(CN) – Joe Biden, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination for president, secured an important endorsement Thursday afternoon when Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti threw his rising political capital behind the former vice president.
Garcetti, who many pundits thought would launch a presidential campaign of his own, formally endorsed Biden, saying the vice president has the ability to bring the nation together and help enact policies beneficial to his constituents.
“We need Joe Biden to bring our nation and world together during these most divided and dangerous times,” Garcetti said in a statement released by the Biden campaign. “I know that from day one, he will heal our nation, repair our relationships abroad and get things done – and will be a true partner in solving the national homelessness crisis.”
Biden leads the polls nationally, but California – one of the most progressive states in the nation – has yet to fully embrace the emblem of the more moderate and centrist wing of the party. And Biden has skipped a couple of prominent Democratic events in the Golden State, including the Democratic Party convention in November.
Some have speculated Biden is eager to avoid potential boo birds from the progressive side of the party in California, but Biden – who campaigned in the state on Thursday – has vowed to make repeated visits to the state as his campaign progresses.
Garcetti said Biden is the right choice to confront climate change and economic inequality.
“Joe Biden is a close personal friend who has been an incredible partner in delivering progress for LA. He came to LA and stood shoulder to shoulder with me to make us the first big city to enact a $15 minimum wage, and he brought leaders from all over the world to our city to forge the most sweeping climate agreement prior to the Paris accords,” the mayor said.
Biden has also secured endorsements from U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein and several California congressmen.
The political world will eagerly await the endorsement of the other U.S. senator from California, Kamala Harris, who campaigned for president against Biden and sometimes sparred with him on the debate stage.
Biden received the news of Garcetti’s endorsement during a campaign stop in the Southern California city of Long Beach, where he also received Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia’s support. Garcia had previously endorsed Harris before she dropped out of the race.
In a statement, Garcia called Biden a “candidate that has both experience and the ability to build a broad-based coalition needed to beat Donald Trump – not just here in California, but across the country.”
Biden toured the Gerald Desmond Bridge in Long Beach with Garcia on Thursday, where he met with City Council members, construction workers and labor officials. The through-arch bridge provided a backdrop for Biden, flanked by reporters and cameras.
The bridge is a major artery from the transport hub of the Port of Long Beach and the new bridge is scheduled to open later this year. Its construction cost an estimated $1.3 billion and generated roughly 3,000 construction jobs. Garcia noted the bridge was approved during the Obama administration.
Of the project, Biden said: “This is the future. The future of the country is open trade. This is critically important.”
As he left the construction site, Biden called Garcia an “up-and-comer” and said “it means a lot to me that he endorsed me.” When asked about Garcetti’s endorsement Biden said, “He as well.”
But Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, professor of public policy communication at the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California, says Garcetti’s endorsement will mean very little to more progressive Democrats.
“I don’t think it moves the needle much,” Jeffe said in an interview. “It means that Biden is getting younger endorsements and the fact is he has the support of the mayor of Los Angeles and no one else does.”
Jeffe called Garcetti an establishment Democrat who will not win over any Sanders supporters. The question becomes how he will fundraise for Biden or bring other support to the campaign in California, she said.
Indeed, a Capital Weekly poll of California voters released Thursday has Biden trailing Vermont Senator Sanders by 4% and Massachusetts Senator Warren by 3%.
Biden was set to attend a fundraiser in Irvine later Thursday.