Biden rise calms Democratic jitters

 

Vulnerable House Democrats are elated — and breathing a huge sigh of relief — after Joe BidenJoe BidenCuomo grilled by brother about running for president: 'No. no' Top Democratic super PACs team up to boost Biden The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump, Biden spar over coronavirus response MORE's stunning series of victories on Super Tuesday.

They had feared that Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersTop Democratic super PACs team up to boost Biden Poll: Biden leads Sanders by 22 points GE employees urge company to use laid-off workers to make ventilators 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 CristBiden rise calms Democratic jitters Mnuchin details IRS challenges with cash-only marijuana businesses Democrats gear up for State of the Union protests as impeachment lingers 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 WilsonBiden rise calms Democratic jitters Democrats tear into Trump's speech: It was a 'MAGA rally' Clinton advises checking your voter registration during Trump's State of the Union 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 ButtigiegReuters poll finds Sanders cutting Biden national lead to single digits Biden says he'll adopt plans from Sanders, Warren Buttigieg guest-hosts for Jimmy Kimmel: 'I've got nothing else going on' MORE and Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley: FCC chief proposes 0M telehealth program | Twitter takes down posts promoting anti-malaria drugs for coronavirus| Whole Foods workers plan Tuesday strike Trump says election proposals in coronavirus stimulus bill would hurt Republican chances Biden tops Trump by 9 points in Fox News poll MORE (D-Minn.) and generate a burst of momentum heading into Super Tuesday.

Another moderate, former New York City Mayor Michael BloombergMichael BloombergFormer Bloomberg staffer seeks class-action lawsuit over layoffs Bloomberg spent over 0M on presidential campaign The Hill's Campaign Report: Officials in spotlight over coronavirus response MORE, dropped out and endorsed Biden on Wednesday.

“We all feel much more certain now, which is positive,” said Rep. Pete AguilarPeter (Pete) Ray AguilarBiden rolls out over a dozen congressional endorsements after latest primary wins Biden rise calms Democratic jitters Vulnerable Democrats brace for Sanders atop ticket 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 rise calms Democratic jitters California Rep. Costa endorses Biden Newly released emails reveal officials' panic over loss of credibility after Trump's Dorian claims 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 PocanStudents with disabilities could lose with COVID-19 stimulus package Overnight Defense: 'Tens of thousands' of National Guard troops could be activated for coronavirus response | Hospital ships could take week to deploy | Trump says military to help Americans stuck in Peru Democrats introduce bill to send coronavirus tests to US troops in Middle East 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 JayapalPelosi says House will review Senate coronavirus stimulus package Critical supplies shortage hampers hospitals, health providers Washington state lawmakers warn health workers running low on protective gear 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 ShalalaTrump coronavirus response seen as threat to CDC confidence House Democrats unveil coronavirus economic response package CBS All Access launches animated 'Tooning Out the News' series 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.