Stunning night for Biden surprises everyone — including his own loyalists
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’s stunning wins on Super Tuesday came as a surprise to even Biden loyalists.
Going into the contest on Tuesday, aides, donors and longtime allies said they hoped to keep the race competitive with 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.), with an eye toward a contested convention.
They knew better than anyone that Biden lacked the money, staff and resources to win a number of the 14 states up for grabs on Tuesday.
Instead, he pulled out huge upsets in the states of Minnesota and Massachusetts, where the Sanders bid to take those states and deal blows to home-state candidates Sens. 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.) and 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.) backfired badly.
Biden also won Oklahoma handily, which Sanders had taken in the 2016 primary.
He is leading in Maine, another New England state where Sanders had been favored.
And the former vice president pulled out a win in the second-biggest prize of the night in Texas to go with blowout victories in Alabama, Arkansas, Virginia, North Carolina, Arkansas and Tennessee.
It would be 10 victories in all compared to four for Sanders, who is projected to win the biggest contest of the night — California, where 415 delegates were up for grabs.
Biden’s team expected his victory in South Carolina coupled with the endorsements of 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, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., and Klobuchar to help their candidate. But they didn’t expect such a momentous night.
“In just a span of a week, this entire race changed,” said one longtime Biden aide, who had thought in recent days that it was “Bernie’s race to lose.”
“It WAS,” the aide wrote in a text on Tuesday night.
Going into Super Tuesday, the aide had said Biden just needed to keep the race “competitive” and “make sure Bernie doesn’t stack up on delegates,” particularly in Texas.
Another Biden donor was taken aback by the results, as the donor had been bracing for a big Sanders win.
“I thought South Carolina would give us some momentum, but I didn’t think it would be enough,” the donor said.
“It was a romp. There’s no mistaking that, and this brings us a little closer to winning,” the donor added. “The party is finally coalescing around our guy.”
Robert Wolf, the prominent Democratic donor and former chairman of UBS, said Tuesday night proved that Biden can appeal to voters across the party in much the same way that former President Obama was able to do in his 2008 and 2012 campaigns.
“Joe Biden will be the nominee and showed last night that the Obama-Biden coalition could be put back together,” said Wolf, who has not backed a particular campaign during the primary.
A former Biden aide was hopeful the success would bring in new money to Biden’s campaign.
“Biden’s ‘money worries’ have been his Achilles’ heel in races over the years,” the aide said, who predicted he will now be “flush with cash.”
At the same time, Democratic strategists said Biden’s big night sent a resounding negative message to the progressive wing of the party.
“Last night we were told to brace for revolution. We just didn’t think it would come from the center-left of the Democratic Party,” said Democratic strategist Joel Payne. “What we saw was a pretty resounding blow to the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.
Payne added that the results were “less about Joe Biden and more about Bernie Sanders.”
“The central organizing principle of the Democratic primary fight so far has been to stop Bernie Sanders, and the moderate center-left coalition of the party was able to do that after a concentrated 10 days of active resistance to Sanders,” Payne said. “The results bode well for Democrats who wanted to see whether Biden could replicate the Obama coalition.”
Biden aides and advisers expect to be further bolstered if former New York City Mayor Michael BloombergMichael BloombergEngel scrambles to fend off primary challenge from left It’s as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process Liberals embrace super PACs they once shunned MORE suspends his campaign, as they’re expecting in the coming days. Bloomberg’s only win on Tuesday night was American Samoa.
“He entered this race because he thought we couldn’t win. Well, we’re winning,” one longtime Biden ally said.
But strategists say it’s a lot more complicated than that.
Payne said Tuesday night’s results “suggest a bigger fight ahead.”
“Even if Biden is ultimately successful in winning more delegates than Sanders, there is still no clear strategy for keeping the Sanders coalition within the Democratic Party big tent,” he said.
Biden also has other challenges up ahead, including building the infrastructure and operational support he lacked in the Super Tuesday states.
“Everything from field offices to absorbing fundraising apparatus from former rivals like Buttigieg has to be a priority to build a campaign that can last,” Payne said. “Biden needs to build an operation that can sustain his momentum to maximize the results for the long haul.”
There’s also the question of whether Biden, a candidate who wavered as the front-runner last fall, can keep up his success now that he’s reclaimed that status.
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“The debate in Phoenix will likely be a two-person affair, with Sanders back in the role of insurgent that he thrives on, and Biden back as front-runner which has never felt particularly comfortable,” the former Biden aide said. “Bernie will try and paint him as Hillary 2.0.”
The ex-aide also said Biden will face a two-pronged battle, with Sanders on one side and 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 and Republicans raising his son’s work in Ukraine on the other.
“Biden needs to make Trump’s attacks a badge of honor and use them to excite Democrats to circle the wagon against the candidate Trump fears most,” the former aide said. “He needs to retool his messaging on trade heading into Midwestern, Rust Belt primaries. He needs to do enough to avoid Democrats having buyer’s remorse before the next round of primaries.”
“If he does well enough in a two-person race, the pressure will grow on Sanders not to reelect Trump,” the aide said.