Former rival Bernie Sanders endorses Joe Biden for president

Bernie Sanders endorsed his former rival Joe Biden for president on Monday, during a surprise appearance on a live stream related to the US response to the coronavirus pandemic.

After quitting the race for the White House last week, Bernie Sanders backed the former vice president for the Democratic nomination.

In a live split-screen webcast, Mr Biden thanked his former opponent for the endorsement. He said that Mr Sanders’ support meant a "great deal". The presidential hopeful will face President Donald Trump in November's election.

Senator Sanders, who urged all Americans to unite to defeat Mr Trump, described the current president as "the most dangerous president in the modern history of this country".

He said: "Today I am asking all Americans - I'm asking every Democrat, I'm asking every independent, I'm asking a lot of Republicans - to come together in this campaign to support your candidacy which I endorse.”

Sanders’ support of the former vice-president comes at a critical moment in the 2020 campaign, as Biden attempts to unify the party after a fiercely contested primary.

Sanders added: “We need you in the White House,” Sanders said. “We’ve got to make Trump a one-term president. I will do all that I can to make that happen.”

Sanders dropped out of the Democratic primary race last week after falling far behind Biden in the delegate count. He will remain on the ballot in states with remaining primaries to gain delegates and to continue influencing the Democratic platform.

Mr Biden, a former Delaware senator and vice-president thanked Sanders for his support. He said he was "deeply grateful" for the endorsement and said he needed Mr Sanders not just for the campaign, but to govern.

“You’ve been the most powerful voice for a fair and more just America,” Biden told Sanders. “You don’t get enough credit, Bernie, for being the voice that forces us to take a hard look in the mirror.” “If I am the nominee – which it looks like now you just made me – I really need you, not just to win the campaign but to govern,” Biden told Sanders. Mr Biden said he and Mr Sanders were setting up policy working groups to address issues including climate change, health care and college fees.

Biden still faces deep scepticism from young progressive voters, many of whom supported Sanders.

In recent weeks, Biden has started to ramp up his outreach to the party’s left, determined not to repeat the mistakes of 2016, when the party struggled to unify. He has also engaged top progressive organisations and movement leaders that represent a range of Democratic causes from climate change to racial justice.

While there are indications that Biden will continue to move left on issues like climate change, he is unlikely to adopt Sanders’ signature policy Medicare.

Asked recently if the coronavirus outbreak changed his position on universal healthcare, Biden said it hadn’t and argued expanding the Affordable Care Act was still the most effective and efficient way to insure more Americans.

Meanwhile, despite a hard-fought primary, the former competitors and one-time Senate colleagues displayed sincere affection for one another – a warm relationship Sanders never shared with his 2016 rival, Hillary Clinton.

Senator Sanders, a self-described "Democratic socialist", ended his presidential campaign last week, telling supporters he could see no feasible path to get enough votes to win the nomination.

He became an early front-runner, popular with younger voters, and made healthcare and income inequalities key election issues.

Sanders, who sought the presidential nomination as an Independent in 2016 for the first time, lost to Hillary Clinton. Sanders didn't formally endorse Clinton until mid-July, and while he campaigned for her in the autumn, critics suggest it was with insufficient enthusiasm.