Senators see tide turning toward Biden after big win

Senate Democrats are starting to line up behind Joe BidenJoe BidenHillicon Valley: Biden calls on Facebook to change political speech rules | Dems demand hearings after Georgia election chaos | Microsoft stops selling facial recognition tech to police Trump finalizing executive order calling on police to use ‘force with compassion’ The Hill’s Campaign Report: Biden campaign goes on offensive against Facebook MORE after his dominant win in South Carolina, reflecting the former vice president’s longstanding relationships on Capitol Hill and growing confidence among lawmakers about his electability.

Biden’s performance among minority voters, a crucial voter turnout target in November, has bolstered how lawmakers see his strength in a head-to-head match-up with President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE. 

Biden won 64 percent of the African American votes cast in the South Carolina primary, compared to the 14 percent of black votes carried by his chief rival, Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill’s 12:30 Report: Milley apologizes for church photo-op Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness MORE (I-Vt.).

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Democratic senators are also worried about Sanders’s effect on candidates down ballot if he wins the party nomination.

Democrats need to pick up four seats, or three seats and the White House, to regain the Senate majority, and are targeting Republican-leaning states such as North Carolina, Iowa, Georgia and Kansas.

Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterSenate confirms Trump’s watchdog for coronavirus funds Montana barrels toward blockbuster Senate fight The 10 Senate seats most likely to flip MORE (D-Mont.), a moderate who hasn’t yet endorsed in the race, said he’s glad the field is shrinking: Former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegScaled-back Pride Month poses challenges for fundraising, outreach Biden hopes to pick VP by Aug. 1 It’s as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process MORE and Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley: Biden calls on Facebook to change political speech rules | Dems demand hearings after Georgia election chaos | Microsoft stops selling facial recognition tech to police Democrats demand Republican leaders examine election challenges after Georgia voting chaos Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk MORE (D-Minn.) both endorsed Biden on Monday after ending their presidential campaigns.

“I think it helps people make decisions,” Tester said of the two centrists dropping out of the race.

  Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineWarren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Senate panel passes amendment to bar using troops against protesters Defense bill turns into proxy battle over Floyd protests MORE (D-Va.), the party’s 2016 vice presidential candidate who endorsed Biden on Friday, said his support among African American voters is a key reason why he backed the former vice president.

“I live in a city, Richmond, where I was mayor, that’s predominantly an African American city. I know the affection that the African American city has for Joe Biden, and it was earned over a long period of time,” he said.   

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He predicted Biden would win Virginia on Tuesday, citing polling data and a big rally Biden held in Norfolk on Sunday night.

A third Senate Democrat, Sen. Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthWarren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Senate panel votes to require Pentagon to rename bases named after Confederates Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk MORE (Ill.), also endorsed Biden on Monday, praising him as a candidate who would “unite our party and country” and “restore dignity to the White House.”

While many other Democratic senators are staying officially neutral ahead of Super Tuesday, when 1,357 delegates will be up for grabs, more endorsements are expected in the weeks ahead, especially if Biden performs well.

Senate Democrats on Monday said the establishment seems to be drifting to Biden’s side in recent days.

“It would seem like that,” said Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyQAnon believer advances to Georgia House runoff race Senate Dems press DOJ over coronavirus safety precautions in juvenile detention centers Democratic unity starts to crack in coronavirus liability reform fight MORE (D-Ore.), who endorsed Sanders in 2016 but has stayed neutral in the 2020 primary so far.

Before the weekend, Sanders appeared to be on an unstoppable march to the nomination. He won the most votes in each of the first three primary contests in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada and had big polling leads in California and Texas, two of the biggest prizes on Super Tuesday.

With Klobuchar and Buttigieg sidelined, Biden’s biggest centrist rival now is former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who has spent $217 million on advertisements in Super Tuesday states. Bloomberg, however, could cut into the number of delegates Sanders picks up, as he is competing in every state holding a contest Tuesday. Biden has not visited all of those states and has not had the money to blanket the airwaves like Bloomberg.

In another sign the Democratic establishment is starting to coalesce behind Biden, former Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidHarry Reid says he’s cancer free White House gets jolt from strong jobs report Murkowski, Mattis criticism ratchets up pressure on GOP over Trump MORE (D-Nev.), who led the Senate Democratic caucus from 2005 to 2017, also announced his endorsement Monday.

Reid praised Biden as someone who would be “a much-needed stabilizing force following Trump’s disastrous term” and made it clear he sees former President Obama’s running mate as the best chance to boot President Trump from office.

“I believe Biden is best able to defeat Donald Trump and enact the policies we all care about,” he said.

Reid’s endorsement could be a signal to other Senate Democrats, many of whom are starting to line up behind Biden.

Other members of the Democratic establishment, including former Obama national security adviser Susan Rice and former Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman SchultzDeborah (Debbie) Wasserman SchultzVA initiates process to remove headstones with Nazi symbols Overnight Defense: Trump extends deployment of National Guard troops to aid with coronavirus response | Pentagon considers reducing quarantine to 10 days | Lawmakers push for removal of Nazi headstones from VA cemeteries VA secretary stops short of agreeing to remove Nazi headstones MORE (D-Fla.), endorsed Biden after his South Carolina win, as did former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Virginia Rep. Bobby ScottRobert (Bobby) Cortez ScottAm I racist? The coronavirus crisis has cut the child care sector Lack of child care poses major hurdle as businesses reopen MORE (D).

The wave of endorsements in the past few days has created a sense the tide is starting to turn toward Biden in the primary, even though he is still likely to win far fewer votes than Sanders on Tuesday. 

Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinHillicon Valley: Biden calls on Facebook to change political speech rules | Dems demand hearings after Georgia election chaos | Microsoft stops selling facial recognition tech to police Democrats demand Republican leaders examine election challenges after Georgia voting chaos GOP votes to give Graham broad subpoena power in Obama-era probe MORE (D-Calif.), who endorsed Biden last year, said his prospects look a lot brighter, especially because Sanders’s main rival for liberal votes, Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWarren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Joint Chiefs chairman says he regrets participating in Trump photo-op | GOP senators back Joint Chiefs chairman who voiced regret over Trump photo-op | Senate panel approves 0B defense policy bill Trump on collision course with Congress over bases with Confederate names MORE (D-Mass.), is staying in the race.

“I look at a certain vote split between Bernie and Elizabeth Warren, and that’s still there. Amy’s dropped out, Buttigieg’s dropped out,” she said.

“It’s getting much more down to the classic race,” she said. “I think Joe is getting better every day” as a candidate.

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