(Bloomberg) — Joe Biden is consolidating support for his Democratic presidential campaign as centrists line up behind him to effectively try to block Bernie Sanders from winning the party’s nomination.
Rival centrists Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar both dropped out of the campaign in the last 24 hours, and plan to endorse Biden just before Super Tuesday, when 14 states and one territory vote. The moves narrowed the race to one among Biden, Sanders, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Since Biden won big in South Carolina on Saturday, his campaign has been announcing one endorsement from a party leader after another, including former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, along with current members of Congress and officials in key Super Tuesday states.
With his victory in South Carolina, Biden now has 54 pledged delegates to Sanders’s 60.
“Just a few days ago, the pundits declared my campaign dead,” Biden told a cheering crowd in Houston. “I stand here today because of minority communities. I am very much alive.”
The frenetic nature of the dropouts and endorsements reflects the worries among establishment and moderate Democrats about Sanders’s strength heading into Super Tuesday, where hundreds of delegates are up for grabs.
The split between Sanders’s grass-roots supporters and the party leadership circling Biden was reminiscent of the 2016 presidential primary between establishment favorite Hillary Clinton and Sanders. The party took steps then to make peace with Sanders after it boxed him out of the nomination, but the surging endorsements for Biden might re-open that fight.
Sanders’s campaign manager Ari Rabin-Havt said Monday the Vermont senator was not worried about any pressure that comes with the middle of the party consolidating.
“Watching the campaign, watching the debates unfold, we believe they have constantly shown that Bernie is the strongest candidate to defeat Donald Trump and we think that’s still the case,” he told reporters in Salt Lake City where Sanders was campaigning.
With the field of moderate Democratic contenders shrinking, pressure will grow on Bloomberg to end his presidential bid to help boost Biden’s chances for winning the nomination over Sanders.
But Bloomberg told supporters in Virginia he was “in it to win it.”
“Seventeen hours until the polls open plus or minus,” he said. “I’ve won three elections so far, I don’t plan to start losing now.”
(Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.)
Biden earned half the vote in South Carolina, trouncing national front-runner Sanders by about 30 percentage points. It was his first win in three presidential campaigns and his first in the 2020 race.
Before Klobuchar dropped out, Sanders addressed Buttigieg’s exit and the moderate wing getting behind Biden’s bid.
“The corporate establishment is coming together,” Sanders told reporters in Salt Lake City. “The political establishment is coming together and they will do everything. They are really getting nervous that working people are standing up.”
Fourteen states and one territory vote on Tuesday, and Sanders is favored to win in the biggest delegate prize, California. Although Biden says he has raised $10 million since the polls closed on Saturday, he has not had the money to build a ground organization in Super Tuesday states. He has one office in California, while Sanders has dozens.
That could change. Big donors and bundlers — people who raise money from their personal networks — are beginning to give Biden a second look.
Tom Nides, Morgan Stanley’s vice chairman and a Democratic fundraiser, had been backing Klobuchar but switched to Biden on Monday.
“Most people who raise money in Democratic politics are going to coalesce around Biden if they haven’t already,” Nides said Monday. “It’s going to be a contest between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, and I don’t think it’s a very difficult choice for the Democrats who have been involved in politics for as long as I have.”
(Updates with Tom Nides backing Biden in last two paragraphs)
–With assistance from Mark Niquette and Max Abelson.
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Wendy Benjaminson at [email protected], Magan Crane
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