Sanders, who suspended his own White House bid less than a week ago, formally backed Biden in a surprise afternoon webcast. Biden, like Sanders before he dropped out, has been using online video to speak to voters over the last month of the coronavirus quarantines.
“Today,” Sanders said via split screen with Biden, stationed in his Delaware basement, “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, to make certain that we defeat somebody who I believe — and I’m speaking just for myself now — is the most dangerous president in the modern history of this country.”
As Sanders delivered the endorsement, Biden expressed what sounded and looked like a mix of surprise and relief, though the rest of their conversation suggested this was a coordinated moment. The former rivals said their teams would work together in specific policy areas.
“I have been very pleased that your staff and my staff have been working together over the last several weeks [to come] up with a number of task forces,” Sanders said. “These are task forces that will look at some of the most important issues facing this country,” among them the economy, education, immigration, criminal justice, climate change, and health care.
The Democratic primary between Biden and Sanders — and, for a while, many other candidates — often centered on a clash between the ideas put forth by Sanders and others on the progressive left and the more moderate incrementalism favored by Biden. But Biden signaled Monday that Sanders could have an influential role akin to policy adviser in the general election campaign.
“I think that your endorsement means a great deal, it means a great deal to me,” Biden said before turning deferential. “I think people are going to be surprised that we are apart on some issues but we’re awfully close on a whole bunch of others. If I am the nominee, which it looks like now you just made me, I’m going to need you, not just to campaign, but to govern.”
Then, in what struck as a more rehearsed moment, Biden asked if Sanders had any questions for him, ostensibly an opportunity for Sanders to extract some significant promise. Instead, Sanders asked if he could count on Biden’s support for a $15-an-hour minimum wage. Biden, who has been endorsing such a policy since launching his candidacy last year, quickly acquiesced. “Bernie,” the former vice president replied, “I am extremely supportive of that.”
Their livestream continued on for a bit longer, with Sanders expressing confidence that Biden’s campaign would be “inclusive.” (Since his strong performance in last month’s Super Tuesday primaries, Biden has made several public overtures for Sanders’ supporters.)
And Biden, who took some hits from Sanders even though they always maintained their friendship as rivals, was eager to hear more from him.
“Anything you want to do, anything at all,” Biden said, offering Sanders a closing statement.
Their other competition finally behind them, Sanders joked that they could play some chess.