There has been a dramatic turnaround in the run for democratic presidential nomination, with two high-profile candidates abandoning and lending their support behind former vice president Joe Biden.
Former South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg and Senator Amy Klobuchar will join Mr. Biden in a rally in Texas today, where both are expected to publicly support him.
It is a significant moment. Up to this week, Buttigieg and Klobuchar have been competing with Biden, but the huge victory of the former vice president in South Carolina led them to conclude that they no longer had a realistic path for the appointment.
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Their decision to abandon and support Mr Biden is a sign that moderate Democrats are joining behind him as the only viable alternative to left-wing Senator Bernie Sanders, with only a few hours remaining until 14 states simultaneously vote on the Super Tuesday.
Speaking yesterday with supporters of South Bend, Buttigieg said that he will exit the race for the same reason he initially entered, because he believed it was the best way to help the Democratic Party beat President Donald Trump in the November general election.
“We have a responsibility to further consider the effect of staying in this race,” he said.
“Our goal has always been to help unify the Americans to defeat Donald Trump and win the era of our values. And therefore we must recognize that at this point in the race, the best way to keep faith with those goals and ideals is to take a step back and help bring our party and our country together. “
Klobuchar has yet to speak publicly about his decision, but his logic will be the same.
Moderate Democrats are concerned that Sanders, a self-taught democratic socialist, will lose to Trump if he is selected as a party candidate.
Sanders has become the undisputed leader for that nomination in the past month, racking up victories in New Hampshire and Nevada, while the moderate vote has fractured between Biden, Buttigieg and Klobuchar.
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Tomorrow even the billionaire Michael Bloomberg will participate for the first time in the ballot box, after having skipped the first four states.
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Today, when asked about the prospect of Biden consolidating moderate support, Sanders said he was not surprised or particularly worried.
“Look, it’s not a secret – The Washington Post has 16 articles a day on this – that there is a huge effort in an attempt to stop Bernie Sanders. It’s no secret, “he told reporters.
“The corporate establishment is coming together. The political establishment is coming together and they will do anything.
“They are really noticing that the workers stand up.
“By the way, when we talk about South Carolina and talk about other states, we are winning the working class voters with large numbers. So they are nervous that the people of the working class are supporting decent wages. They are nervous that we are ready to face the fossil fuel industry to try and save this planet. They are nervous because more and more Americans understand that healthcare is a human right, not a privilege.
“So it doesn’t surprise me.”
Sanders’ claim to have won the working class voters with “big numbers” in South Carolina is doubtful. The exit poll showed him winning among white voters with no college degrees, but when African Americans were added to the mix, Biden was well ahead with a margin of 50% to 22%.
It is true, however, that Mr. Sanders significantly outperformed Mr. Biden in the previous three states.
Buttigieg and Klobuchar simultaneously support Mr. Biden on the eve of Super Tuesday, which promises to be the most important day so far in the presidential race.
Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina all voted one by one over the course of a month. Tomorrow, 14 states will vote simultaneously. And among these are the two most populous states in the country, California and Texas.
To understand the full meaning of such competitions, a fast accelerated course on how the nomination process works.
Candidates are not just competing for votes; compete for delegates to the Democratic National Convention, to be held in July. This is where the party candidate will be officially named.
Each state in the country has a certain number of delegates to be eliminated. Do well in one state and gain a lot of its delegates. You hurt and you risk getting none.
The goal is to go to the July convention with the majority of delegates already committed to supporting you. The magic number to reach the majority is 1,991.
The four states that voted before Super Tuesday assigned 155 delegates put together. On Super Tuesday, California alone assigns 415 and Texas assigns 228. Marks a dramatic acceleration in the primary process.
Once the other 12 states are considered, a full third of the delegates offered in the primaries will be won and lost in a single day.
And that’s why Super Tuesday matters so much. It could be the moment when Mr. Sanders moves to an unassailable advantage. Or he could leave him in the neck with Mr Biden, sparking a long and bitter fight for the nomination.
The consolidation behind Biden is particularly significant because it distinguishes this year’s Democratic primary from Republican four years ago.
In 2016, Trump was in a position similar to that of Sanders. Despite being a stranger, he had climbed the Republican camp front.
The party establishment was terrified of Trump’s appointment, believing – wrongly, it turned out – that he would lose to Hillary Clinton.
But most of Trump’s serious rivals for the nomination stubbornly refused to abandon the race. Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and John Kasich all stayed too long, dividing the anti-Trump vote among themselves as he sought victory.
All three thought that the republican establishment should unite behind them. Instead, they ensured that he never joined behind anyone.
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Buttigieg, in particular, could have decided to stay in this year’s democratic race after winning Iowa and making a strong second in New Hampshire.
But he and Mrs. Klobuchar seem to have learned a crucial lesson from the Republicans’ inability to merge behind Mr. Cruz, Mr. Rubio or Mr. Kasich.
The symbolism that appears together to support Mr Biden is particularly strong, as they have spent months attacking each other on the campaign track and during the debates.
Klobuchar has repeatedly accused Buttigieg of being too inexperienced to run for president, having served only as mayor of a medium-sized city.
In return, Buttigieg mocked his record as a senator in Washington D.C., suggesting that Americans wanted a president with a different kind of experience.
Both are putting aside their previous hostilities.
Buttigieg appeared alongside Biden before today’s demonstration to officially announce his approval.
“When I ran for president, we made it clear that the idea was to rally the country together to defeat Donald Trump and win the era of values we share,” said Buttigieg.
“It was always a much bigger goal than me to become president. And it’s in the name of that same goal that I’m happy to support and support Joe Biden as president tonight. “
Biden then praised the former mayor, saying it reminded him of his beloved son Beau, who died in 2015.
“I don’t think I’ve ever done it before. But it reminds me of my son Beau. And I know it might not mean much to most people, but for me it’s the best compliment I could give to any man or woman,” said Biden .
“I look at Pete during the debate and think:” You know, he’s a Beau. “Because he has such an enormous character, such an intellectual capacity and such a commitment to other people. I can’t tell you how much it means for me that he would take me one step further and would endorse me.”
He urged Buttigieg to remain engaged in politics, saying that “there were no limits to what he could do” and the only reason his presidential race had failed was his relative anonymity on the national scene.
“If Pete had been around for another six years, I wouldn’t be here. Pete would be on his feet, and I would have supported Pete,” Biden said.
He indicated that he would assign a role in his administration to Mr Buttigieg if he were to become president.
Biden said that Klobuchar is “also a great talent”.
The two former candidates are not the only figures in the establishment who unite behind Mr. Biden.
Beto O’Rourke, a popular Democrat from Texas who dropped the race in November, is expected to approve it at today’s demonstration as well.
And Barack Obama’s national security adviser Susan Rice has approved the former vice president today, labeling him “the strongest candidate to hire and defeat Trump”.
“Joe Biden will bring dignity, integrity and normality back to the White House, restoring the American soul and trust in our leaders and institutions,” Rice said.
“He is intelligent, strategic and more experienced than any candidate in the sector. No one is better prepared and more trusted than our allies to repair the damage Trump has done. “