PORTSMOUTH, N.H. (CN) – Bernie Sanders endorsed Hillary Clinton in a joint rally in New Hampshire on Tuesday that sought to unite the Democratic Party after a divisive primary battle.
“Secretary Clinton has won the Democratic nominating process, and I congratulate her for that,” the Vermont senator said. “She will be the Democratic nominee for president, and I intend to do everything I can to make certain she will be the next president of the United States.”
The two walked out together, waving at the crowd gathered at Portsmouth High School’s gymnasium, before taking the stage behind “Stronger Together” banner.
Sander’s endorsement comes more than a month after primary season’s end and less than two weeks before the Democratic Convention. The stalling of his support seemed to pressure both Clinton and the party to negotiate key issues that had driven his campaign’s success.
“It’s no secret we disagree on a number of issues,” Sanders told the crowd, but called a Democratic platform meeting on Sunday in Orlando a “significant coming together” that produced the most “progressive platform in the history of the democratic party.”
Despite these concessions — including a provision for a $15 minimum wage, a public option for health care, tuition-free state colleges and the death penalty — many Sanders’ supporters at the event seemed reluctant to throw their support behind Clinton.
Chants of “Bernie!” broke out several times during the rally, with police intervening in one testy exchange in the bleachers between supporters from both campaigns.
But Sanders reiterated in his speech that the election was never about a person or candidate, but about the issues facing our country.
Audience members rose to their feet as Sanders said their “job now” is to implement the hard-won platform by a electing a Democratic-controlled House and Senate and a “Hillary Clinton presidency.”
Clinton thanked Sanders for his endorsement, campaign and “lifetime of fighting injustice,” while acknowledging his overwhelming support from voters under 30.
“Throughout this campaign, Senator Sanders has brought people off the sidelines and into the political process,” Clinton said. “He has energized and inspired a generation of young people who care deeply about our country.”
And of his campaign-funding success she joked, “we take $27 donations, too, you know.”
Republican nominee Donald Trump — who has yet to be endorsed by his main primary campaign challenger, Ted Cruz — had sour grapes for the Democrats.
“Bernie’s endorsement becomes Exhibit A in our rigged system – the Democrat Party is disenfranchising its voters to benefit the select and privileged few,” Trump said in a statement.
Since clinching the Republican nomination, the real estate mogul has tried to position himself as the presidential candidate worthy of Sanders’ progressive base.
Though Trump’s statement echoes this appeal for the “political revolution” Sanders had championed, Sanders himself made it clear today that he intends to campaign vigorously to defeat Trump.
Clinton is “far and away” the best candidate to do that, Sanders said.
A Pew poll released last week shows that 85 percent of Sanders’ Democratic supporters intend to back Clinton this November.
“Being here with him in New Hampshire, I can’t help but reflect how much more enjoyable this election is going to be now that we’re on the same side,” Clinton told the crowd in a nod to Sander’s big New Hampshire primary win in January. Borrowing a phrase from his campaign she announced, “Now, with your help, we are joining forces to defeat Donald Trump, win in November and together build a future we can all believe in.”
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