(Bloomberg) -- Joe Biden welcomed former rivals Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar and Beto O’Rourke into the fold Monday in a show of force by the Democratic Party’s establishment against front-runner Bernie Sanders the night before Super Tuesday.
Buttigieg and Klobuchar dropped out of the race in the last 24 hours and threw their support behind Biden, whose decisive win in South Carolina on Saturday appears to have cemented his status as the moderate alternative to Sanders’s democratic socialism.
The moves come just hours before polls open on Super Tuesday, when 14 states and one territory vote. The once-sprawling field is down to just five: Biden, Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Michael Bloomberg and Tulsi Gabbard.
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The crowd of more than 2,000 in Dallas was the one of the biggest Biden has seen since he launched his presidential run last August.
Klobuchar announced her departure from the race at Biden’s rally and introduced the former vice president by saying, “I can’t think of a better way to end my campaign than joining his.”
Biden spoke at length about uniting not only the Democratic Party but also the country.
“We’re based on an idea,” he said after reciting the preamble to the Constitution. “We’ve never fully lived up to it but we’ve never walked away from it like this president has.”
But first Biden must win the nomination, a path that is still uncertain despite the celebration of him on Monday. He outlined the central argument of the contest between Sanders and Biden when Biden said, “Most Americans don’t want the promise of a revolution. They want results.”
Sanders also held a massive rally, in Klobuchar’s home state of Minnesota, and beseeched the supporters of Buttigieg and Klobuchar to join his campaign.
“The door is open. Come on in,” he said.
Sanders criticized Biden’s views on trade deals, on the Iraq war, and on Social Security.
“I say those things because it is absolutely imperative to defeat Trump,” Sanders said. “Not only is our record different, the nature of our campaign is different.”
Sanders’s rise to the status of national front-runner worried Democratic leaders that his progressive policies would lead to defeat in November by President Donald Trump, and the endorsements Biden received Monday showed he is consolidating support for his campaign.
Since Saturday, Biden’s campaign has been announcing one endorsement from a party leader after another, including former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, along with current members of Congress and officials in key Super Tuesday states.
With his victory in South Carolina, Biden now has 54 pledged delegates to Sanders’s 60.
Buttigieg, who dropped out of the campaign Sunday night, appeared with Biden at a Dallas restaurant Monday and gave his endorsement.
“I am delighted to endorse and support Joe Biden,” Buttigieg said. Biden he added, has worked “on some of the most important issues affecting my generation and the next generation -- climate change, gun violence.”
Buttigieg’s endorsement was a change of tone for the former candidate, who criticized Biden in several debates for being out of touch and trying to take the country backward.
Klobuchar ended her presidential bid earlier Monday.
O’Rourke, an ex-congressman from El Paso and a popular Democrat in the state, endorsed Biden on Monday.
“Just a few days ago, the pundits declared my campaign dead,” Biden told a cheering crowd in Houston. “I stand here today because of minority communities. I am very much alive.”
The split between Sanders’s grass-roots supporters and the party leadership circling Biden was reminiscent of the 2016 presidential primary between establishment favorite Hillary Clinton and Sanders. The party took steps then to make peace with Sanders after it boxed him out of the nomination, but the surging endorsements for Biden might re-open that fight.
Sanders’s campaign manager, Ari Rabin-Havt, said Monday the Vermont senator was not worried about any pressure that comes with the middle of the party consolidating.
“Watching the campaign, watching the debates unfold, we believe they have constantly shown that Bernie is the strongest candidate to defeat Donald Trump and we think that’s still the case,” he told reporters in Salt Lake City where Sanders was campaigning.
With the field of moderate Democratic contenders shrinking, pressure will grow on Bloomberg to end his presidential bid to help bolster Biden’s chances for winning the nomination over Sanders.
But Bloomberg told supporters in Virginia he was “in it to win it.”
“Seventeen hours until the polls open plus or minus,” he said. “I’ve won three elections so far, I don’t plan to start losing now.”
Biden earned half the vote in South Carolina, trouncing national front-runner Sanders by about 30 percentage points. It was his first win in three presidential campaigns and his first in the 2020 race.
Sanders addressed the moderate wing getting behind Biden’s bid.
“The corporate establishment is coming together,” Sanders told reporters in Salt Lake City. “The political establishment is coming together and they will do everything. They are really getting nervous that working people are standing up.”
Sanders is favored to win the biggest delegate prize, California. Although Biden says he has raised $10 million since the polls closed on Saturday, and he told CNN Monday that his total since Feb. 1 was $33 million. Yet he has not had the money to build a ground organization in Super Tuesday states. He has one office in California, while Sanders has dozens.
That could change. Big donors and bundlers -- people who raise money from their personal networks -- are beginning to give Biden a second look.
Tom Nides, Morgan Stanley’s vice chairman and a Democratic fundraiser, had been backing Klobuchar but switched to Biden on Monday.
“Most people who raise money in Democratic politics are going to coalesce around Biden if they haven’t already,” Nides said Monday. “It’s going to be a contest between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, and I don’t think it’s a very difficult choice for the Democrats who have been involved in politics for as long as I have.”
(Updates crowd number in fifth paragraph)
--With assistance from Mark Niquette and Max Abelson.
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