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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 BidenHouse panel approves bill to set up commission on reparations Democrats to offer bill to expand Supreme Court Former Israeli prime minister advises Iran to 'cool down' amid nuclear threats 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 TrumpTrump mocks Murkowski, Cheney election chances Race debate grips Congress US reentry to Paris agreement adds momentum to cities' sustainability efforts 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 SandersBernie Sanders says he disagrees with Tlaib's call for 'no more police' Briahna Joy Gray: IRS needs proper enforcement mechanisms to tax wealthy Biden sparks bipartisan backlash on Afghanistan withdrawal  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) TesterLobbying world The Hill's Morning Report - Biden's infrastructure plan triggers definition debate Lawmakers say fixing border crisis is Biden's job 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 ButtigiegWhite House says gas tax won't be part of infrastructure bill The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden meets with bipartisan lawmakers for infrastructure negotiations Senate Republicans label Biden infrastructure plan a 'slush fund' MORE and Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley: Biden nominates former NSA deputy director to serve as cyber czar | Apple to send witness to Senate hearing after all | Biden pressed on semiconductor production amid shortage Apple to send witness to Senate hearing after pushback from Klobuchar, Lee Lobbying world 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 KaineDemocrats back up Biden bid to return to Iran nuclear deal Overnight Defense: Congress looks to rein in Biden's war powers | Diversity chief at Special Operations Command reassigned during probe into social media posts Congress looks to rein in Biden's war powers 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: Biden officially rolls out Afghanistan withdrawal plan | Probe finds issues with DC Guard helicopter use during June protests Biden to tap Erika Moritsugu as new Asian American and Pacific Islander liaison Duckworth asks DOJ to probe 'brazenly violent' police treatment of National Guard officer 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 MerkleyLobbying world Face mask PPE is everywhere now — including the ocean Green tech isn't all it's cracked up to be 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 ReidBiden to tap Erika Moritsugu as new Asian American and Pacific Islander liaison White House races clock to beat GOP attacks Harry Reid reacts to Boehner book excerpt: 'We didn't mince words' 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 SchultzFlorida Democrats call for DOJ investigation of state Senate races Democrats urge FDA to clear market of all flavored e-cigarettes DeSantis threatens to divert vaccines from communities criticizing distribution MORE (D-Fla.), endorsed Biden after his South Carolina win, as did former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Virginia Rep. Bobby ScottRobert (Bobby) Cortez ScottDemocrats target Trump methane rule with Congressional Review Act Senators eye rollback of Trump methane rule with Congressional Review Act To Build Back Better, Biden must invest in modern apprenticeship system 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 FeinsteinBiden's gun control push poses danger for midterms Caitlyn Jenner exploring bid for California governor: report WokeWorld comes for 'oppressor' Obama: Activists rip school being named after 'deporter in chief' 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 WarrenForgiving K in school loans would free 36 million student borrowers from debt: data IRS chief warns of unpaid taxes hitting trillion Biden sparks bipartisan backlash on Afghanistan withdrawal  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.