Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden begins reaching out to Bernie Sanders’ supporters


Former Vice President Joe Biden has begun to reach out to Sen. Bernie Sanders’ supporters as the presumptive Democratic nominee seeks to unite the party ahead of the November general election.

Mallory Tope

Sen. Bernie Sanders suspended his presidential campaign April 8, leaving former Vice President Joe Biden as the only Democratic candidate running for president in the 2020 election against President Donald Trump. 

In order for Biden to officially become the Democratic nominee, he needs to reach 1,991 pledged delegates and receive the official party endorsement at the Democratic National Convention scheduled for August. There are 23 states, two territories and the District of Columbia where primaries have yet to take place, with 1,593 delegates up for grabs.

Sanders’ name will still be on ballots for the remaining primaries, allowing him to continue to gain delegates. Sanders currently has 914 delegates, while Biden has won 1,217 delegates, according to an Associated Press delegate count.

“Sanders is going to hold onto his delegates, which will give him some leverage for negotiating in the upcoming months,” said Mack Shelley, Iowa State professor and chair of the political science department. 

The Vermont senator has since endorsed Biden’s candidacy.

The Democratic National Convention is set to be hosted Aug. 17-20 in Milwaukee after being postponed due to COVID-19. 

“Since Biden is the only Democratic candidate running, it is very unlikely for him to not get the official nomination, so Biden can begin planning ahead for the general election now instead of worrying about beating Sanders,” Shelley said. 

Biden began reaching out to Sanders supporters April 9 when he announced his plans to lower the Medicare eligibility age and forgive some student debt. “Senator Sanders and his supporters can take pride in their work in laying the groundwork for these ideas,” Biden said in a post on the website Medium.  

Sanders has had overwhelming support from young voters and especially college students, Shelley said. 

“Bernie definitely had the student vote locked down, and Bernie supporters have shown themselves to be unwilling to leave his side, even when he loses,” said Dawson Weathers, sophomore in political science. “The way Biden is currently campaigning, I don’t think he’s gained the support of students that he needs.”

According to a poll conducted by Chegg before Sanders ended his campaign, he led Biden by 50 percent in support among Democratic college students before he dropped out of the race.

“Students and young voters have only one choice, Trump or Biden,” said Steffen Schmidt, professor of political science. “If they want Trump reelected, they can do that without actually voting for Trump; they can just not vote or vote for some ‘third party’ candidate who will come along. Then Trump will have a second term.”

Students may be motivated to vote for Biden, even if it is just to beat out Trump, Weathers said. 

According to the RealClearPolitics polling average, Biden leads against Trump by 5.9 percent in a general election matchup as of April 14. 

Sanders’ supporters could make or break Biden’s campaign in November if they choose not to vote for Biden, Shelley said.

“Enough people could be turned off from both Biden and Trump and think that neither are good options and either not vote or vote with a mindset similar to 2016,” Shelley said.