Biden rise calms Democratic jitters

 

Vulnerable House Democrats are elated — and breathing a huge sigh of relief — after Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden campaign slams Trump's Rose Garden event as 'sad affair' New shutdowns add to Trump woes CNN cuts away from Trump's 'campaign-type' Rose Garden speech MORE's stunning series of victories on Super Tuesday.

They had feared that Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden aspires to become America's auto-pen president Progressive Mondaire Jones wins NY primary to replace Nita Lowey OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden pledges carbon-free power by 2035 in T environment plan | Trump administration has been underestimating costs of carbon pollution, government watchdog finds | Trump to move forward with rollback of bedrock environmental law 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 CristGOP sees groundswell of women running in House races The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden's Tampa rally hits digital snags Biden rise calms Democratic jitters 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 WilsonGOP struggles to confront racial issues On The Money: Republicans start bracing for shutdown fight in run-up to election | Mnuchin: White House seriously considering second round of stimulus checks | Labor leaders under pressure on police unions Labor leaders under pressure to oust police unions 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 ButtigiegIn politics, as in baseball, it ain't over till it's over Biden campaign hires top cybersecurity officials to defend against threats Biden strikes populist tone in blistering rebuke of Trump, Wall Street MORE and Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Fauci says focus should be on pausing reopenings rather than reverting to shutdowns; WHO director pleads for international unity in pandemic response State election officials warn budget cuts could lead to November chaos Biden strikes populist tone in blistering rebuke of Trump, Wall Street MORE (D-Minn.) and generate a burst of momentum heading into Super Tuesday.

Another moderate, former New York City Mayor Michael BloombergMichael BloombergWake up, America — see what's coming Bloomberg urges court to throw out lawsuit by former campaign staffers Former Obama Ebola czar Ron Klain says White House's bad decisions have put US behind many other nations on COVID-19; Fears of virus reemergence intensify MORE, dropped out and endorsed Biden on Wednesday.

“We all feel much more certain now, which is positive,” said Rep. Pete AguilarPeter (Pete) Ray AguilarHispanic Caucus requests meeting with private detention center CEOs Dozens of Democrats plan to vote remotely in a first for the House Biden rolls out over a dozen congressional endorsements after latest primary wins 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 GaramendiWuhan is the final straw: The world needs to divest from China GOP seizes on 'defund the police' to galvanize base Peace Corps faces uncertain future with no volunteers in field 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 PocanThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: DC's Bowser says protesters and nation were 'assaulted' in front of Lafayette Square last month; Brazil's Bolsonaro, noted virus skeptic, tests positive for COVID-19 Steyer endorses Markey in Massachusetts Senate primary Celebrities fundraise for Markey ahead of Massachusetts Senate primary 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 JayapalDemocrats fear US already lost COVID-19 battle Progressive lawmakers call for conditions on Israel aid Hillicon Valley: Democrats introduce bill banning federal government use of facial recognition tech | House lawmakers roll out legislation to establish national cyber director | Top federal IT official to step down 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 ShalalaDunford withdraws from consideration to chair coronavirus oversight panel John Kerry hosting virtual campaign events for Biden The sad spectacle of Trump's enablers 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.