A week ago Joe Biden was struggling to keep his third try for the presidency alive. Following his landslide South Carolina win, the other Democratic moderates, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, dropped out, and Monday, the Biden Illinois team was calling around wooing their local backers.
“Everything is moving so quickly,” said Sheila Nix, a Biden Illinois leader who served as Jill Biden’s chief of staff during the Obama White House years.
Bernie Sanders, a democratic socialist who is not a member of the Democratic party, on Monday was the frontrunner because he led the delegate count on the eve of the Super Tuesday vote.
While Sanders inspires a populist movement, there is a concern among Democrats that Sanders at the top of the ticket will endanger swing district House and Senate candidates. Sanders has strong roots in Illinois and almost beat Hillary Clinton here in 2016.
Biden has deep relationships with top Illinois elected officials stretching back for years and on Monday picked up the endorsement of Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill.
What’s not clear yet is where the backers of Buttigieg, the former South Bend mayor, and Klobuchar, a Minnesota senator, will go or if former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is really a factor. Klobuchar and Buttigieg endorsed Biden on Monday night
Biden’s decisive South Carolina victory Saturday is changing the trajectory of the Democratic presidential primary heading into Super Tuesday when 14 states vote with 1,357 delegates at stake. It takes 1,991 to win the nomination.
Six states vote March 10. On March 17, four states hold their primaries, including Illinois. It is likely Biden will be making a campaign swing in Illinois.
Bloomberg, after skipping separate February elections in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, is on the ballot for the first time Tuesday. If billionaire Bloomberg does not accumulate delegates — despite his spending of hundreds of millions of his own dollars — his candidacy could be over soon.
In Illinois, Bloomberg has opened 14 field offices and has hired more than 100 staffers.
Nix, the president of Tusk Philanthropies, said the Biden Illinois team hit the phones to leverage the new Biden boom, making another round of calls to uncommitted Illinois elected officials and to donors.
Last month, the Biden campaign hired an Illinois state director: Claudia Chavez, who was the Iowa deputy state director for Biden for President. Chavez also worked in ex-Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s City Hall and political operation.
Chicago business executive and Democratic activist John Atkinson, an early Buttigieg backer, was in Buttigieg’s top donor group called the Investors Circle. He told me Monday with Buttigieg’s departure from the race, he is now for Biden.
Atkinson said the Buttigieg campaign conducted itself “with a lot of dignity and a lot of class.” Buttigieg, said Atkinson, “represents the future.”
For the present, however, “there is also a level of urgency to prevent us from nominating someone who is going to represent just another polarizing, dividing figure,” said Atkinson.
Atkinson sent in a maximum $2,800 contribution to Biden on Monday, and, “I’m urging all of the people that were part of the Investors Circle I brought in and the people of Chicago to support Vice President Biden.”
Kevin Conlon, another Democratic activist in Chicago, is supporting Bloomberg. While South Carolina was a game-changer for Biden and helped “resuscitate him,” Conlon said not to count Bloomberg out. “It’s going to be a three-way race for sure, it looks like,” with Bloomberg offering a strong “contrast” to President Donald Trump.
Jon Carson, who was the 2008 national field director for Barack Obama’s first presidential race — and who now runs a Chicago area solar development company — is a supporter of Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.
Carson sees no reason for Warren to drop out right now. She has the resources, the staff on the ground and, “I think things are moving so rapidly and evolving, I mean look at how rapidly things changed for Joe Biden. I think it absolutely makes sense for her to compete these next couple of weeks.”
ANALYZING SUPER TUESDAY
*In looking at the results from the Super Tuesday contests and beyond, remember what counts in picking a Democratic nominee is how many delegates are won in each congressional district — not who has the biggest popular vote. Here’s the latest pre-Super Tuesday elected delegate count, according to the Washington Post: Sanders, 60; Biden, 53; Buttigieg, 26; Warren, 8; Klobuchar, 7.
*With the shrinking Democratic field, we now know the 2020 White House winner will be a septuagenarian. The youngest candidate with delegates is Warren, 70. Sanders is 78; Bloomberg is 78; and Biden is 77. President Donald Trump is 73.