Establishment Democrats rallying behind Biden

Greg Nash

Establishment Democrats are consolidating behind former Vice President Joe Biden after his decisive South Carolina victory in their effort to block liberal front-runner Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) from clinching the Democratic nomination.

Two of Biden’s competitors in the moderate lane — former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) — dropped out of the race following Saturday’s primary in South Carolina and endorsed Biden on Monday evening.

The former White House hopefuls flew to Dallas on Monday, to appear on stage with Biden just hours before voters in Texas and 13 other states cast their ballots on Super Tuesday. A third former 2020 contender, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, also joined the Dallas rally and told the crowd he will be casting his ballot for Biden. 

Another big boost came from former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), a key congressional ally when former President Obama and Biden were in the White House.

“Democrats need a candidate who can assemble the largest, most diverse coalition possible to defeat Trump and lead our country following the trauma of Trump’s presidency. That candidate is Joe Biden,” Reid said in a statement Monday.

While the Buttigieg and Klobuchar endorsements were the biggest gets for Biden, he won other endorsements in recent days from other high-profile politicians and power brokers from Super Tuesday states and beyond.

Over the weekend, Biden hit the campaign trail in southern Virginia, a Super Tuesday state, with Terry McAuliffe and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who both served as governor of the state and as chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Biden also picked up support from Rep. Bobby Scott — a member of the Congressional Black Caucus and chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee — and two centrist freshmen who flipped GOP seats in 2018, Reps. Elaine Luria (D-Va.) and Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.).

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), the first lawmaker to back Buttigieg, threw his support behind Biden, too.

A number of establishment and moderate Democrats have warned in recent days that a Sanders nomination would lead to a down-ballot disaster. House Republicans are already painting vulnerable Democrats as radical left-wingers, tying them to Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist.

“Some candidates are calling for a revolution. Well, you know what? We already had a revolution 244 years ago, and it ended 30 miles from here. We don’t need a revolution, we need Joe Biden in the White House,” McAuliffe said at a campaign event in Norfolk, taking a blatant swipe at Sanders.

In delegate-rich California, progressive freshman Rep. Gil Cisneros, who backed Sanders for president in 2016, also jumped on board the Biden bus, as did former Sen. Barbara Boxer, a Senate colleague of Biden’s for 15 years.

“Joe has been knocked down. Hard,” she said. “He always gets up.”

Other women who endorsed Biden after South Carolina included freshman Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas), a rising star in the party; Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), a decorated Iraq War veteran who lost both her legs in combat; Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), a former Black Caucus chairwoman; former Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.); Vicki Kennedy, the widow of former Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.); Susan Rice, Obama’s former national security adviser; and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who resigned as DNC chair in 2016 after hacked emails showed that her staffers were trying to sabotage Sanders’s presidential bid that year.

More endorsements are expected as the primary calendar shifts to more favorable terrain for Biden in states such as Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Mississippi and Ohio.

Longtime Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), a Black Caucus member who serves as chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told The Hill he will formally endorse Biden ahead of Mississippi’s primary on March 10.

“If you hold on, I will be [endorsing Biden] shortly,” Thompson said.

The groundswell of support and newfound momentum comes at a critical time for Biden, who will battle it out with Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg on Super Tuesday, where one-third of all 3,979 delegates are up for grabs.

“I think he has the wind at his back,” Democratic strategist Jon Reinish, a former aide to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), told The Hill. “South Carolina changed the game. It wasn’t just that Biden won. It was who he won, where he won, and the incredible numbers he won by.”

The consolidation of the moderate lane could stand to give Biden a needed boost in California with its 415 delegates and Texas, where White House hopefuls will be competing for 228 delegates.

Additional support from Klobuchar’s and Buttigieg’s supporters gives Biden a better chance of reaching the 15 percent viability threshold in California and Texas, where Sanders has a better chance of winning. Biden does not need a statewide victory to shore up delegates so long as he reaches the threshold.

“We’re no longer dividing the pot between four, five or six people. We’re dividing it between three people,” said Kelly Dietrich, the founder and head of the National Democratic Training Committee, which works with Democrats running for office.

However, Biden isn’t dominating the moderate lane just yet. Bloomberg will make his debut on the ballot Tuesday after blanketing the country with high-dollar ad buys.

“I will tell you, I talked to Mayor Pete and Amy Klobuchar,” Bloomberg said. “They represented their country and their states very well, and I felt sorry for them, but I’m in it to win it.”

Tags Amy Klobuchar Barbara Boxer Bennie Thompson Bernie Sanders Beto O'Rourke Bobby Scott Debbie Wasserman Schultz Elaine Luria Elizabeth Warren establishment democrats joe biden beyer kaine buttigieg klobuchar reid kennedy 2020 democratic election primary Gil Cisneros Harry Reid Jennifer Wexton Joe Biden Kirsten Gillibrand Marcia Fudge Pete Buttigieg Tammy Duckworth Tim Kaine Veronica Escobar

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