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Sanders Campaign Shocked by How Fast Moderates Rallied Around Joe Biden

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Following former Vice President Joe Biden’s win in the South Carolina Democratic primary, Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) campaign figured it was only a matter of time until the moderate wing of the party consolidated behind him.

What the Sanders team did not expect was the speed with which Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) would drop out and endorse the former vice president. 

Faiz Shakir, Sanders’ campaign manager, told The New York Times in an interview on Monday that the campaign “always anticipated that there would be consolidation of an establishment side.”

However, he said, “It’s one thing to know it’s going to happen, and it’s another thing to watch it happen so very quickly.”

He added:

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“Because of the swiftness with which it moved, it’s becoming clear that in order for us to win this nomination, that road clearly flows through Joe Biden.”

As it became clear the moderate wing of the party was working to block Sanders, his campaign began to shift its attention to Biden as it realized the field had whittled down to essentially a two-man race.

A memo from the Sanders campaign to surrogates said the “differences between Bernie and Biden will take center stage” in the coming days.

“These differences make clear that the choice between these two candidates is stark,” it read. 

While Biden has enjoyed the rapid consolidation of the moderate lane in the primary contest, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who shares the progressive lane with Sanders, has not dropped out of the race yet.

“We respect the fact that she’s going to make whatever decision she makes, and she should be allowed to do that,” Shakir said of Warren’s decision on whether to stay in the race. 

After Biden won South Carolina, his first primary win so far, Buttigieg and Klobuchar dropped out and threw their support behind him at a rally in Texas on Monday. 

Upon hearing the news, Sanders said he wasn’t surprised and claimed that it was proof the “political establishment is coming together” and is “really getting nervous.”

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However, Klobuchar denied on Tuesday the suggestion that the consolidation of the field was part of some coordinated effort by the establishment to block Sanders from winning the nomination.

Klobuchar said that she had not coordinated her decision to drop out and endorse Biden. Instead, she said that she and Buttigieg had come to that decision on their own, as IJR has previously reported.

The new consolidation around Biden came just a day before Super Tuesday and accompanies a jump in his poll numbers across the country. 

A series of news polls from states that hold primary contests on Tuesday, found that Biden received a significant bump since his South Carolina victory. FiveThirtyEight currently predicts that Biden has the best chance of winning the nomination.

However, it’s still unclear exactly how Biden’s victory will impact the outcome in states voting on Tuesday.

It’s also unclear how well former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg will fare, after he spent roughly half a billion dollars on advertisements in the lead up to Super Tuesday, or if he will siphon votes and delegates away from Biden. 

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