U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders addresses a news conference in Burlington, Vermont, U.S. March 11, 2020. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign for the White House on Wednesday during a conference call with staff, making former Vice President Joe Biden the presumptive nominee to face Republican Donald Trump in the Nov. 3 election.

Sanders plans to address supporters during a livestream at 11:45 ET (1545 GMT), a statement said.

The U.S. senator from Vermont, a democratic socialist whose progressive agenda pulled the party sharply to the left, shot to an early lead in the Democratic race but faded quickly after losing South Carolina in late February as moderate Democrats consolidated their support behind Biden’s campaign.

The departure of Sanders, the last remaining rival to Biden, sets up a battle between the 77-year-old former vice president and Trump, 73, who is seeking a second four-year term in office.

Sanders’ decision to step aside came with the country in the grip of a coronavirus outbreak that upended the nominating elections schedule, with some primaries postponed and others up in the air. Sanders had been his party’s front-runner just a month ago.

Sanders, who also mounted an unexpectedly strong challenge in 2016 to eventual Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, had been under pressure to halt his campaign after Biden won resounding victories in primary contests on March 17 in Florida, Arizona and Illinois.

Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
source: reuters.com

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