Bernie Sanders endorses Hillary Clinton
Posted: Jul 12, 2016 1:10 PM CST
Portsmouth, New Hampshire (CNN)Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders formally declared an end to their political rivalry Tuesday, joining forces to take on a shared enemy: Donald Trump.
"I have come here to make it as clear as possible why I am endorsing Hillary Clinton and why she must become our next president," Sanders said at a joint rally here. "Secretary Clinton has won the Democratic nomination and I congratulate her for that."
The 74-year-old self-described democratic socialist, who has been a thorn in Clinton's side over the last year, pledged his support to his former rival: "I intend to do everything I can to make certain she will be the next president of the United States.
The long-anticipated unity event effectively puts to rest Democratic fears of a political nightmare scenario: that Sanders might sit on his hands in the general election -- or worse, run as a third-party candidate on the left.
Clinton aides are confident that Sanders -- who excited the liberal base and won young voters by large margins during the primary -- could be a potent weapon against Trump, and help Clinton rev up liberal voters.
Tuesday's event is the byproduct of weeks of conversations between Robby Mook, Clinton's campaign manager, and Jeff Weaver, Sanders' top and most trusted aide.
Aides and advisers said that while Sanders and Clinton's June meeting in Washington, D.C., laid the groundwork for the New Hampshire event, it was Mook and Weaver who made the cooperation between the campaigns possible. After Clinton and Sanders left their meeting at the Hilton, Mook and Weaver stayed for two hours to discuss how to work together.
The two campaign managers would continue to talk daily, a Clinton aide said, and Mook traveled to Burlington, Vermont -- where Sanders' campaign is headquartered -- last month so that the two could meet at the Farmhouse Tap and Grill to continue their work together.
With Mook munching on a salad and Weaver eating a burger, the two hammered out how Clinton and Sanders could come together for an event like Tuesday's rally - and how the rivals could work together going forward. Mook also began working directly with Jane Sanders, the senator's wife, in the lead up to policy Clinton's announcements on college affordability and healthcare that moved her closer to Sanders' positions.
Tuesday's endorsement will help Clinton "enormously," said former Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank, a Clinton supporter who co-chairs the party's Rules Committee.
"I'm assuming that he is not just going to say 'I endorse her,' but explain to many of those that voted for him why given the values that he's stood for, voting for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump is obviously the thing to do," Frank said.
But converting all Sanders fans may be impossible.
"Given, frankly, some of the criticism that he made, I think it will take work to get all of them there," Frank said.
At the Portsmouth rally Tuesday, where both Sanders and Clinton signs, T-shirts and buttons dotted the crowd, there were plenty of Sanders loyalists who said they are not sold on Clinton -- and might never convert.
Marie Clark, a Sanders supporter from Laconia, New Hampshire, said she remains devoted to Sanders -- or no one. "I'm Bernie or Bust," said Clark, who plans to write Sanders in.
Asked whether she thought that would help Trump, she said, "I think people need to vote for something rather than against something."
"I want to vote for someone who has integrity, someone who has been consistent for 40 years," Clark said. "I will always support a political revolution."
Patti Covino drove from Vermont to attend Tuesday's event and held a sign that read: "Only Bernie."
"I would follow Bernie to the ends of the earth, but I will never follow him to Hillary," Covino said. "I'm not voting for Trump, I will write Bernie in. It doesn't matter what he says."
Trump has sought to appeal to Sanders supporters, saying he better represents Americans angry at the political establishment than Clinton does. Clinton believes Sanders can capture those attracted to Trump, especially in states the senator won such as New Hampshire, Michigan and Wisconsin.
In advance of the event, Trump criticized the endorsement on Twitter, saying Sanders, "totally sold out to Crooked Hillary Clinton."
"I am somewhat surprised that Bernie Sanders was not true to himself and his supporters. They are not happy that he is selling out!" Trump tweeted.