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Bernie Sanders Endorses Democratic Rival Hillary Clinton


Bernie Sanders endorsed Hillary Clinton for president today at a high school gym in Portsmouth, N.H., and so began the process of uniting the Democratic Party ahead of the general election. NPR's Tamara Keith was in that gym, and she filed this report.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Before the candidates took the stage, the event had the feel of a wedding where the families are unsure. There were supporters in the gear of their candidates and clashing chants of Hillary and Bernie.


UNIDENTIFIED CROWD #1: (Chanting) Hillary, Hillary, Hillary...

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD #2: (Chanting) Bernie, Bernie, Bernie...

KEITH: But this was a unity rally, and Bernie Sanders got to his point.


BERNIE SANDERS: Secretary Clinton has won the Democratic nominating process.


KEITH: That was about the time a group of Sanders supporters stood up and walked out in protest, but Sanders powered through.


SANDERS: I have come here to make it as clear as possible as to why I am endorsing Hillary Clinton.

KEITH: Sanders went through a series of policy positions where he and Clinton agree and praised the Democratic Party platform hammered out last weekend as by far the most progressive platform in the history of the party.


SANDERS: Our job now is to see that platform implemented by a Democratically controlled Senate...


SANDERS: A Democratically controlled House...


SANDERS: And a Hillary Clinton presidency.

KEITH: Clinton thanked Sanders and his supporters and lingered on areas of agreement.


HILLARY CLINTON: We have to reform our broken criminal justice system, take back our democracy from the wealthy special interests and make our economy work for everyone, not just those at the top.


KEITH: And Clinton kept coming back to her campaign slogan - stronger together. It had new meaning with Sanders standing beside her onstage.


CLINTON: And I'll tell you these aren't just my fights. These are Bernie's fights. These are America's fights, and I feel with all my being these are fights we have to wage and win together.

KEITH: By the end of Clinton's speech, the early family drama and awkwardness had melted away. Charlie Zoeller walked out wearing a Bernie shirt with a Hillary sticker stuck on his chest.

CHARLIE ZOELLER: Now, mentally, I was prepared for him to make the endorsement, but I wanted to hear his speech. And I was very happy to hear how enthusiastic he is and how much he brought - his campaign brought to the Democratic platform. That was an important piece of my switching.

KEITH: The Clinton and Sanders campaigns negotiated for more than a month on the terms of the endorsement. The platform was key, but some Sanders supporters aren't ready to make the jump. Susan Wilkinson plans to protest outside of the Democratic convention.

SUSAN WILKINSON: I was devastated when he used the words that he endorsed her, devastated.

KEITH: Wilkinson is holding out hope Sanders will hop on the Green Party ticket or run as an independent. Clinton supporter Joe Pekarofski is rooting for unity.

JOE PEKAROFSKI: I was a huge Hillary supporter in 2008, and I was so disappointed. But I got behind Barrack in about five minutes, so I think it's going to be like that, I hope.

KEITH: And, much like Clinton did in 2008, Sanders says he plans to campaign in every corner of the country for Clinton and Democratic candidates for Congress. Tamara Keith, NPR News, Portsmouth, N.H. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.