Biden rise calms Democratic jitters

 

Vulnerable House Democrats are elated — and breathing a huge sigh of relief — after Joe BidenJoe BidenThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - White House, Dems play blame game over evictions GOP skepticism looms over bipartisan spending deal Biden vaccine rule sets stage for onslaught of lawsuits MORE's stunning series of victories on Super Tuesday.

They had feared that Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - White House, Dems play blame game over evictions The Memo: Left pins hopes on Nina Turner in Ohio after recent defeats Five things to watch in two Ohio special election primaries 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

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 CristDeSantis's reelection campaign will be brutal — and he could lose Crist rips DeSantis over Florida COVID-19 spike: 'We don't have leadership' Pressure mounts for DeSantis in Florida 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

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 to meet with Surfside families as rescue efforts enter eighth day Biden offers traditional address in eerie setting Congressional Black Caucus members post selfie celebrating first WH visit in four years 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 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.) and generate a burst of momentum heading into Super Tuesday.

Another moderate, former New York City Mayor Michael BloombergMichael BloombergBipartisan infrastructure win shows Democrats must continue working across the aisle WHO leader issues warning on 'harmful' e-cigarettes Six months in, two challenges could define Biden's presidency 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 backs effort to include immigration in budget package Biden to meet with 11 Democratic lawmakers on DACA: report Five takeaways from a bracing day of Jan. 6 testimony 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 GaramendiLawmakers urge Biden to make 'bold decisions' in nuclear review Equilibrium/ Sustainability — The gentler side of Shark Week Pelosi rebuffs McConnell on infrastructure 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Anyone who diminishes Joe's last 72-plus hours is making a mistake. He had a very strong showing,” said Rep. Mark PocanMark William PocanLawmakers can't reconcile weakening the SALT cap with progressive goals Overnight Defense: 6B Pentagon spending bill advances | Navy secretary nominee glides through hearing | Obstacles mount in Capitol security funding fight House panel advances 6B Pentagon bill on party-line vote 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 JayapalSenators introduce bipartisan infrastructure bill in rare Sunday session Angst grips America's most liberal city Congress must lower the Medicare Age to save the lives of older Americans 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 Shalala'Blue wave' Democrats eye comebacks after losing reelection Pelosi, Schumer must appoint new commissioners to the CARES Act oversight panel Stephanie Murphy won't run for Senate seat in Florida next year MORE (D-Fla.) didn’t mince words when asked how Sanders would likely play in her South Florida swing district.

ADVERTISEMENT

“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.