PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Seeking to bridge deep Democratic divides, Bernie Sanders robustly embraced his former rival Hillary Clinton Monday night as a champion for the same economic causes that enlivened his supporters, signaling it was time for them, too, to rally behind her in the campaign against Republican Donald Trump.
“Any objective observer will conclude that — based on her ideas and her leadership — Hillary Clinton must become the next president of the United States,” he declared in a headlining address on the opening night of the Democratic convention.
Sanders joined a high-wattage lineup of speakers, including first lady Michelle Obama who made a forceful, impassioned case for the Democratic nominee. Mrs. Obama’s address all but wiped away earlier tumult in the convention hall that had exposed lingering tensions between Clinton and Sanders supporters.
Mrs. Obama, who has spent nearly eight years in the White House avoiding political fights, took numerous swipes at Trump, all while avoiding mentioning him by name.
“This election and every election is about who will have the power to shape our children for the next four or eight years of their lives,” she said. “There is only one person I trust with that responsibility, only one person I believe is truly qualified to be president of the United States, and that is Hillary Clinton.”
While Sanders had endorsed Clinton previously, his remarks Monday marked his most vigorous and detailed praise of her qualifications for the presidency. It came at a crucial moment for Clinton’s campaign, on the heels of leaked emails suggesting the party had favored the former secretary of state through the primaries despite a vow of neutrality.
Sanders scored the resignation of party chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a nemesis in the primaries, but that wasn’t enough to quell the anger of supporters. As the convention opened, they still erupted in chants of “Bernie” and booed Clinton the first several times her name was mentioned. Outside the convention hall, several hundred marched down Philadelphia’s sweltering streets with signs carrying messages such as “Never Hillary.”
Behind the scenes, Sanders and Clinton aides joined forces to try to ease tensions. Clinton’s campaign quickly added more Sanders’ supporters to the speakers lineup. Sanders sent urgent messages to supporters asking them not to protest.
By the time Sanders took the stage for the night’s closing address, much of the anger had been overshadowed by speeches promoting party unity. Sanders did his part, imploring his supporters to consider a country under Trump’s leadership.