Pete Buttigieg endorsed Joe Biden’s presidential candidacy on Monday in a meeting between the two former rivals on the eve of crucial Super Tuesday voting as moderate Democrats rallied around the former vice president to strengthen his challenge to front-runner Bernie Sanders.
“I’m delighted to endorse and support Joe Biden,” Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who ended his candidacy on Sunday, said at their appearance outside a Dallas restaurant. “He is somebody of such extraordinary grace and kindness and empathy.”
Biden, 77, in turn, told reporters that Buttigieg, 38, “reminds me of my son Beau,” who died in 2015, “To me, it is the highest complement you can give any man or woman.”
Former US Representative Beto O’Rourke, another former candidate for the Democratic nomination, was also expected to endorse Biden, the New York Times reported.
Biden is fresh off a resounding victory in Saturday’s South Carolina primary and is aiming for a strong showing on Super Tuesday against Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, who many centrist Democrats fear cannot win against Republican President Donald Trump in November.
But Biden still faces a challenge from billionaire former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg among voters hoping the party will nominate a moderate to face Trump.
Bloomberg, a late entrant to the race, will make his ballot-box debut when 14 states vote on Super Tuesday. He is betting the $500 million of his own money he has poured into his campaign will allow him to make up for not competing in the first nominating contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.
He said on Monday the most likely scenario was that no Democratic candidate would win a majority of delegates and that picking the nominee could come down to “horse trading” at the Democratic convention in Milwaukee in July.
Asked at a Fox News town hall if a contested convention lay in his path to the nomination, Bloomberg said: “That is the way that it would work I would guess.”
The Super Tuesday contests offer the biggest one-day haul of the 1,991 delegates needed to win the party’s nomination at its national convention in July, with about 1,357 delegates, or nearly one-third of the total number, up for grabs.
Fourteen states – California, Texas, Virginia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Vermont, Colorado, Utah, North Carolina and Maine – as well as American Samoa and Democrats living abroad cast ballots on Tuesday. (The primary for expatriate Americans is scheduled to run through March 10.)
Five candidates – Biden, Bloomberg, Sanders, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and US Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii – remain in the running for the Democratic nomination, down from more than 20 earlier in the campaign.
Bloomberg and Biden have emerged as the main contenders for the votes of moderate Democrats, while Sanders, a senator from Vermont, is the progressive front-runner nationally, eclipsing Warren.