Joe Biden accepted the backing of three former Democratic rivals at a Monday campaign rally in Dallas, and named one of them, Beto O’Rourke, to lead his gun-control agenda if elected president.
Biden praised O’Rourke at length as he called on the former Texas congressman to make a surprise appearance on stage. O’Rourke endorsed Biden in Spanish before the former vice president informally appointed him gun czar.
“I wanna make something clear, I’m going to guarantee you this is not the last you’ve seen of him,” Biden told the crowd after O’Rourke made a surprise appearance on stage. “You’re going to take care of the gun problem with me. You’re going to be the one who leads this effort.”
“I’m counting on you. I’m counting on you,” Biden continued. “We need you badly, the state needs you, the country needs you. You’re the best.”
Beto O’Rourke championed eliminating your #2A rights, confiscating your guns, & punishing law-abiding Americans
Joe Biden just promised to put Beto in charge of “the gun problem” to “lead this effort”
Joe wants to take away Americans’ guns just as badly as Beto!
— Trump War Room – Text WOKE to 88022 (@TrumpWarRoom) March 3, 2020
O’Rourke, a failed Senate and presidential candidate, emerged during the 2020 campaign as a radical gun-control advocate. During a September Democratic primary debate in Houston, he laid out his seizing weapons “designed to kill on the battlefield.”
“Hell yes, we are going to take your AR-15s, your AK-47s, we are not going to allow them to be used against fellow Americans any more,” O’Rourke said.
After repeatedly dodging the question, O’Rourke finally acknowledged in October that, if necessary, he would send law enforcement officials to Americans homes to round up their firearms.
Before the Houston debate, Biden released his own gun-control proposal, which called for banning online sales and repealing a law that gives firearms makers special protections against civil liability.
While O’Rourke may give Biden a boost among the primary electorate, his political cachet among Texas at large is dubious.
Beto O’Rourke isn’t the only Democrat getting on the Joe Biden train
Meanwhile, after wavering on gun rights, Trump has adopted a hardline on the issue. At a January rally in New Jersey, he pledged of Democratic plans for gun confiscation: “Never going to happen as long as I’m President of the United States, that I can tell you.”
Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar also endorsed Biden‘s candidacy on Monday, the eve of Super Tuesday voting, as part of a moderate Democratic effort to strengthen his challenge to front-runner Bernie Sanders.
Buttigieg threw his support to Biden at an emotional appearance at a Dallas restaurant. Klobuchar delivered a barnstorm of a speech at a rally, reminiscent of the types politicians give at their party conventions when anointing their presidential nominees.
“Joe Biden has dedicated his life to fighting for people,” Klobuchar said, before introducing Biden at the rally in Dallas on Monday night.
“Not for the rich and powerful, but for the mom, for the farmer, for the dreamer, for the veteran. He can bring our country together.”
Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and the first openly gay presidential candidate, said earlier in Dallas that he was “delighted to endorse and support Joe Biden.”
“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, adding: “To me, it is the highest compliment you can give any man or woman.”
Biden was having a moment
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 field winnows ahead of Super Tuesday
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, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Rep. 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.
At a rally on Klobuchar’s home turf in Minnesota on Monday night, he was gracious to his former rivals who endorsed Biden, praising Klobuchar as a hard worker and calling Buttigieg’s candidacy historic.
“Tonight I want to open the door to Amy’s supporters, to Pete’s supporters,” Sanders said. “I know there are political differences but I also know that virtually all of Amy’s supporters and Pete’s supporters understand that we have got to move towards a government that believes in justice and not greed.”
Too late to stop Sanders?
Biden‘s high-stakes triumph in South Carolina, where his campaign had said his popularity with black voters would propel him to victory after early disappointing finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire, helped winnow the field.
Billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer also gave up his campaign on Saturday after a third-place finish in the Southern state in which he had invested most heavily.
Sanders’ momentum might not be easily slowed. On Monday, his campaign played down the efforts by moderates to present a united front.
“The establishment is nervous, not because we can’t beat Trump, but because we will,” said Sanders’ campaign manager, Faiz Shakir. “And when we do, the Democratic Party will again be a party of the working class.”
It was not immediately clear who would immediately benefit from the departures of Buttigieg and Klobuchar. A Morning Consult poll taken Feb. 23 to 27, for example, before Buttigieg exited the race, showed that 21 percent of his supporters named Sanders as their second choice, 19 percent picked Biden, another 19 percent chose Warren and 17 percent favored Bloomberg.
Biden still lags his rivals in spending and organization in Super Tuesday states and beyond, but his campaign said on Sunday it had raised more than $10 million over the preceding two days.
Endorsements of the former vice president from elected officials and community leaders poured in on Monday.
Backing from Ohio Democrats including Rep. Marcia Fudge and former Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory added to endorsements from Sen. Tim Kaine and state House of Delegates Majority Leader Charniele Herring of Virginia.
In Colorado, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock has backed Biden. In California, Rep. Gil Cisneros is supporting the former vice president.
(Reuters contributed to this report.)