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In Appeal to Progressives, Biden Praises 'Powerful' Movement Led by Sanders and Acknowledges He Must Earn Their Votes

Biden has struggled to win the support of young and independent voters in the Democratic primary.

Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders shake hands ahead of the third Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season in Houston, Texas on September 12, 2019. (Photo by Frederic J. Brown / AFP via Getty Images)

As the final remaining Democratic presidential candidate in the 2020 primary election following Sen. Bernie Sanders' decision to suspend his campaign, former Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday began outreach to the progressive senator's supporters to ask for their backing in the general election against President Donald Trump.

In a statement posted on Medium, Biden applauded Sanders for launching a movement "that is as powerful today as it was yesterday" and for the Vermont senator's commitment to fighting for economic justice, climate action, and human rights.

In the statement and on Twitter, Biden appealed to Sanders' supporters, particularly young voters whose backing the former vice president has struggled to obtain, and acknowledged that he has significant work to do to win their votes.

"You have put the interest of the nation—and the need to defeat Donald Trump—above all else," Biden wrote, addressing Sanders. "I'll be reaching out to you. You will be heard by me. As you say: Not me, Us."

"And to your supporters I make the same commitment: I see you, I hear you, and I understand the urgency of what it is we have to get done in this country," he continued. "I hope you will join us. You are more than welcome. You're needed."

Biden's outreach to Sanders' supporters followed numerous polls finding that although the former vice president appears to have effectively clinched the Democratic nomination, a majority of Americans do not share his views on healthcare, the climate, and the far-reaching changes needed to create an economy which prioritizes the needs of working people over corporate profits. 

In every exit poll available for the states where voters went to the polls in the primary, majorities of voters said they supported a government-run healthcare system rather than the current for-profit health insurance system, making clear that although Biden won more delegates than Sanders, the Vermont senator's central campaign proposal is broadly popular. 

Medicare for All has also polled well in national surveys, with 55% saying they support opening the popular government-run healthcare program to all Americans and 75% of Democrats telling Morning Consult/Politico last week that they support the proposal—one which Biden has claimed is unrealistic and said he could veto if he wins the presidency and it passes in Congress, citing its cost. 

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"One thing Joe Biden could do to win over Bernie supporters is explain why his healthcare plan leaves 10 million americans uninsured," wrote New Republic journalist Libby Watson, "or even maybe change his plan so it doesn't do that!"

In 18 out of 23 states with exit polls, independent voters supported Sanders—causing alarm last month among progressives who are concerned that independent voters will not turn out in November to support Biden.  

Last month, a survey by ABC News/The Washington Post showed that just 24% of Biden's supporters were enthusiastic about voting for him, compared to 53% of people planning to support Trump in the general election—a sharp contrast to polling in January which showed Sanders' base was most excited to vote for their chosen candidate compared with supporters of Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

In his statement, Biden signaled an awareness of the issues that are consistently ranked as most important to working Americans and young voters, including the cost of higher education, healthcare, and climate action.

"Our first job is to get through the immediate crisis threatening the public health and getting help into the pockets of America's workers," wrote Biden of the coronavirus pandemic which has thrown millions of Americans out of work and off their employer-sponsored health insurance plans. "But we also need to take a hard look at what we need to fix and change in this country. Many of the biggest cracks in the social safety net have been laid bare—from healthcare to paid sick leave to a more extensive and comprehensive system of unemployment benefits. We will need to address these."

As Biden became the presumptive Democratic nominee with Sanders' departure, several youth-led advocacy groups penned an open letter to the former vice president calling on him to take seriously their demands for bold, far-reaching reforms, and to work to inspire voters as Sanders did.

"Young people are issues-first voters," wrote the groups, including Justice Democrats, March for Our Lives Action Fund, and NextGen America. "Fewer identify with a political party than any other generation. Exclusively anti-Trump messaging won't be enough to lead any candidate to victory. We need you to champion the bold ideas that have galvanized our generation and given us hope in the political process." 

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