy and slightly more likely to say she’s unqualified to be president than young African Americans.

Sanders explained to Clinton’s supporters that he ultimately came around to endorsing due to some of the changes he was able to influence in the latest version of the Democratic party’s platform.

“It is no secret that Hillary Clinton and I disagree on a number of issues — that’s what this campaign has been about,” Sanders said. “There was a significant coming together between the two campaigns and we produced, by far, the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party.” Sanders also leveled withering criticism at Clinton’s likely opponent, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. “In these stressful times for our country, this election must be about bringing our people together, not dividing us up,” Sanders said. “While Donald Trump is busy insulting Mexicans, Muslims, women, African Americans and veterans, Hillary Clinton understands that our diversity is one of our greatest strengths.”

Trump responded to the attacks, a sign of what’s to come from Democrats over the next few months, by saying in a post on Twitter that Sanders “is now officially part of a rigged system” he once bemoaned.

After Sanders wrapped up his remarks, Clinton stood behind the podium and thanked Sanders for the endorsement. “You were great, so great,” she said, also singing the praises of his wife, Jane, and what they accomplished with Sanders’s campaign.  Clinton then quickly launched into a typical stump speech, making Trump the target of her attacks.

With your help, we’re joining forces to defeat Donald Trump, win in November, and build a future we can all believe in,” Clinton said. “Thank you, thank you Bernie for your endorsement, but more than that, thank you for your lifetime of fighting injustice. I am proud to be fighting alongside you because, my friends, this is a time for all of us to stand together.”

Clinton went on to hit Trump a number of times and mentioned her previous accomplishments as secretary of state and as a U.S. Senator from New York. She also praised the Obama administration, but never strayed far from topics that are close to the hearts of Sanders supporters. She pledged to raise the national minimum wage to $15 an hour and vowed to reform college tuition so people aren’t saddled with crippling loans for decades. As she closed her remarks, she made one final appeal to Sanders supporters.

“We accept $27 donations too, ya know?” she quipped in a reference to the amount of money Sanders often said was the average donation he received from supporters.

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