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Sherrod Brown on the influence of Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination on Wednesday after enduring a series of disappointing results in state primary elections. But many of the positions on which Sanders campaigned still resonate with the liberal wing of the party. Lisa Desjardins reports, and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, joins Judy Woodruff to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And now to our other lead story today.

    With a narrowing path to victory and an end to normal campaigning due to the pandemic, Senator Bernie Sanders today suspended his presidential race.

    Our Lisa Desjardins reports.

  • Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.:

    I wish I could give you better news.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    From his home in Vermont, Senator Bernie Sanders announced he is ending his fight for the Democratic nomination for president.

  • Senator Bernie Sanders:

    So, while we are winning the ideological battle, and while we are winning the support of so many young people and working people throughout the country, I have concluded that this battle for the Democratic nomination will not be successful.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Former Vice President Joe Biden is now the likely candidate to take on President Trump.

    The Democratic socialist and independent senator from Vermont has arguably single-handedly moved the Democratic Party to the left. His underdog 2016 campaign against Hillary Clinton was also a movement, raising new attention to ideas like Medicare for all, free public college, and aggressive climate action.

    In the 2020 race, many of Sanders' Democratic rivals adopted his proposals.

  • Senator Bernie Sanders:

    It wasn't long ago that people considered these ideas radical and fringe. Today, they are mainstream ideas, and many of them are already being implemented in cities and states across the country. That is what we have accomplished together.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    He used his address today to make another push for single-payer health care, in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Senator Bernie Sanders:

    This current horrific crisis that we are now in has exposed for all to see how absurd our current employer-based health insurance system is.

    The current economic downturn we are experiencing has not only led to a massive loss of jobs, but has also resulted in millions of Americans losing their health insurance.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Sanders won the most votes in the first three contests of 2020, with ardent supporters, especially among the young and in Hispanic communities. He was positioned to be the front-runner.

  • Senator Bernie Sanders:

    The reason that we are going to win is that we are putting together an unprecedented, multigenerational, multi-racial political movement.


  • Former Vice President Joseph Biden:

    This campaign is taking off!

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    But, starting in South Carolina, Biden began racking up blowout wins, and didn't stop. He quickly built an insurmountable delegate lead.

    After Sanders dropped out, Biden said:

  • Former Vice President Joseph Biden:

    He's inspired and energized millions of supporters, especially young voters, to join him in championing a progressive vision for our country.

    And he didn't just run a political campaign. He created a movement. And that's a good thing for the nation and for our future.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    President Trump weighed in on Twitter, saying: "This ended just like the Democrats and the DNC wanted. The Bernie people should come to the Republican Party."

    In his address, Sanders said he will continue to collect delegates to influence the party's platform at the convention. He currently has some 914 delegates, out of the nearly 4,000 up for grabs.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Lisa Desjardins.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Although Senator Sanders is no longer in the race, the issues he ran on still resonate with many in the Democratic Party.

    Here to discuss those, the race ahead, and more, Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio. He endorsed Joe Biden yesterday.

    Senator Brown, thank you very much for joining us.

    Even though Senator Sanders has dropped out or suspended his campaign, he says he is still going to be competing on the ballot in the coming primary states, that he wants to influence the convention.

    Is that complicating things for the Democratic Party?

  • Senator Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio:

    No, not at all.

    Bernie came to a meeting we had today. I mean a meeting by phone with a number of Democratic senators. We talked about that. He already has influenced this race and already has influenced the Democratic Party.

    I mean, we're now talking about a $15 minimum wage. We're talking about dramatically, expanding building on the Affordable Care Act. I think Bernie has had an impact, will continue to have an impact about the dignity of work, about empowering workers, having an impact on the next round of the coronavirus bill.

    And so Bernie's influence in the party is felt and it will continue to be welcomed.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    President Obama's strategist David Axelrod said today that if Bernie Sanders really wants to help Joe Biden, he's going to have to make a much more affirmative case for him.

    Do you think he will do that?

  • Senator Sherrod Brown:

    Oh, I'm sure he will.

    He — already, he has a decent relationship with the vice president. They're friends. They worked together in the Senate for a number — for not very long, I think three years. Bernie and I came the same year, in 2007. The vice president, I guess, left in early 2009.

    But the answer is yes. Bernie will be full-throated for Biden, as I will be, as most of my colleagues, maybe all of my colleagues will be.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And you think his supporters will be for Biden, too?

  • Senator Sherrod Brown:

    Well, I think his supporters overwhelmingly will be for Biden.

    No candidate's ever transferred his or her entire electorate, supporters, his followers, her followers to another candidate. That never happens entirely.

    But keep in mind that — you know, that Donald Trump got well under 50 percent of the vote last time. He hasn't grown his base at all. And I think that Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris and a number of others in this race, Mayor Pete, brought more — Elizabeth Warren — brought more people into the system.

    And they're not — almost none of them are voting for Donald Trump. And very few of them will stay home, because the contrast is, do you want this president who clearly is in over his head, who doesn't tell the truth, who has betrayed workers every single day, do you want that president, or do you want a president that's going to support workers and really fight for the dignity of work?

    And that's such a clear contrast. And people are going to vote in huge numbers. You saw that yesterday in Wisconsin. People are willing to vote even if they might get sick from voting. That tells you about the interest in this election.

    And that's going to play to the benefit of the vice president.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And speaking of that, as you know, Democrats want to put at least $2 billion into legislation that would help — that would strengthen states' ability to run elections that are fair, that are safe, and yet the Republicans are fighting that.

    Where do you think that's headed?

  • Senator Sherrod Brown:

    Well, I was secretary of state in Ohio for eight years and ran the election system.

    And so I know how elections work in big states. I know that there was very, very, very little vote fraud. I know that Donald Trump has said that mail-in balloting won't work, but he also said that mail-in — if we do mail-in balloting, no Republicans would get elected again.

    Our government shouldn't expect anybody to go vote when their life is at risk. Literally, their life is at risk, if they get the coronavirus.

    And so I can't imagine that Mitch McConnell is going to continue to block and Donald Trump is going to continue to block efforts, so that people can vote safely and healthily, if you will.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Senator, just quickly, on coronavirus, you mentioned what more needs to be done. You punched for hazard pay for front-line workers.

    Do you think that's going to end up being — becoming law?

  • Senator Sherrod Brown:

    Well, the president said he wants to do some hazard pay. He was talking about nurses and hospital workers, but it also ought to also be city bus drivers.

    It ought to be people that stock shelves in grocery store. It ought to be the people that clean up and do the laundry in the hospitals and clean the floors and clean the rooms. It should be people that are out working delivering packages, driving — as I said, driving city buses, all of that.

    I think that will be a negotiation. McConnell has resisted. I think it will also be a negotiation to put money in a rental assistance fund. No one — no one should lose her home, no one should lose his apartment as a result of this coronavirus.

    And a huge number of people just last week didn't pay their rent on April 1, when it was due. A huge number of people around the country, they're facing immense hardship. If we're going to help the airlines, if we're going to help Wall Street — and that package Mitch McConnell wrote did that explicitly — then we sure ought to help people stay in their apartments and stay in their homes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And just finally, the president's response, compared to the response of your governor of Ohio, who is also a Republican, Mike DeWine?

  • Senator Sherrod Brown:

    Well, that shows how this is — it's not a partisan thing I'm going to say.

    My — the governor of Ohio, I have said very publicly — he and I ran against each other once, so we're not necessarily political allies for our whole careers. But we are now.

    The governor of Ohio has saved thousands and thousands of Ohioans from getting sick because he took early action.

    The president of the United States has cost lives because he delayed and delayed and delayed. He called it a witch-hunt. He called it a hoax. He said the Democrats are trying to impeach him over this.

    And, unfortunately, we're seven or eight weeks behind in testing, in our whole public health response in getting safety equipment to the workers, and whether they're in grocery store or firefighters or nurses and doctors.

    And we — we're trying to make up for lost time. The president certainly has not been helpful in that, while — and the governor of Ohio has been very good.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, we thank you very much, and we hope you stay safe.

  • Senator Sherrod Brown:

    Judy, thank you.

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