Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden hopes to capitalise on a blowout victory in South Carolina's primary. — AFP/VNA Photo
HOUSTON — Joe Biden's presidential hopes received a huge shot in the arm on Monday after former rivals Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg dropped out of the Democratic race and endorsed the former vice president ahead of the crucial Super Tuesday primaries.
The dramatic turn comes at one of the pivotal points in a fractured, often bitter campaign, with the Democratic establishment desperate to coalesce around a moderate candidate who can fight off the surging leftist front runner Bernie Sanders.
As the five remaining candidates in the race made their final pitch to voters in 14 states, Biden has capitalised on the momentum he seized at the weekend with a blowout victory over Sanders in South Carolina.
The 77-year-old Biden is consolidating support among moderates eager to blunt the advance of Sanders, who could take a potentially insurmountable lead in the all-important delegate count after Super Tuesday.
Buttigieg, the 38-year-old former mayor of South Bend, Indiana ran a historic campaign as the first openly gay major presidential candidate.
Speaking in Dallas one day before residents of delegate-rich Texas and 13 other states cast their ballots, Buttigieg said he was "delighted" to endorse Biden in part because he embraces the politics of "decency".
"I'm looking for a president who will draw out what is best in each of us, and I'm encouraging everybody who was part of my campaign to join me because we have found that leader in vice president, soon-to-be-president, Joe Biden," Buttigieg said in Dallas, with Biden standing nearby.
It was just one of several endorsements Biden earned on a busy day.
Klobuchar dropped out on Monday and her team said she will endorse the 77-year-old and join him onstage in Dallas.
Democrat Harry Reid, the former Senate majority leader said his onetime Senate colleague Biden represents "the starkest contrast to Trump's amorality, corruption and utter incompetence."
Another former presidential candidate, Beto O'Rourke, reportedly will also be on stage with Biden in Dallas.
"Most Americans don't want a promise of a revolution, they want a guarantee of results on the things that affect them," Biden told a rally in Houston in a swipe at Sanders, who advocates a "political revolution" against the status quo.
"We need real results and we need them now. I've done that my whole career, and I'll do it as president."
The departures and endorsements of Klobuchar and Buttigieg are gold for a resurgent Biden.
His campaign was on life support after disappointing showings in the first three state contests, but he is suddenly the main challenger to Sanders on the biggest day of the primary campaign.
New York billionaire Mike Bloomberg, who on Tuesday competes in his first primaries, has also been spreading his message to voters in a lavish multi-state ad blitz, but Super Tuesday will be his first official day on the ballot.
Sanders says 'massive effort' to stop him
Sanders – flush with money for ads, an extensive organisation, and momentum in the polls – has focused on multiple states including delegate-rich California, Tuesday's biggest prize.
"It is no secret... that there is a massive effort trying to stop Bernie Sanders," the front runner said about himself during a press conference in Utah.
"The corporate establishment is coming together, the political establishment is coming together," Sanders added.
"They are really getting nervous that working people are standing up."
Sanders, whose ascent as a self-described democratic socialist has disconcerted Democratic grandees, is leading Biden nationally in polling, with Bloomberg in third place.
Buttigieg had strong showings in predominantly white early voting states but was unable to draw black and Hispanic support after that.
The campaign of pragmatist Klobuchar never gained traction. By endorsing Biden, she could deprive Sanders of a large delegate claim in her state of Minnesota, which votes on Tuesday.
Klobuchar's endorsement "will bring more votes to Joe Biden," said Myliesha Smiley, a 23-year-old student at Biden's Houston event.
Biden's fortunes were resurrected in South Carolina, where African-Americans turned out in force to give him a crushing 48 per cent to 20 per cent victory over Sanders.
"Super Tuesday is about momentum, and we've got it," Kate Bedingfield, Biden's deputy campaign manager, told CNN.
The win has earned Biden badly needed campaign funding – US$10 million raised on Saturday and Sunday alone.
The former number two to Barack Obama says his strength with blacks, Hispanics, women and suburbanites will show in the coming contests.
Though Klobuchar was joining Biden's camp, Sanders weighed in to appeal to her voters.
"I hope her supporters will join us in our fight to defeat Donald Trump in November and win real change," Sanders tweeted.
Also courting moderate and independent voters is Bloomberg, who campaigned in Virginia on Super Tuesday eve.
"I've won three elections so far, I don't plan to start losing now," Bloomberg said.
Bloomberg has spent an unprecedented $500 million of his own fortune saturating the airwaves with TV spots. — AFP