Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden won formal endorsements Monday from several of his top onetime 2020 Democratic rivals as the party establishment swiftly closed ranks around Mr. Biden as the last best hope to stop Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, endorsed Mr. Biden at separate events in Texas on the eve of Super Tuesday, when 14 states hold their primaries and about one-third of the pledged delegates to the Democratic National Convention are up for grabs.
Ms. Klobuchar announced her endorsement as she closed the book on her own White House campaign, marking a quick turnaround to back someone else.
“It is time for Americans to join hands instead of pointing fingers,” Ms. Klobuchar said.
“What we see right now is an opportunity, not just to meet that imperative of getting a new and better president, but of doing it with a leader who will practice that way of rallying people together,” Mr. Buttigieg said.
Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas, who dropped out of the race in the fall, also endorsed Mr. Biden on Monday.
Other party luminaries, including former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, also came out in support of Mr. Biden after the former vice president revived his White House bid Saturday with a blowout win in South Carolina.
“It had to come down to this,” said Paul Goldman, a former chairman of the Democratic Party of Virginia. “Everybody knows Biden is the choice of the Democratic establishment. You’d have to be living on Mars not to know that.”
Indeed, Democratic leaders are scrambling to prevent Mr. Sanders, a self-described “democratic socialist,” from leading their party’s ticket in November.
In his statement, Mr. Reid praised Mr. Biden as a “much-needed stabilizing force following Trump’s disastrous term.”
“I believe Biden is best able to defeat Donald Trump and enact the policies we all care about,” said the Nevada Democrat. He also said he respects Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and former New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.
Mr. Reid remained neutral in the race ahead of his home state’s caucuses, which Mr. Sanders won easily. He made the announcement as Mr. Sanders was appearing Monday in neighboring Utah.
Mr. Sanders said he wasn’t shocked that the “establishment” is growing increasingly nervous about his momentum.
“It is no secret … that there is a massive effort trying to stop Bernie Sanders,” the senator from Vermont told reporters. “The corporate establishment is coming together. The political establishment is coming together, and they will do everything. They are really getting nervous that working people are standing up.”
Even with Mr. Biden’s win Saturday, Mr. Sanders heads into Super Tuesday with a lead of 60 convention delegates. Mr. Biden has 54, Mr. Buttigieg has 26, Ms. Warren has eight and Ms. Klobuchar has seven, according to the latest tally from The Associated Press.
Mr. Sanders was also leading in the most recent public polling on California and Texas, the two biggest prizes on the Super Tuesday slate.
More than 1,300 pledged delegates are up for grabs Tuesday. It takes 1,991 delegates to clinch the party’s nomination on the first ballot.
A big wild card in Mr. Biden’s potential comeback is the effect of early voting, which started well before his win in South Carolina and the endorsements that followed.
“Once you voted, you voted,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center. “Like in Massachusetts, I know people who voted for Buttigieg early. They can’t change their vote now. It’s dead … and 15, 20% of people voted early, not including absentee ballots.”
Mr. Paleologos said polling from the “bellwether” area of Contra Costa County, California, showed that Mr. Biden was the second choice of 22% of Buttigieg supporters, followed by Ms. Klobuchar at 17%. Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Sanders tied for third at 13%.
But in the “bellwether” of Waltham, Massachusetts, it was Ms. Klobuchar who topped the “Buttigieg second choice” list at 23%, followed by Mr. Bloomberg at 18%, Mr. Sanders at 15%, Ms. Warren at 13% and Mr. Biden at 3%.
“In California, where Biden could be seen as viable against Trump, he was the No. 1 choice but dead last in Massachusetts, where maybe people don’t see him as being relatively viable,” he said.
A Morning Consult poll conducted from Feb. 23-27 found that Mr. Sanders, Mr. Biden, Mr. Bloomberg and Ms. Warren were poised to get identical 2-point bumps if the second choices of Buttigieg supporters were reallocated.
Mr. Bloomberg didn’t compete in the first four states and is banking on a strong Super Tuesday performance to propel his campaign forward.
“I felt sorry for them, but I’m in it to win it,” he said while campaigning in Virginia. “We’re going to go out, and we’re going to go get ‘em.”
Jim Zogby, a Democratic National Committee member and Sanders supporter, said he always thought Mr. Buttigieg had a relatively thin base of support.
“It’s not like dropping out you got 300 delegates and they’re the delegates that actually got elected on a slate and actually were voted for and named for the convention,” he said. “That’s not where this is.”
He said the demographics of Mr. Buttigieg’s supporters overlapped more with Ms. Warren’s.
“Bernie’s and Biden’s were the ones that overlapped,” Mr. Zogby said. “White working-class, minority voters, and obviously then the progressive left. That’s a constituency that Buttigieg didn’t have, and so I think it’s not something that I expected that he would come out and support Bernie.”
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