With voters in 14 states preparing to head to the polls for Super Tuesday, Joe Biden's campaign has steadily rolled out a slew of high-profile endorsements in key states, consolidating support from the moderate and establishment wings of the Democratic Party after his decisive victory in the South Carolina primary. CBSNews.com writer Melissa Quinn reports the floodgates seemingly opened Saturday in the wake of Biden's win in the Palmetto State, which propelled him to second in the national delegate race, trailing Bernie Sanders by just two delegates. As the former vice president was projected to win the state just after polls closed, former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe announced on CNN his support for Biden, saying he has the "best chance of winning" the state in November. Joining McAuliffe were fellow Virginians Senator Tim Kaine, Congressman Bobby Scott and Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton, who unseated a GOP incumbent in 2018. Also closing ranks around Biden were Congresswoman Veronica Escobar of Texas, Congressman Gil Cisneros of California and Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois — the seventh U.S. senator to back the former vice president. California, Texas and Virginia all hold their primaries Super Tuesday, when a total of 1,357 delegates are up for grabs. California and Texas will award the most, 415 and 228 respectively.
Among those announcing their support for Biden on Monday was former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who called him the candidate "who can assemble the largest, most diverse coalition possible to defeat Trump and lead our country following the trauma of Trump's presidency." In a statement Reid said, "Biden will be a much-needed stabilizing force following Trump's disastrous term, offering a positive and progressive alternative to Trump's dark vision of racism, xenophobia and policies built on cruelty and exclusion." Reid, who represented Nevada in the Senate for 30 years, added, "I believe Biden is best able to defeat Donald Trump and enact the policies we all care about." The former vice president is also expected to snag support from his former competitors in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. Amy Klobuchar, who suspended her presidential campaign on Monday, is expected to appear alongside Biden at a rally in Dallas on Monday night. Pete Buttigieg, who dropped out of the presidential race Sunday, endorsed Biden in Dallas on Monday night.
Among the field of Democratic presidential candidates, Biden has always had a high number of endorsements in competitive states like Iowa and New Hampshire, but they didn't translate into wins in either of the two states. In Iowa, Biden came in fourth and in New Hampshire, he placed fifth, and he came in second, far behind Sanders, in the Nevada caucuses. But that changed in South Carolina, where he received the coveted endorsement of Congressman Jim Clyburn, a Democratic kingmaker in the Palmetto State. Among Democratic primary voters, 47% said Clyburn's endorsement was an important factor in their vote. Biden thanked the South Carolina congressman for helping drive him to victory in the state, saying he "brought me back." The field of Democrats seeking the presidential nomination has thinned in the wake of the South Carolina primary. Tom Steyer ended his campaign on Saturday, followed by Buttigieg on Sunday and Klobuchar on Monday. This leaves five candidates in the race: Sanders, Biden, Mike Bloomberg, Tulsi Gabbard, and Elizabeth Warren.
Biden warned about the ramifications of Sanders winning the nomination in an interview on Monday with CBS News political reporter Caitlin Huey-Burns, saying a ticket led by Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, could jeopardize Democrats running for the House and Senate. "There's an awful lot of people who are running for office who don't want to run with Bernie at the top of the ticket as a self-proclaimed socialist," Biden said. "Imagine here in Texas or in North Carolina or in Georgia, the idea, if I said to you, 'This is an open test. You're running for office. Do you want a very popular, self-proclaimed socialist or a popular mainstream Democrat running at the top of the ticket?' My guess is in most states, they'd say no." The former vice president suggested his flurry of endorsements, including from Democrats in battleground states, stems from the realization that the success of other candidates could hinge on the eventual Democratic presidential nominee. "It's not going to be enough just to beat Donald Trump. We have to win back the Senate, we have to keep the House," he said. "Whether they're right or not, those people who are running for those offices think that Bernie was not likely to help them, but hurt them in their pursuit of their Senate or their House seat or their governor's seat."
*CBS News campaign reporter Bo Erickson contributed to this report
FROM THE CANDIDATES
As opposing candidates are dropping from the race, CBS News campaign reporter Zak Hudak says Warren is focusing on telling voters what she'd do in office. Ahead of a Los Angeles speech Monday night, the Massachusetts senator released a pair of plans, one that includes a $400 billion stimulus package "to head off the potential economic impact of coronavirus" and another to improve conditions for farm and food chain industry employees. At the start of January, Warren had released a plan on preventing, containing and treating infectious disease in light of the spread of coronavirus. This new plan echoes her speech in Houston Saturday, where she argued she is better suited to take on coronavirus then Sanders, Biden and Bloomberg. It says she would make certain uninsured Americans can get free care and evaluation for the virus, and that she would create an emergency paid leave program so that anyone with the CDC's outlined symptoms can be paid for time in quarantine. Warren's farmworkers rights plan specifies that she would include farmworkers in her push for a $15 minimum wage as well as replace the H2-A agricultural guest worker visa program with an immigrant worker visa that has full labor protections built in. Like her coronavirus economic plan, this one repeatedly references previous proposals and how they will work off of her new ones.
LIFE AFTER 2020
Klobuchar is suspending her presidential campaign and plans to endorse Biden at a rally in Dallas on Monday night, a campaign spokesman told CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga, just hours before voters in 14 states go to the polls on Super Tuesday. While the Minnesota Democrat often boasted about kicking off her campaign in the middle of a blizzard, the end of her run was marked by a storm of frustrations and stalled momentum. Aides and allies told CBS News they took solace that her campaign performed better and lasted longer than many had initially expected. Over the course of the campaign, Klobuchar was quick to admit she did not have the name recognition or financial resources enjoyed by some of her rivals. Besides hitting the trail, her prospects hinged on her performance in the primary debates, which were crucial for introducing herself to a national audience and raising money. Klobuchar positioned herself as a moderate Midwesterner who could unite the party, casting doubt on the feasibility of progressive policy proposals like free college tuition and Medicare for All put forward by Sanders. She also largely steered clear of criticizing Biden, given the similarity in their views. Armed with her neighborly appeal, Klobuchar bet that a strong finish in the Iowa caucuses would catapult her candidacy into the top tier. She set out to visit all of the state's 99 counties, a feat she accomplished just before the weeks-long Senate impeachment trial trapped her on Capitol Hill. She came in fifth place in Iowa, signaling that voters in that state did not agree with her proposition that a Midwest moderate was best suited to win back the heartland. In what would prove to be the high water mark of her bid, Klobuchar managed to bounce back with a strong showing at debate in New Hampshire just days before the Granite State's primary. She came in third, ahead of Warren, a surprising finish that allowed her to continue on to Nevada and South Carolina.
There were indications earlier Monday that Klobuchar's bid was coming to an end. After an event in Salt Lake City, Utah, the campaign held reporters for over two hours, with the lights turned off and no staff in sight. As late as Monday morning, a senior adviser said they had received no "official word" of her exiting the race but declined to elaborate. Multiple aides said they had expected her to remain in the race through Super Tuesday. The senator broke the news to her staff shortly after 1 p.m. ET on a conference call from Salt Lake City on Monday, two campaign officials told CBS News. Klobuchar thanked her team for their work on the "wild ride" of the campaign, telling staff that she was proud of the operation they built. She also acknowledged that the outcome was not what they wished, but that she felt it was right to consolidate support around Biden. The call lasted around 20 minutes, and Klobuchar and staff members were sad and a bit shell-shocked. One longtime Klobuchar ally told the initial plan to remain in the race through Super Tuesday was becoming untenable as polls showed her coming in behind Sanders in her own state of Minnesota, reports CBS News campaign reporter Bo Erickson. "The feeling in the campaign really starting to change last week," this person said.
ON THE $$$
ICYMI over the weekend, Sanders' campaign announced Sunday it raised $46.5 million in February, the most of any Democratic presidential candidate in a given month in the 2020 election cycle. CBS News political unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice says the figure shatters the previous monthly record of $25 million, set by the Sanders campaign in January. According to the campaign, the cash haul came from more than 2.2 million donations, including contributions from more than 350,000 donors who were giving to the campaign for the first time. The Vermont senator's fundraising efforts were fueled by victories in the early primary states of New Hampshire and Nevada, and a first-place finish in the popular vote in Iowa. The campaign said 99.9% of Sanders' donors have not reached the federal limit on individual contributions, meaning they can give again. The average donation in February was $21. Warren also announced her February fundraising numbers on Sunday, saying she pulled in $29 million, a record for her campaign. Her cash haul included $2.8 million on the day of Warren's well-received debate performance in Nevada on February 19. According to Warren campaign manager Roger Lau, 250,000 people donated for the first time in February, bringing the campaign's total number of donors since its launch to more than 1.25 million. The average February donation was $31. Read more here on how the candidate plans to use some of that cash.
After months of carrying a double-digit poll lead—that dramatically winnowed in the days leading up to the South Carolina Democratic primary—Biden won the state's primary contest with 48.7% on Saturday. Gaining 39 delegates in the "first in the South" primary state, CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell says Biden received more than double the amount of delegates on Saturday night than he had in the first three early state contests combined. The CBS News South Carolina exit poll show that Biden dominated in almost every category of South Carolina voters—coming up short only among non-college educated white men, people who never attend religious services and younger voters. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders edged out victories among voters ages 17-44 but came up short among black voters ages 30-44. According to the South Carolina Democratic Party, more than 600 campaign stops were made by the candidates throughout the cycle and a CBS News analysis shows that combined the candidates spent at least 145 days over 75 visits in the state. Amid reports that Republicans were being encouraged to participate in the open Democratic primary, exit polls showed only 5% of those who voted usually thought of themselves as a Republican. The SCDP reported record-breaking voter turnout with 539,020 South Carolina Democrats and Independents voting in Saturday's contest. This number smashed the 2008 Democratic primary record by nearly 7,000 votes but the total turnout percentage was just 16.33%, compared to the 23% of registered voters who turned out in the 2008 primary, where then-Senator Barack Obama won the contest with 55.4% of the vote.
As predicted by early absentee ballot returns, more women (59%) voted than men and black voters comprised nearly 60% of those who voted. Among black voters, 61% voted for Biden with Sanders coming in in second with only 17%. Health care ranked as the top issue for South Carolina voters and, while it was important for voters that the Democratic party nominate a candidate who agreed with them on major issues, more than half of those who voted said they would rather see the party nominate a candidate who could beat President Trump. Biden won in every geographical region of the state—from the more conservative upstate down to the more liberal Low Country. More voters who live in small cities and rural areas came out than those in larger cities (population 50,000+) and the suburbs — and population areas that Biden won. Tom Steyer, who had seen a notable rise in polls in recent months, ultimately came up short, receiving 59,917 votes, which was 11% of the overall vote. After having invested heavily in the state spending more than $20 million in ads, Steyer did not reach the 15% threshold to receive any delegates and dropped out of the race Saturday evening. During an emotional speech that was interrupted with cheers of "we love you, Tom!" from supporters, Steyer said that he would still be fighting for South Carolinians. "When the Lord closes a door, he opens a window. I will climb through that window and crawl through it with you," he said.
The second-biggest delegate prize on Super Tuesday is Texas, which will award 228 pledged national delegates, according to CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster. Democrats have ramped up their efforts in the days leading up to the primary, hoping to score points in the delegate-rich state. A CBS News Battleground Tracker poll released on Sunday showed Sanders with the lead in Texas, with 30% of likely primary voters saying he was their top choice. Biden was in second (26%), followed by Warren (17%) and Bloomberg (13%). The poll, taken February 27-29, had a margin of error of +/- 6.2%. Candidates need 15% support statewide or in Senate districts to win delegates. Sanders, who has led the most recent Texas polls, spent the weekend of the Nevada caucuses crisscrossing Texas. Thousands of supporters attended his rallies in El Paso, San Antonio, Houston and Austin, where he repeatedly said he would win Texas' primary. "On television, they say you know Texas is a conservative state, it's a red state. I don't believe it for a minute," Sanders said at his Houston rally. "If our people stand together, come out to vote, we're going to win here in Texas." Sanders' five public events in 2020 trailed only Bloomberg for public events held in the state in this calendar year. With the exception of Bloomberg, Sanders has also outspent all of his other Democratic competitors on the airwaves in Texas, dropping almost $5 million on advertisements, according to Kantar/CMAG data. Part of Sanders' polling strength has been his standing with Latino voters. A Univision poll released on Friday showed Sanders was leading with 31% support from Latino voters, followed by Bloomberg (23%), Biden (19%) and Warren (8%). The poll, taken February 21-26, had a margin of error of +/- 5.5%.
Biden, who had a huge lead in Texas polls until the calendar turned to 2020, spent his final day before Super Tuesday holding rallies in Houston and Dallas, hoping to capitalize on momentum from his strong finish in South Carolina. Biden's evening event in Dallas is set to feature endorsements from Klobuchar and Buttigieg, who have suspended their campaigns. That could give his campaign a final jolt before voting tomorrow. Recent polling has shown that Buttigieg and Klobuchar combined for 8% to 12% of the vote in Texas. In an interview on Monday with CBS News political reporter Caitlin Huey-Burns, Biden echoed concerns from some of his high profile Texas congressional endorsers about Sanders' possible effect on down ballot races. "There's an awful lot of people who are running for office who don't want to run with Bernie at the top of the ticket as a self-proclaimed socialist," Biden said in the interview with CBS News in Houston. "Imagine here in Texas or in North Carolina or in Georgia, the idea, if I said to you, 'This is an open test. You're running for office. Do you want a very popular, self-proclaimed socialist or a popular mainstream Democrat running at the top of the ticket?' My guess is in most states, they'd say no."
Nobody has spent more money or poured more resources into Texas than Bloomberg. He has more than 180 staffers on the ground in Texas and 19 offices around the state, giving him an unrivaled ground game form a sheer paid staff perspective. Bloomberg has blanketed the Texas airwaves by spending more than $47 million of advertisements. He has also held 13 public events in the state, more than his rivals, even though he jumped into the race last. "We want to come in number one," said Bloomberg's Texas State Director Ashlea Graves Turner. "We've built the biggest infrastructure that Texas has ever seen for a statewide candidate, especially a presidential candidate." In the closing days, Bloomberg made trips to Houston and San Antonio, where part of his pitch included his ability to handle crises like coronavirus.
Warren's campaign has been on the ground in Texas the longest of the campaigns remaining and has dozens of staffers spread around the state. Warren made two trips to Texas in the final week before Super Tuesday with rallies in San Antonio on Thursday and Houston on Saturday. In Houston, she acknowledged her campaign's struggles in the early states, but said she believes it can turn around. "I'll be the first to say that the first four contests haven't gone exactly as I'd hoped," Warren said. "But Super Tuesday is three days away and we're looking forward to gaining as many delegates to the convention as we can — from California to right here in Texas." Her high-profile Texas endorsers, former Obama Housing Secretary Julián Castro and Congressman Joaquin Castro, campaigned around the state for her on the final weekend before the primary. While Warren's campaign has spent about $900,000 on advertising in Texas, the Persist PAC, which supports her, has spent more than $2.6 million.
Gabbard is also in Texas on Monday for an event in Austin.
A key wrinkle in all of this: Just over 1 million people voted early or by mail in the Democratic primary, according to the Texas Secretary of State's website. Early voting ended last Friday and mailed ballots need to be counted. The Texas Secretary of State's office says those voters are not able to change their votes, even if a candidate has dropped out of the race. The turnout for Democrats in Texas' 15 most populated counties has eclipsed turnout in 2016's Democratic primary, but has not matched the record numbers from the 2008 Democratic primary.
As of Monday evening, more than 3.5 million in California have already returned their ballots. Election and data experts in the state expect total turnout this year to be close to 50%, which would mean around 10 million total votes.
Voters who have cast early ballots for candidates no longer in the race are not allowed to change their ballots. According to Paul Mitchell, vice president of Political Data Inc., more than 500,000 votes were cast for candidates no longer in the race since early voting began on February 3. This would be about 5% of the total eventual turnout in the state.
Another group to keep an eye on are the so called "perfect" voters — the ones who have participated in the last five elections but are not turning in their ballots as fast. Mitchell's data shows that so far, only about 40% of those "perfect" voters have turned in their ballots. In 2016 and 2008, more than 9 in 10 of these voters participated and this year, Mitchell expects turnout among this group to be just as high.
"There is a segment of Democratic perfect voters, voters that have voted five of the last five elections that are not turning in their ballots as fast. And we know those people are going to vote. They voted five of the last five elections," Mitchell said. "They voted in the 2014 primary and the general, which were the lowest turnout elections we've had in forever and they still haven't voted. Well, it's not because they said 'I just don't care anymore,' it's because they're waiting to see what happens in probably South Carolina. I expect those people to turnout."
In the latest CBS News Battleground Tracker poll, only 9% said the results out of South Carolina will be a "major" factor in their decision, compared to the nearly 40% who said what happened in South Carolina will have no impact on their vote.
IN THE HOUSE
In addition to the presidential primaries on Super Tuesday, 120 congressional districts will also be holding primaries on Super Tuesday, and about three-quarters of these are in the delegate-rich states of Texas and California. Here's some interesting House races to watch on Tuesday via CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro:
- Texas' 28th district: There's a lot of national attention on this primary, where Jessica Cisneros is looking to replace incumbent Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar. Cuellar has held this seat for 15 years and has not had a competitive primary challenger until now. He's getting some high-profile help, though — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi traveled to the Laredo area for to support Cuellar at a campaign event last week. Cisneros aligns with a lot of progressive ideals, including Medicare for All and the Green New Deal, and is painting Cuellar, who she once interned for, as out of touch with the district. Her closing argument centers around his votes on immigration and the border wall, and she derides him as "Trump's favorite Democrat." She has been endorsed by Sanders, Warren and former presidential candidate Julián Castro. It's a lot of outside attention that strategists say hasn't been seen in this district much. Cuellar's campaign manager Colin Strother said a lot of the outside involvement is from people who "have now parachuted in trying to tell people who's a good Democrat and who's not."
- Texas' 12th district: Another Congressional incumbent facing a challenge, former City Council member Chris Putnam is trying to get Republican Representative Kay Granger out of office. He has attacked her for being a "Never Trumper" and her past pro-choice stance on abortion. Granger, who endorsed Jeb Bush in the 2016 presidential race, received the endorsement from Mr. Trump in December.
- Texas' 22nd district: In Houston, Pierce Bush is looking to see if he can continue his family's political fortune in the race for Texas' 22nd District. To do that, he'll have to get past candidates like Greg Hill, Kathleen Wall and Troy Nehls, all unapologetic supporters of the president who have questioned Bush's commitment to Mr. Trump. Wall has raised and spent close to $3.2 million for this race, but Bush is a heavy Republican establishment favorite and was listed on the National Republican Congressional Committee's "Young Guns" list alongside Hill. After he received the endorsement of the district's Representative Pete Olson, another retirement heading of this election cycle, Hill immediately looked to tie Bush to the "swamp." "I pledge to stand with President Trump to drain the swamp, not become part of the problem," he said in January.
- California's 25th district: In the seat formerly represented by Katie Hill, polls show that Democratic State Assemblywoman Christy Smith is poised to box out progressive talk show host Cenk Uygur in the state's jungle primary, where the top two candidates move on to the general election regardless of party. The ideological contrasts in this Democratic race mirror those of the presidential primary race. Smith is pitching herself as a centrist moderate who can work across the aisle, while Uygur has fully taken the progressive lane, though not without some controversy. Uygur was briefly endorsed by Sanders, but Sanders backtracked within 24 hours, after outcry over Uygur's past sexist comments. On the Republican side, Steve Knight is running to reclaim the typically Republican Los Angeles county seat after he was ousted by Hill in 2018. To do that, he'll have to get past veteran Mike Garcia. Garcia has received the endorsement of the state's Republican party, and leads all candidates in the field in fundraising.
- California's 50th district: In San Diego, two Republicans have been engaged in a vicious primary for Representative Duncan Hunter's old seat. Hunter officially resigned in January, after pleading guilty to misuse of campaign finance funds. Darrell Issa, who previously represented the neighboring 49th District before deciding to leave Congress in 2018, is hoping to keep conservative talk show host Carl DeMaio off the final ballot. The race has taken a common dynamic of Republican House elections this cycle, as the two men look to "out-Trump" each other and show that their support of the president is stronger. Whoever comes out of this will likely face Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar, who narrowly lost to Hunter in 2018.