Democratic Battle Lines Come Into Focus as Buttigieg and Klobuchar Endorse Biden

(CN) – With the Democratic presidential primary in a state of extreme flux, former Vice President Joe Biden continued to marshal the vast middle ground of Democratic voters Monday with endorsements from Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar whose campaigns died on the field of electoral battle in South Carolina.

With his campaign flailing after losses in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, Biden rose from the near-dead and won almost 50% of the vote in South Carolina on Saturday, catapulting him virtually overnight into the moderate that front-runner Bernie Sanders has to beat. The coalescing followed quickly on the victory, and on Monday outside of a Dallas restaurant, Buttigieg turned his rhetoric and his support to the man in the middle.

“When I ran for president, we made it clear that the whole idea was about rallying the country together to defeat Donald Trump,” Buttigieg said. “It is in the name of that very same goal that I am delighted to endorse and support Joe Biden for president.”

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks during a campaign rally Monday at Texas Southern University in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)

Biden thanked Buttigieg in a speech that visibly moved the former mayor. “He reminds me of my son, Beau,” Biden said, referring to his oldest son who died of cancer in 2015 at the age of 46. “It’s the highest compliment I can give any man or woman. Like Beau, he has a backbone like a ramrod.”

Biden indicated that if he wins the nomination and the presidency, he will ask Buttigieg to join in his administration.

Klobuchar threw her support behind Biden at a Dallas rally alongside former 2020 contender Beto O’Rourke.

“It is up to us, all of us, to put our country back together to heal this county,” Klobuchar said. “I believe we can do this together, and that is why today I am ending my campaign and endorsing Joe Biden for president.”

After Klobuchar, former Texas Representative Beto O’Rourke entered the stage to raucous applause.

“I will be casting my ballot for Joe Biden,” O’Rourke announced. “We need somebody who can bring us together and heal us … we need Joe Biden.”

Biden told the audience it won’t be the last they see of O’Rourke.

“You are going to take care of this gun problem with me,” Biden said, embracing the former congressman.

Despite the slew of endorsements for Biden, the middle may not be a safe place in the hectic competition to rack up Democratic convention votes.

“Bernie can be really divisive. But I think he’s the only one with a solid grassroots following. Since he’s got a different strategy, he’s activating people who are unactivated,” said 27-year-old Jason Schwartz at a Biden rally earlier in Houston. “Younger voters and people in more rural communities, especially in manufacturing areas of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.”

The former vice president’s campaign ran in high gear Monday as he also held a rally at a historic black college in Houston, reinforcing his ties to a core constituency that revived his campaign ahead of crucial Super Tuesday primary elections.

Texas Southern University, founded in 1927, has 10,000 students and an endowment of $59 million. Its 150-acre campus is within blocks of the University of Houston’s main 667-acre campus, which has more than 40,000 students and an endowment of $959 million.

Former Vice President Joe Biden at a campaign rally at Texas Southern University in Houston on Monday, March 2, 2020. (CNS Photo/Cameron Langford)

Ringed by supporters in the atrium of a TSU science building, Biden stepped to the microphone as his former boss President Barack Obama’s voice played on speakers.

Obama said Biden had worked to reduce gun violence, fought to make college more affordable and championed legislation to protect women from violence while representing Delaware in the U.S. Senate from 1973 to 2009 and as Obama’s vice president from 2009 until early 2017.

“Joe’s candid honest counsel made me a better president and a better commander in chief. All of this makes him the finest vice president we have ever seen. The best part is he’s nowhere close to finished,” Obama said.

Biden opened with a hunk of red meat.

“Everybody forgets why [historically black universities] came about in the first place. You weren’t allowed to go to other universities … As a consequence of that you don’t have the significant endowments other universities have. I promise you as president of the United States of America I’m going to fund HBUs by $70 million.”

“This will put you in a position to be able to compete because as everybody knows, you can do anything as well as anyone in the nation, you just need the wherewithal to compete,” he added.

On Super Tuesday, 1,357 delegates will be awarded — more than two-thirds of the 1,991 needed to win a majority of the 3,979 delegates in play for the whole nominating contest.

Biden said he won the South Carolina primary because he increased turnout among black voters in the Palmetto State by 160,000 compared to Obama’s first run for the presidency in 2008.

“Just a few days ago the pundits declared my campaign dead,” he said. “But I’m going to have something to say about it. As I stand here today because of minority communities I am very much alive.”

He added: “I think we’re going to do well here in Texas and when we do, we’re on our way to defeating Donald Trump.”

For his campaign to stay viable, Biden must do well in California and Texas, the two most lucrative states with 415 and 228 pledged delegates up for grabs, respectively.

“Most Americans don’t want a promise of revolution, they want a guarantee of results,” Biden said in a swipe at Sanders’ “Our Revolution” campaign motto.

The former vice president spoke for 20 minutes in Houston before heading to the events in Dallas.

Tori Cole, a 34-year-old IT consultant, said she has supported Biden since he launched his campaign and did not lose confidence in him despite his disappointing results in the early state contests.

“I knew he would bounce back once he got down to the South,” she said.

She said she supports Biden’s plans to expand the Affordable Care Act and give people a public option to enroll in a Medicare plan, and she doesn’t believe Sanders’ Medicare for All plan would work.

“I definitely don’t believe Bernie can deliver on Medicare for All, even with a Democratic Senate and House, as well as all the other free social programs he wants to deliver. I just don’t think it’s going to happen, it requires too much budget,” she said.

But Ayman Abdullah-Smoot, a 24-year-old TSU math major, said he voted for Sanders in the 2016 Democratic presidential primaries and he’s still backing the U.S. senator from Vermont.

“I know that Biden has claimed he’s supportive of the civil rights movement but that’s been disputed. … Having seen video and photos of Sanders in the civil rights movement that shows his consistency with civil rights is just as strong with his consistency with everything else he’s advocating for,” he said.

Schwartz, the Sanders supporter, said he is living in Ohio and stopped in Houston to visit his sister. He developed a political habit growing up in Washington, D.C., he explained, and also attended a Houston rally for Elizabeth Warren last Saturday.

The political traveler then put his hex on Biden. “I don’t think Biden has a good shot in Texas,” Schwartz said, adding he thinks Sanders will win the most delegates in the state.

Schwartz opened up the website Reddit, an online platform frequented by millennials and younger generations that functions like a message board where users anonymously post links and discuss politics, news and movies among dozens of other topics in chat groups called “subreddits.”

“You go to Reddit, Sanders has 475,000 supporters on Reddit, and Biden has barely even 5,000,” Schwartz said.

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