DETROIT: Democratic presidential hopefuls Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders secured crucial endorsements Sunday from prominent black supporters just days ahead of the first round of voting to pit them in a head-to-head contest.
Senator Kamala Harris, a former Democratic candidate herself, endorsed Biden, while Sanders won the backing of civil rights leader Jesse Jackson as the rival candidates competed for African American support— a key demographic in the fight for the party’s nomination.
Voters in six states go to the polls Tuesday, a week after the “Super Tuesday” elections dramatically reversed the two men’s fortunes, snatching the frontrunner’s title from Sanders and revitalizing Biden, who now holds a lead in delegates to the nominating convention.
Biden did well on Super Tuesday in Southern states with large black populations, states like Mississippi, which votes Tuesday. And in Missouri, a Midwestern state also voting Tuesday, one recent poll gives him a 22-point lead.
That makes Michigan, the day’s biggest prize, an almost must-win for Sanders. A survey in that north-central state last week gave Biden a six-point advantage.
“Joe has been there for Michigan when our back was against the wall,” Governor Gretchen Whitmer told AFP Sunday, during an appearance at a majority black church in Detroit.
Michigan’s critically suffering auto industry received a major boost in 2008 from a massive intervention under the administration of Barack Obama and Biden.
But Whitmer predicted a close race on Tuesday; Sanders has a large organization in Michigan with considerable union support.
Also voting Tuesday are Idaho, North Dakota and Washington state.
Sanders, desperate to kickstart his campaign after losing 10 of the 14 Super Tuesday states, has canceled plans to speak in Mississippi, Missouri and Illinois in order to focus on Michigan.
“We have to transform this country and fundamentally reorient our priorities,” the self-styled democratic socialist said Sunday on ABC, speaking from Grand Rapids, Michigan. “And the only way we do this is through an unprecedented grass roots movement.” He appeared on four Sunday talk shows; Biden on none.
Biden’s Super Tuesday surge brought an influx of donations— $22 million in the past few days, his campaign said in a statement Sunday.
It said $12 million would be spent on hiring new staff and launching a major media campaign in battleground states.
Harris said she was backing Biden, a centrist who touts his ability to work with Republicans, because she believes he can best unify the country going into the crucial November elections.
“I am with great enthusiasm going to endorse Joe Biden for president of the United States,” she said. Eight other former Democratic candidates — including Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar and Beto O’Rourke — had earlier endorsed Biden.
He later tweeted his thanks to Harris, saying, “You’ve spent your whole career fighting for folks who’ve been written off and left behind.” The endorsement was a bit of a reversal; Harris had chastised Biden in debate last June over his warm words for past segregationist senators and his opposition in the 1970s to busing to integrate US schools. — AFP