Senators see tide turning toward Biden after big win

Senators see tide turning toward Biden after big win
© Greg Nash

Senate Democrats are starting to line up behind Joe BidenJoe BidenGOP report on COVID-19 origins homes in on lab leak theory READ: The .2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act Senators introduce bipartisan infrastructure bill in rare Sunday session MORE after his dominant win in South Carolina, reflecting the former vice president’s longstanding relationships on Capitol Hill and growing confidence among lawmakers about his electability.

Biden’s performance among minority voters, a crucial voter turnout target in November, has bolstered how lawmakers see his strength in a head-to-head match-up with President TrumpDonald TrumpSenators introduce bipartisan infrastructure bill in rare Sunday session Gosar's siblings pen op-ed urging for his resignation: 'You are immune to shame' Sunday shows - Delta variant, infrastructure dominate MORE

Biden won 64 percent of the African American votes cast in the South Carolina primary, compared to the 14 percent of black votes carried by his chief rival, Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSenators introduce bipartisan infrastructure bill in rare Sunday session Bipartisan infrastructure win shows Democrats must continue working across the aisle 'The land is us' — Tribal activist turns from Keystone XL to Line 3 MORE (I-Vt.).

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Democratic senators are also worried about Sanders’s effect on candidates down ballot if he wins the party nomination.

Democrats need to pick up four seats, or three seats and the White House, to regain the Senate majority, and are targeting Republican-leaning states such as North Carolina, Iowa, Georgia and Kansas.

Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterSenators introduce bipartisan infrastructure bill in rare Sunday session Schumer: Democrats 'on track' to pass bipartisan deal, .5T budget Senate infrastructure talks spill over into rare Sunday session MORE (D-Mont.), a moderate who hasn’t yet endorsed in the race, said he’s glad the field is shrinking: Former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegSunday shows - Delta variant, infrastructure dominate Sunday shows preview: Delta concerns prompt CDC mask update; bipartisan infrastructure bill to face challenges in Senate Chasten Buttigieg: DC 'almost unaffordable' MORE and Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharManchin 'can't imagine' supporting change to filibuster for voting rights Hillicon Valley: Democrats urge tech CEOs to combat Spanish disinformation | Amazon fined 6M by EU regulators Democrats urge tech CEOs to combat Spanish disinformation MORE (D-Minn.) both endorsed Biden on Monday after ending their presidential campaigns.

“I think it helps people make decisions,” Tester said of the two centrists dropping out of the race.

  Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineOvernight Defense: Watchdog blasts government's handling of Afghanistan conflict | Biden asks Pentagon to look into mandatory vaccines | Congress passes new Capitol security bill GOP, Democrats battle over masks in House, Senate Senators introduce bipartisan bill to expand foreign aid partnerships MORE (D-Va.), the party’s 2016 vice presidential candidate who endorsed Biden on Friday, said his support among African American voters is a key reason why he backed the former vice president.

“I live in a city, Richmond, where I was mayor, that’s predominantly an African American city. I know the affection that the African American city has for Joe Biden, and it was earned over a long period of time,” he said.   

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He predicted Biden would win Virginia on Tuesday, citing polling data and a big rally Biden held in Norfolk on Sunday night.

A third Senate Democrat, Sen. Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthOvernight Defense: Senators reach billion deal on emergency Capitol security bill | House panel looks to help military sexual assault survivors | US increases airstrikes to help Afghan forces fight Taliban Democrats pushing for changes to bipartisan infrastructure deal 10 books that take readers inside the lives of American leaders MORE (Ill.), also endorsed Biden on Monday, praising him as a candidate who would “unite our party and country” and “restore dignity to the White House.”

While many other Democratic senators are staying officially neutral ahead of Super Tuesday, when 1,357 delegates will be up for grabs, more endorsements are expected in the weeks ahead, especially if Biden performs well.

Senate Democrats on Monday said the establishment seems to be drifting to Biden’s side in recent days.

“It would seem like that,” said Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleyHuman rights can't be a sacrificial lamb for climate action Senate Democrats press administration on human rights abuses in Philippines Bipartisan congressional commission urges IOC to postpone, relocate Beijing Games MORE (D-Ore.), who endorsed Sanders in 2016 but has stayed neutral in the 2020 primary so far.

Before the weekend, Sanders appeared to be on an unstoppable march to the nomination. He won the most votes in each of the first three primary contests in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada and had big polling leads in California and Texas, two of the biggest prizes on Super Tuesday.

With Klobuchar and Buttigieg sidelined, Biden’s biggest centrist rival now is former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who has spent $217 million on advertisements in Super Tuesday states. Bloomberg, however, could cut into the number of delegates Sanders picks up, as he is competing in every state holding a contest Tuesday. Biden has not visited all of those states and has not had the money to blanket the airwaves like Bloomberg.

In another sign the Democratic establishment is starting to coalesce behind Biden, former Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidWhite House seeks to shield Biden from GOP attacks on crime issue Lobbying world Warner backing 'small carve-out' on filibuster for voting rights MORE (D-Nev.), who led the Senate Democratic caucus from 2005 to 2017, also announced his endorsement Monday.

Reid praised Biden as someone who would be “a much-needed stabilizing force following Trump’s disastrous term” and made it clear he sees former President Obama’s running mate as the best chance to boot President Trump from office.

“I believe Biden is best able to defeat Donald Trump and enact the policies we all care about,” he said.

Reid’s endorsement could be a signal to other Senate Democrats, many of whom are starting to line up behind Biden.

Other members of the Democratic establishment, including former Obama national security adviser Susan Rice and former Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman SchultzDeborah (Debbie) Wasserman SchultzBiden: Families of victims of Surfside building collapse 'realistic' about rescue Biden intends to pick up costs to county, state in Florida building recovery efforts At least 99 people unaccounted for after deadly Miami-area building collapse MORE (D-Fla.), endorsed Biden after his South Carolina win, as did former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Virginia Rep. Bobby ScottRobert (Bobby) Cortez ScottBiden celebrates anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act Now is the time to end the subminimum wage for people with disabilities House passes bill to ease standards for age discrimination cases MORE (D).

The wave of endorsements in the past few days has created a sense the tide is starting to turn toward Biden in the primary, even though he is still likely to win far fewer votes than Sanders on Tuesday. 

Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinNearly 140 Democrats urge EPA to 'promptly' allow California to set its own vehicle pollution standards Biden signs bill to bolster crime victims fund Stripping opportunity from DC's children MORE (D-Calif.), who endorsed Biden last year, said his prospects look a lot brighter, especially because Sanders’s main rival for liberal votes, Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenCalifornia Democrats warn of low turnout in recall election Pelosi disputes Biden's power to forgive student loans Warren hits the airwaves for Newsom ahead of recall election MORE (D-Mass.), is staying in the race.

“I look at a certain vote split between Bernie and Elizabeth Warren, and that’s still there. Amy’s dropped out, Buttigieg’s dropped out,” she said.

“It’s getting much more down to the classic race,” she said. “I think Joe is getting better every day” as a candidate.