HOUSTON (Reuters) – Former Vice President Joe Biden’s Democratic presidential bid picked up steam on Monday as he was set to pick up the endorsements of two former 2020 rivals: Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg.
Klobuchar, a U.S. senator from Minnesota, will become the third 2020 candidate in as many days to drop out of the race when she announces the suspension of her campaign in Dallas, where she will also publicly back Biden, a Klobuchar aide said.
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Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Buttigieg, who ended his White House bid on Sunday, also plans to endorse Biden in Dallas, a top adviser said.
Biden is fresh off a resounding victory in Saturday’s South Carolina primary and aiming for a strong showing on Super Tuesday against U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, the national front-runner and a democratic socialist from Vermont.
The Super Tuesday contests offer the biggest one-day haul of the 1,991 delegates needed to win the party’s nomination at its national convention in July, with about 1,357 delegates, or nearly one-third of the total number, up for grabs.
Fourteen states – California, Texas, Virginia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Vermont, Colorado, Utah, North Carolina and Maine – as well as American Samoa and Democrats living abroad cast ballots on Tuesday. (The primary for expatriate Americans is scheduled to run through March 10.)
Billionaire former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg will make his ballot-box debut, betting that the hundreds of millions of dollars of his own money he has poured into his campaign will allow him to make up for not competing in the first four early-voting states.
Five candidates – Biden, Bloomberg, Sanders, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and U.S. Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii – remain for the nomination to take on Republican President Donald Trump in November’s election, down from more than 20 earlier in the race.
Bloomberg and Biden have emerged as the main contenders for the votes of moderate Democrats while Sanders is the progressive front-runner nationally.
Biden’s high-stakes triumph in South Carolina, where his campaign had said his popularity with black voters would propel him to victory after early disappointing finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire, helped winnow the field.
In addition to Klobuchar and Buttigieg, billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer also gave up his campaign on Saturday night after a third-place finish in the Southern state in which he had invested most heavily.
But it was not immediately clear who would immediately benefit from their departures. A Morning Consult poll taken Feb. 23-27, for example, before Buttigieg exited the race, showed that 21% of his supporters named Sanders as their second choice, 19% picked Biden, another 19% chose Warren and 17% favored Bloomberg.
Biden still lags his rivals in spending and organization in Super Tuesday states and beyond, but his campaign said on Sunday it had raised more than $10 million over the preceding two days.
Biden’s campaign has also touted endorsements from more than 70 elected officials and community leaders since South Carolina’s primary that could lead to a boost in attention for Biden ahead of Super Tuesday.
In Virginia, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine has endorsed him, along with state House Majority Leader Charniele Herring. In Colorado, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock has backed Biden. In California, U.S. Representative Gil Cisneros is supporting the former vice president.
Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt in Houston and Jarrett Renshaw in Philadelphia, additional reporting by Amanda Becker, Michael Martina, Tim Reid and Sharon Bernstein; writing by Amanda Becker; Editing by Scott Malone and Jonathan Oatis