AOC officially endorses Bernie Sanders ahead of 2020

New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, an influential voice in the Democratic Party, formally endorsed Bernie Sanders for president at a rally in New York on Saturday, sending a clear message: the Vermont independent is most-qualified candidate to build a socialist movement in the U.S.

In Queens, speaking before throngs of people, Ocasio-Cortez explained why she was endorsing Sanders -- a political coup for his fading campaign -- citing (among other issues) his support of Medicare-for-all, a Green New Deal and promises to completely eliminate $1.6 trillion in student loan debt.

“Bernie Sanders did not do these things because they were popular,” she said. “And that’s what we need to remember. He did this, and he fought for these aims and these ends, when they came at the highest political cost in America. No one wanted to question this system.”

Ocasio-Cortez reportedly made the decision while the 78-year-old Sanders was in a Nevada hospital recovering from a heart attack, months before she was expected to issue an endorsement, according to Politico. Saturday marked his first rally since the heart attack.

The high-profile endorsement comes at a low-point for Sanders’ campaign in the aftermath of his heart attack, as well as the meteoric rise of Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren in early state and national polls. (The most recent George Washington University poll suggested Warren was taking the lead among Democrats with 28 percent of the vote, surpassing both Sanders and long-time frontrunner former Vice President Joe Biden.)

“It was less about being politically calculating"

- Rep. Ocasio-Cortez

Although both Warren and Sanders courted Ocasio-Cortez’s endorsement, the freshman congresswoman told MSNBC during an interview ahead of the rally that she had a “moment of clarity” about the role she wanted to play in American politics.

That role includes helping to build a mass political movement, something that “wasn’t even about helping the senator,” she said.

“It was less about being politically calculating, and it was more about the authenticity and clarity of that moment,” she added.