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 to support his former rival through Election Day: “I intend to do everything I can to make certain she will be the next president of the United States.”
But there appeared to be little natural chemistry between Clinton and Sanders and their body language was noticeably stiff. The two avoided physical contact after first walking on stage together, and Sanders, in his 30-minute speech, repeatedly mentioned Clinton by name without acknowledging that she was standing next to him looking on.
After concluding his speech, Sanders appeared to move in for a handshake — which Clinton ignored by stretching out her arms and offering a hug, instead.
“We are joining forces to defeat Donald Trump!” Clinton declared. “I can’t help but say how much more enjoyable this election is going to be when we are on the same side. You know what? We are stronger together!”
And even as she struck a victorious tone, Clinton also repeatedly and directly addressed the Sanders supporters in the high school gymnasium.
She walked through a number of policy issues where Sanders had pulled her to the left during the course of the election — minimum wage; the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, college affordability — to make a broader concession: the movement that Sanders created was nothing short of a political revolution.
“Sen. Sanders has brought people off the sidelines and into the political process. He has energized and inspired a generation of young people who care deeply about our country,” she said. “To everyone here and everyone cross the country who poured your heart and soul into Sen. Sanders’ campaign: Thank you.”
The long-anticipated unity event, coming less than two weeks ahead of the Democratic National Convention, 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.