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The feisty 78-year-old democratic socialist shook up the 2020 race with his relentless pursuit of "economic justice" for all Americans and a demand for universal health care.But he acknowledged his campaign had fallen short, as party voters determined Biden would be a stronger candidate to go up against Trump in the general election.

"I have concluded that this battle for the Democratic nomination will not be successful," Sanders said in a livestream from his home, where he has remained for the bulk of the coronavirus pandemic that put all in-person campaigning on hold."Vice president Biden will be the nominee," he said, adding that he congratulated his rival, a "very decent man, who I will work with to move our progressive ideas forward."Sanders, who challenged Hillary Clinton for the party's nomination in 2016, mounted a formidable 2020 bid.

He raised an astonishing amount of money from record numbers of donors, becoming the frontrunner early this year and earning the most votes in the first three state-wide contests.But he was eclipsed by a surging Biden, who won the vast majority of remaining primaries and now holds a commanding lead in the all-important race for delegates who choose the nominee.

Sanders brought his liberal ideological platform - including a call for universal health care and a $15 hourly minimum wage - into the mainstream.

"Together we have transformed American consciousness as to what kind of nation we can become, and have taken this country a major step forward in the never-ending struggle for economic justice," Sanders said.Several lawmakers have come out in support of his policies, and Biden has shifted leftward to incorporate some Sanders positions, although he does not support Sanders's Medicare for All plan.

Biden immediately hailed Sanders as "a good man, a great leader, and one of the most powerful voices for change in our country."He urged Sanders supporters to join his campaign, which already has the backing of nearly all other ex-rivals in the race including senators Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar, and former Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg.

"I see you, I hear you, and I understand the urgency of what it is we have to get done in this country," Biden said in a statement to Sanders and his supporters.Homeless people wearing protective face masks perform yoga at the Yamuna sports complex, which has been converted into a temporary shelter for those in need, during a government-imposed nationwide lockdown as a preventive measure against COVID-19 in New Delhi, India on Thursday. Photo: AFP