After 14 months of policy clashes and moments of mutual disdain, Bernie Sanders endorsed Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination on Tuesday, clearing away the last major obstacle to a united Democratic front heading into the party’s convention this month and the general election this fall.
Entering the high school gymnasium together and waving and shaking hands along the rope line and from the stage, Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Sanders stood before a giant American flag image flanked by Mrs. Clinton’s motto, “Stronger Together.” They appeared to chat briefly before Mr. Sanders spoke, and he patted her on the back before Mr. Sanders stepped forward to cheers to “Unity!”
“Secretary Clinton has won the Democratic nominating process,” Mr. Sanders said, as cheers erupted and Mrs. Clinton broke into a wide smile. “And I congratulate her for that. She will be the Democratic nominee for president, and I intend to do everything I can to make certain that she will be the next president of the United States.”
“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.”
Mr. Sanders, the fiercely independent senator from Vermont, who portrayed Mrs. Clinton as a captive of big-money interests during their race, was in a bittersweet but resolute mood, according to Sanders advisers, as he took the stage with her at Portsmouth High School. He was back in a state that once filled his campaign with hope, after he crushed Mrs. Clinton by 22 percentage points in the February primary, and he came around grudgingly to supporting her, the advisers said. But he was also determined to make a strong case against Donald J. Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, and to champion Mrs. Clinton as the only chance to defeat him.
Whether Mrs. Clinton can also win over the 13 million Sanders voters will be one of her biggest challenges at the convention July 25-28 in Philadelphia and in the weeks ahead. About 85 percent of Democrats who backed Mr. Sanders in the primary contests said they planned to vote for her in the general election, according to a Pew poll released last week. Yet she has struggled to appeal to the independents and liberals who rallied behind the senator’s call for a “political revolution” to topple establishment politicians, Mrs. Clinton included.