- Joe Biden’s presidential campaign was struggling amid debate gaffes, poor performances in early-voting states, and a crowded field.
- But Biden received a series of high-profile endorsements on Monday — including from former rivals — just in time for Super Tuesday.
- The endorsements are likely to boost his campaign and put new pressure on his competitors, as Sen. Bernie Sanders goes into the most important day of the primary retaining frontrunner status.
- A late change in momentum may alter the mood on Super Tuesday, but it’s not clear how much it will help at the polls.
- Many voters will have made up their minds already — some literally in the form of postal votes — and only the results will tell.
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Until Joe Biden finally managed to win his first-ever primary contest in his three presidential runs, his 2020 campaign was floundering.
He entered the race with frontrunner status and high expectations — but soon started to suffer.
Setbacks included debates littered with unforced errors and dismal finishes in the Iowa and New Hampshire votes.
Bob Shrum, a former adviser to Al Gore and John Kerry’s presidential campaigns, was not alone when he said Biden needed “a political miracle” to stay in the race.
But now — on the morning of Super Tuesday — the feeling around Biden’s campaign appears to have dramatically reversed, boosted by a quick succession of high-profile endorsements.
Here’s where Biden started, and what has changed just on the most important day of the Democratic primary.
Biden’s campaign largely ranged from OK to abysmal
Biden entered the race as a household name, known for his close ties with former President Barack Obama. It established him in the minds of many race-watchers as one of the ones, if not the one, to beat.
But his apparent electability sagged the longer the campaign continued.
Rival candidates honed in on his record on race issues, and he made a series of bizarre comments including that he would “punch” domestic violence and that he had the support of the “only” African-American woman in the US Senate, despite Senator Kamala Harris, an African-American, being on stage with and running against him at the time.
His performance in the first primary contests were also embarrassing for his campaign: He finished fourth in Iowa, fifth in New Hampshire, and second in Nevada.
Other problems facing Biden’s campaign included:
As time went on, one of his competitors, Senator Bernie Sanders, managed to cement his status as the frontrunner which at one time had appeared Biden’s by right.
But — as Super Tuesday dawned — his fortunes changed.
Biden won a string of high-profile endorsements in quick succession
Some of Biden’s former rivals threw their support behind him following his South Carolina victory.
These included former Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Senator Amy Klobuchar, who dropped out on Sunday and Monday respectively.
Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who dropped out of the race in November, also endorsed Biden on Monday night.
On Monday he was also endorsed by former Nevada Senator Harry Reid, once the most powerful Democrat in the Senate, and former Obama National Security Adviser Susan Rice.
Biden had also received a crucial endorsement from House Majority Rep. Whip Jim Clyburn, the most senior African-American lawmaker in the House of Representatives and South Carolina’s most influential Democratic figure, before the South Carolina debate.
It not surprising that many these figures, seen as moderates, would support another moderate.
But they turn up the heat on Biden’s remaining rivals, particularly Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and put increased pressure on Sanders by consolidating the moderate vote.
Sanders, meanwhile, has also racked up endorsements from progressive Democrats and public figures and maintains frontrunner status with a slight majority in pledged delegates.
On Monday night, he called for his former rivals’ supporters to join his campaign: “To all of Amy and Pete’s millions of supporters, the door is open. Come on in.”
A note of caution
Though the endorsements, drop-outs, and general feel-good vibe around Biden may change the mood of some voters as they head to the polls, it is entirely possible that the shift comes too late to make a difference.
Many of the states — especially California, with the most delegates — get a large proportion of votes via post, meaning it is too late for people to change their mind on polling day.
Also, old impressions die hard, and an endorsement by a candidate doesn’t mean all their supporters will follow, or that any pre-existing impressions of a candidate will get wiped out.
It is possible that Buttigieg, Klobuchar, and O’Rourke supporters will also listen to Sanders, rather than following their former presidential picks.
As ever, it won’t be until Tuesday evening when results start to come in that we will know whether Biden’s last-minute boost mattered where it counts.