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Biden rise calms Democratic jitters

 

Vulnerable House Democrats are elated — and breathing a huge sigh of relief — after Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden to sign executive order aimed at increasing voting access Myanmar military conducts violent night raids Confidence in coronavirus vaccines has grown with majority now saying they want it MORE's stunning series of victories on Super Tuesday.

They had feared that Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSinema pushes back on criticism of her vote against minimum wage, implying that it's sexist Biden takes victory lap after Senate passes coronavirus relief package Schumer insists Democrats unified after chaotic coronavirus debate MORE (I-Vt.), a self-described democratic socialist, would cause a down-ballot disaster by winning the nomination, warning that he could cost them many of their swing seats — and control of the House.

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But Biden's return to front-runner status has eased Democrats’ nerves on Capitol Hill and throughout the party establishment in Washington, at least for the time being.

“It’s a huge sea change. It’s the first signs of what we hoped consolidation on our side would provide, which is a firewall against Bernie,” one endangered House Democrat said Wednesday. But he cautioned: “Now we will see what [Sen. Elizabeth] Warren does. It will be a long winter and early spring. These guys aren’t exactly the pack-up-and-go-home crowd.”

Rep. Charlie CristCharles (Charlie) Joseph CristTop Florida Democrat calls on FBI to investigate DeSantis over vaccine distribution DeSantis's rising GOP profile fuels 2024 talk DeSantis approval ticks upward in new poll MORE (D-Fla.), who’s being targeted by Republicans this cycle, was practically prayerful in cheering Biden's big day, suggesting Democrats dodged a bullet with his sudden surge and predicting the former vice president will have the nomination wrapped up by the time of the convention.

“The Joe-mentum is on, and it's great,” Crist said in the Capitol. “Joe Biden is on a path ... and it seems to be getting stronger by the day. It’s great for America. Thank God!”

Biden’s dramatic rebound shocked Capitol Hill Democrats — and the rest of the country. He took 10 of 14 Super Tuesday states, including Texas, Minnesota, Maine and Massachusetts. In those final three states, he was a huge underdog 24 hours before polls opened.

He also raced to sweeping victories in the South on the strength of African American voters in North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas and Virginia — where there was a surge in Democratic turnout from 2016.

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While Sanders claimed four states, including the biggest delegate prize of the night in California, the delegate lead he hoped to grab disappeared, and instead it appeared that Biden could be in the lead when all the Super Tuesday votes are counted.

Some longtime Democrats described the wild and unpredictable swing in Biden’s direction these past four days as nothing short of a miracle.

“It was amazing. I never would have predicted such a victorious evening. I’ve seen many elections over decades, but I have never witnessed anything so phenomenal. It’s almost like all the stars aligned with the moon and the sun to cause this domino effect to take place on behalf of this good man who should be president,” said Rep. Frederica WilsonFrederica Patricia WilsonAn attack on America that's divided Congress — and a nation Capitol Police report warned that Congress could be targeted three days before riot Democrats point fingers on whether Capitol rioters had inside help MORE (D-Fla.), a supporter of Biden. “That was in no master plan, in no one’s vision, in no one’s blueprint as to what was going to happen on Super Tuesday.”

Another House Democrat was less poetic but blunter about what had happened: “It’s literally like shitting out a diamond.”

In the weeks leading up to Super Tuesday, centrist and establishment Democrats had sounded the alarm as Sanders, the liberal firebrand outsider pushing “Medicare for All” and the Green New Deal, appeared to be marching to the nomination. He won the popular vote in Iowa, captured New Hampshire and blew Biden and the rest of the field away in Nevada with a boost from Latino voters.

But Biden resuscitated his struggling campaign last weekend with a key endorsement from House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) — a development that helped him run up the score over Sanders by nearly 30 points in the Palmetto State, win the endorsements of moderate rivals Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - Senate begins marathon vote-a-rama before .9T COVID-19 relief passage The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Virus relief bill headed for weekend vote Biden turns focus to next priority with infrastructure talks MORE and Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley: China implicated in Microsoft breach | White House adds Big Tech critic | QAnon unfazed after false prediction FDA signals plan to address toxic elements in baby food Sen. Tina Smith calls for eliminating filibuster MORE (D-Minn.) and generate a burst of momentum heading into Super Tuesday.

Another moderate, former New York City Mayor Michael BloombergMichael BloombergAs Trump steps back in the spotlight, will Cuomo exit stage left? 'Lucky': How Warren took down Bloomberg Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson vs. Donald Trump: A serious comparison MORE, dropped out and endorsed Biden on Wednesday.

“We all feel much more certain now, which is positive,” said Rep. Pete AguilarPeter (Pete) Ray AguilarPartisan headwinds threaten Capitol riot commission AOC v. Pelosi: Round 12? Maloney to lead Democrats' campaign arm MORE (D-Calif.), the Democrats’ chief deputy whip who had previously endorsed Bloomberg. “Anytime we can move away from the circular firing squad and all get on the same page is a very positive thing.”

Establishment Democrats are now exuding confidence that Biden will be the party's nominee, even as the former vice president’s allies concede he may arrive at the Milwaukee convention in July just shy of the simple majority of delegates needed to win the nomination on the first vote.

If that’s the case, multiple rounds of voting may be necessary to award Biden the nomination, these members said.

Asked if Biden would be the party’s standard-bearer, Rep. John GaramendiJohn Raymond GaramendiBiden to meet with bipartisan lawmakers on infrastructure Colorado presses Biden to reverse Trump Space Command move Report on military aviation crashes faults lack of training, 'chronic fatigue' MORE (D-Calif.) simply replied: “Yes. Count on it.”

Even Sanders supporters acknowledged that Biden had an impressive run in consolidating moderates’ support and turning around his campaign in a matter of days.

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“Anyone who diminishes Joe's last 72-plus hours is making a mistake. He had a very strong showing,” said Rep. Mark PocanMark William PocanDemocrats cut deals to bolster support for relief bill Progressives grumble but won't sink relief bill over fewer stimulus checks Democrats don't trust GOP on 1/6 commission: 'These people are dangerous' MORE (D-Wis.), a leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

But they indicated that the divisions still remain among progressive voters wary of the party establishment.

“When you have people with power and platform and the Democratic Party coming out and saying, you know, Bernie Sanders is going to destroy the country or destroy the House majority or the Senate majority, that resonates badly for young people no matter what we've done to empower them,” said Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalProgressives won't oppose bill over limits on stimulus checks Democrats snipe on policy, GOP brawls over Trump House Democrats' ambitious agenda set to run into Senate blockade MORE (D-Wash.), another Progressive Caucus leader.

“That sends a very different message that will hurt us in November,” she said.

Yet House Democrats in competitive districts remain quite concerned that Sanders could still eke out a win and doom the party’s chances in November.

Freshman Rep. Donna ShalalaDonna Edna ShalalaIt's time for a second Conference on Food, Nutrition and Health Biden's new challenge: Holding Trump accountable Trump, Florida complicate Biden approach to Cuba MORE (D-Fla.) didn’t mince words when asked how Sanders would likely play in her South Florida swing district.

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“Are you kidding? He'd be a disaster,” Shalala said.

Shalala, a former Cabinet secretary under President Clinton, has not yet endorsed a presidential candidate, but she made clear there’s one she definitely won’t support.

“I don't think that Bernie should be our candidate. And I don't think he's going to be our candidate,” Shalala said.

Mike Lillis contributed.