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Biden leads 2020 pack in congressional endorsements

Former Vice President Joe Biden is leading the 2020 pack in congressional endorsements with just over a week to go before the nomination race officially kicks off with the Iowa caucuses.

Biden currently has 42 endorsements from House and Senate Democrats, more than twice as many as his closest presidential primary competitors, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

Biden’s popularity in the congressional endorsement contest allows him to underscore his electability argument by touting his longstanding relationships and experience on Capitol Hill, where he served six terms as a senator from Delaware. 

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Congressional endorsements are seen as an important measure in presidential elections, allowing candidates to lean on lawmakers to act as campaign surrogates, especially if they hail from key primary or caucus states. 

They can also shore up a candidate’s standing with key Democratic constituencies. Biden and his allies are touting how his endorsements hail from various corners of the Democratic caucuses on Capitol Hill, presenting that as evidence that he’s backed by a diverse coalition that can win nationally. 

Fifteen of Biden’s 41 endorsements are from members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), along with five members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) and nine from competitive swing districts.

Biden rolled out four new endorsements from lawmakers in the CBC last week after the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, including two who had previously endorsed Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) before she dropped out of the race in early December.

Polls have shown Biden leading consistently among African-American Democratic voters, including in South Carolina, where the former vice president is leading in the polls. 

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Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), a CBC member who had backed Harris, said she shifted her support to Biden because she considers him the most viable and experienced candidate to take on President Trump.

“While former Vice President Biden initially stumbled on the campaign trail, his debate performances have steadily improved and he has consistently been at the top of the polls,” Wilson told The Hill. “In addition, he has the respect of world leaders with whom he engaged as vice president and, if elected, could bypass the whole getting-to-know you phase and immediately begin rebuilding our nation’s global standing.”

“The only person I believe in this lineup of candidates who can stop [Trump] from getting a second term is Biden,” Wilson also said.

Meanwhile, Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), who chairs the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’s political arm, said that Biden’s more moderate stances compared to Sanders or Warren and his record on issues like gun safety and health care resonate with lawmakers.

Latino voters are set to play a critical role in early-state Nevada in late February as well as in Texas and California, two Super Tuesday primary states. 

“His record dwarfs everybody else’s,” Cárdenas said. “He’s not an extremist. And I think the average American is not an extremist.”

And while most senators have declined to endorse anyone, Biden has secured five endorsements from the chamber — more than any other Democratic presidential candidate.

Meanwhile, Warren has 13 congressional endorsements, drawing heavily from progressive lawmakers as well as from her home state.

Warren locked down endorsements from six members of her Massachusetts delegation, including Rep. Ayanna Pressley, except for three who have yet to endorse anyone and a fourth, Rep. Stephen Lynch, who has backed Biden.

She also secured an endorsement this past week from Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a progressive and constitutional expert who has been front and center in House Democrats’ investigations of the Trump administration.

“Elizabeth Warren has the chance to recapture the moral center of America and make it the political center of our party,” Raskin said in a video posted to his Twitter account.

Only one Democrat representing a swing district, freshman Rep. Katie Porter (Calif.), has endorsed Warren.

Sanders has 8 congressional endorsements, including three members of the so-called “squad” — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (Mich.).

The endorsements were considered a coup for the Vermont senator, as other candidates had also been courting the three first-term lawmakers.

Ocasio-Cortez, who has emerged as a progressive star, is set to play a key role in campaigning for Sanders in Iowa at a time when the senator is stuck in Washington because of Trump’s impeachment trial, including rallying for him on Friday. 

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Sanders has also locked down support from many of the top progressive leaders in Congress who don’t believe Biden’s positions go far enough. The Progressive Caucus co-chairs, Reps. Mark Pocan (Wis.) and Pramila Jayapal (Wash.), each endorsed Sanders within the last ten days.  

Jayapal told CBS News after endorsing Sanders last weekend that the U.S. risked “another Donald Trump down the road” if the U.S. doesn’t elect a more progressive candidate.

“Even if it is a Democratic president, if we don’t address these issues we will end up with another Donald Trump down the road,” Jayapal said. “Because people are suffering. And our job has to be to fix that suffering.”

Sanders also has endorsements from the other two members of the Vermont congressional delegation: Sen. Patrick Leahy and Rep. Peter Welch.

Among other presidential contenders, former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg has six congressional endorsements, including one from Rep. Ann Kuster (D-N.H.), who is serving as a national campaign co-chair.

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He also secured an endorsement from Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Md.), a CBC member, a critical one given persistent concerns about Buttigieg’s lack of support among African American voters.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), who like Biden has run on a more moderate platform, so far has five endorsements, all hailing from her Minnesota delegation: Sen. Tina Smith and Reps. Betty McCollum, Collin Peterson, Angie Craig and Dean Phillips.

Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg has also picked up endorsements from four House Democrats in recent days, and former Rep. John Delaney (Md.) has two endorsements despite his consistently low standing in the polls.

But four Democratic presidential candidates — Sen. Michael Bennet (Colo.), Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii), Tom Steyer and Andrew Yang — have yet to earn a congressional endorsement.

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