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Photo: ANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

Sen. Bernie Sanders announced Wednesday that he is suspending his presidential campaign.

The big picture: It's an end to the campaign of the leading progressive in the race — and the candidate who seemed to be the clear front-runner for the Democratic nomination just a few months ago. It also makes Biden the presumptive Democratic nominee four months before the party's convention in Milwaukee.

  • Sanders, a democratic socialist whose signature campaign proposal was Medicare for All, had the enthusiastic backing of young voters and powerful momentum after a strong victory in the Nevada caucuses.
  • But he couldn't compete after one moderate candidate after another dropped out and endorsed Biden, driven by the desire to stop the nomination from going to a candidate they saw as too far left to defeat Trump.
  • Sanders has said he will support the Democratic nominee against Trump no matter what.

The backstory: Sanders gained a dedicated following in the 2016 primary, allowing him to enter the 2020 field with notable name recognition and strong grassroots support that helped fuel a massive fundraising operation.

  • He reached front-runner status near the turn of February, receiving the second-most delegates in Iowa before taking first in the New Hampshire primaries and Nevada caucuses.

But then Biden won South Carolina in February, largely due to his endorsement from "kingmaker" Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C) and his strength with black voters.

  • That began his rapid comeback, fueled by the endorsements of two moderate candidates who dropped out just before Super Tuesday: former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
  • Biden then dominated the Super Tuesday contests. He later won Michigan, the pivotal swing state that Sanders won in 2016, and Florida, extending what was effectively an insurmountable delegate lead.

After Super Tuesday, Sanders said he would remain in the race and debated Biden one-on-one in an effort to move the presumptive nominee to the left on several key issues. That strategy was at least partially successful, as Biden adopted Sanders' plan on college tuition and Sen. Elizabeth Warren's plan for bankruptcy reform.

The bottom line: The coronavirus has been smothering Sanders’ already difficult path to a comeback. 

  • The Bernie movement was built on on massive rally crowds and huge canvassing efforts, all of which has come to a grinding halt with social distancing. 
  • Sanders' chance to make his case on TV and social media has been crowded out by the public and media focus on the virus. For example, cable networks broke away from their primary coverage last month to discuss the virus.

This story is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

Go deeper

World leaders react to "new dawn in America" under Biden administration

President Biden reacts delivers his inaugural address on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

World leaders have pledged to work with President Biden on issues including the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, with many praising his move to begin the formal process for the U.S. to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement.

The big picture: Several leaders noted the swift shift from former President Trump's "America First" policy to Biden's action to re-engage with the world and rebuild alliances.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

In photos: The Biden and Harris inauguration

President Biden and first lady Jill Biden watch a fireworks show on the National Mall from the Truman Balcony at the White House on Wednesday night. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Biden signed his first executive orders into law from the Oval Office on Wednesday evening after walking in a brief inaugural parade to the White House with First Lady Jill Biden and members of their family. He was inaugurated with Vice President Kamala Harris at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday morning.

Why it matters: Many of Biden's day one actions immediately reverse key Trump administration policies, including rejoining the Paris Agreement and the World Health Organization, launching a racial equity initiative and reversing the Muslim travel ban.

Republicans pledge to set aside differences and work with Biden

President Biden speaks to Sen. Mitch McConnell after being sworn in at the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Photo: Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images

Several Republicans praised President Biden's calls for unity during his inaugural address on Wednesday and pledged to work together for the benefit of the American people.

Why it matters: The Democrats only have a slim majority in the Senate and Biden will likely need to work with the GOP to pass his legislative agenda.

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