Bernie Sanders is refocusing his campaign to be the Democratic nominee for US president after a disappointing showing on Super Tuesday.
The senator for Vermont shifted focus onto his rival Joe Biden’s record on trade, social security and fundraising after billionaire Mike Bloomberg suspended his campaign and Elizabeth Warren confirmed she was privately reassessing her future in the race.
Mr Sanders declared himself “neck and neck” with former vice president Mr Biden as he faced reporters in his home state, one of just four he captured on the most consequential day of voting in the party’s 2020 primary season. Mr Biden won 10 states in victories that transcended geography, race and class.
Mr Sanders launched familiar attacks against Mr Biden’s record but ignored supporters’ calls to be more aggressive and insisted his campaign would avoid any “Trump-type effort” that included personal criticism.
Mr Sanders said: “I like Joe. I think he’s a decent human being. Joe and I have a very different vision for the future of this country.”
Mr Biden told reporters he would unify the country and, without naming Mr Sanders, dismissed the senator’s frequent claim that he is beholden to an elite party establishment.
He described the establishment as “all those hard-working people” who voted on Tuesday.
Elected officials and leading donors rallied around Mr Biden after his Super Tuesday success. Top Democrats have long been sceptical of the 77-year-old lifelong politician’s political strength but raced to unite behind him to blunt Mr Sanders’ rise.
After suspending his campaign, Mr Bloomberg became the fourth failed Democratic presidential contender this week to endorse Mr Biden. Like the growing chorus of Democratic officials, Mr Bloomberg called Mr Biden the best chance to defeat Mr Trump in the general election.
Massachusetts senator Ms Warren’s future in the race is uncertain.
Mr Sanders confirmed that he spoke to his progressive ally earlier in the day, though it is unclear whether she will endorse him – or anyone else – should she leave the race. Ms Warren did not win a single state on Super Tuesday and finished in third place in her home state.
A resurgent Mr Biden, meanwhile, was poised to finish Super Tuesday with more delegates than Mr Sanders. Mr Sanders’ team had hoped he would finish the night more than 100 delegates ahead of his next closest competitor. He is likely to finish dozens of delegates behind once all the votes are counted.
The Sanders campaign announced it would begin airing three new campaign ads across states holding the next series of primary contests on March 10 and March 17: Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio and Washington state.
One new ad features archived footage of former president Barack Obama praising Mr Sanders. It is an attempt by Mr Sanders to undercut Mr Biden’s frequent spotlighting of his closeness to Mr Obama.