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Bernie Sanders throws support behind former Democrat rival Joe Biden

Click to play video 'Bernie Sanders endorses former VP Joe Biden for president' Bernie Sanders endorses former VP Joe Biden for president
WATCH: Bernie Sanders endorses former VP Joe Biden for president

Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, the likely Democratic nominee, was formally endorsed on Monday by longtime rival Bernie Sanders, a move that may help unify a Democratic Party ahead of a general-election matchup against Republican President Donald Trump.

Sanders, the progressive firebrand who last week suspended his presidential campaign, joined Biden in an online campaign event, citing the coronavirus outbreak as a reason for the party to come together.

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That made for a stark contrast to 2016, when Sanders waited until the eve of the Democratic National Convention in the summer to support the then-nominee, Hillary Clinton.

Before the pandemic brought the Democratic primary contest to a virtual halt, Biden had built up a commanding delegate edge against Sanders, leading the Vermont senator to declare last week he saw no viable path to the nomination.

Click to play video 'As Sanders suspends White House bid, Biden becomes presumptive Democratic nominee' As Sanders suspends White House bid, Biden becomes presumptive Democratic nominee
As Sanders suspends White House bid, Biden becomes presumptive Democratic nominee

Even so, it remained unclear how soon Sanders, who is especially popular with liberal young voters, would rally behind Biden, whose support comes chiefly from the party’s older moderates.

“Your endorsement means a great deal,” Biden said to Sanders as the two appeared side-by-side on Biden’s campaign website. He called Sanders “the most powerful voice for a fair and more just America.”

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READ MORE: Bernie Sanders drops out of 2020 Democratic presidential race

Even before Sanders, endorsement, Biden’s campaign had begun to reach out to progressive advocacy groups centered around issues such as climate change and racial justice in a bid to the heal the longtime tension between the moderate and progressive camps within the party.

Trump has worked on social media to try and keep Sanders’ supporters away from Biden, suggesting that Sanders had been forced out by the Democratic establishment.

Click to play video 'Trump questions Bernie Sanders decision to drop out of 2020 race while keeping delegates' Trump questions Bernie Sanders decision to drop out of 2020 race while keeping delegates
Trump questions Bernie Sanders decision to drop out of 2020 race while keeping delegates

With social distancing in widespread effect, Biden has been forced to move the bulk of his campaign to virtual events and has watched as the global pandemic had relegated the 2020 presidential race to the back burner.

The Sanders endorsement gives him a jolt of energy and attention at time when his campaign could use it.

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