Dem moderates Buttigieg, Klobuchar throw weight behind Biden after exiting race

by Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver

It took a while, but the Democratic establishment struck back at Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in a big way on Monday as former Vice President Joe Biden moves to coalesce the party behind him and try to score points tonight in Super Tuesday contests.

In less than 24 hours, former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) announced they were ending their campaigns and subsequently rallied to Biden’s side Monday night. Buttigieg endorsed Biden during a press appearance shortly before the rally. Klobuchar appeared with Biden in Texas.  

“I’m looking for a leader,” said Buttigieg, whom the former VP likened to his late son, Beau Biden. “I’m looking for a president who will draw out what is best in each of us, and I’m encouraging everybody who was part of my campaign to join me because we have found that leader in Vice President — soon to be President — Joe Biden” (The Hill). 

“I believe we can do this together, and that is why today I am ending my campaign and endorsing Joe Biden for president,” Klobuchar said at the Dallas rally to chants of “Amy! Amy!” “We do not just want to eke by a victory. We want to win big, and Joe Biden can do that. … I cannot think of a better way of ending my campaign than joining his.”

Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) also endorsed the former vice president toward the end of the rally, saying he wants a competitor who can defeat Trump.

The Hill: Establishment Democrats rallying behind Biden.

The New York Times: Frozen in anxiety: How Democratic leaders struggled to confront Bernie Sanders.

Jonathan Allen: Biden rallies establishment in bid to turn back Sanders.

The Hill: Biden surges higher with Klobuchar, Buttigieg endorsements.

Many Democrats have been surprised by the rapid shakeout of the field following the early-state results. Some draw parallels to the GOP race in 2016, when no candidate shot to the head of the pack early, allowing Donald Trump to line up the nomination. Many political watchers believed it would take until after Super Tuesday for the presidential field to narrow this year, but Biden’s massive win in South Carolina accelerated decisions by Buttigieg and Klobuchar to suspend their bids for the White House and endorse him right away. Fearing Sanders could lose to Trump if he’s the nominee and cost Democrats seats in Congress, the two candidates focused on the big picture.

“That definitely crystalized it,” said a source close to the Klobuchar campaign, adding that conversations about dropping out began in earnest on Sunday when she talked to advisers and looked at the daunting primary map ahead of her. “It was about how we can help the party.” 

A Buttigieg source echoed the sentiment, saying the massive slate of races this month was not going to turn in the former mayor’s favor.

I don’t think anybody was expecting [Biden] to win every delegate out of South Carolina,” the source said. “The way he won changed what [the post-Super Tuesday landscape] looked like.”

Despite Biden’s momentum, Sanders remains the favorite in many of tonight’s contests, including for the lion’s share of California’s 415 delegates — the most of any state — as 14 states will dole out more than one-third of the overall total. As Jonathan Easley writes in his preview, Sanders is also headed for a top finish in Texas, the second-largest Super Tuesday contest as measured by pledged delegates. The progressive Independent should win California in blowout fashion, and he’s maintained a healthy lead in the Lone Star State throughout the early voting period, when more than 1 million people cast ballots in the Democratic primary.

The Vermont Independent also appears to be headed for victories in Colorado, Utah, Maine and Vermont. With Klobuchar out of the race, Sanders is the clear favorite to win Minnesota, and he’s pressing to win in Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) home state as well. Warren herself vowed to remain in the race during a rally in Los Angeles on Monday night (CNN).

Nevertheless, the trajectory of the race may not produce a certain winner by summer. According to FiveThirtyEight, there is now a 63 percent chance no candidate reaches the requisite 1,991 delegates to win the nomination before the convention, with Biden and Sanders holding a 21 percent and 16 percent chance of winning outright, respectively.

Niall Stanage: Super Tuesday: What each candidate needs to do.

The Hill: 5 things to watch on Super Tuesday.

With the departures by Buttigieg and Klobuchar, the Democratic contest also just got much older. All four of the main candidates remaining are septuagenarians (Sanders is 78 years old, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is 78, Biden is 77 and Warren is the youngest at 70. Trump is 73.)

The number to watch heading into tonight: 15. To win delegates, candidates must win at least 15 percent of the vote either statewide or in each congressional district. The more candidates who hit the 15 percent mark, the more even the delegates will be handed out tonight (The New York Times).

Also worth watching will be how Bloomberg fares tonight in what is his first appearance on the ballot this year, having skipped the early vote states. Prior to South Carolina, Bloomberg was riding high, but Biden’s success has changed everything. According to polls, Bloomberg sits third or fourth in most states set to vote tonight, and how many contests he hits the magic 15 percent figure in will help determine his viability moving forward, though he has said he has no intention of dropping out before the convention in Milwaukee.

Looking beyond Super Tuesday, six states will vote on March 10, headlined by Michigan and its 125 delegates. On March 17, four more states will take their turns, all of which are considered crucial to Democrats: Florida, Ohio, Illinois and Arizona.

Politifact: How Sanders runs in Democratic primaries when he’s an independent in the Senate.

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