74ºF

Joe Biden comes to Texas hoping to build on the momentum of his South Carolina win

photo

Joe Biden speaks at an event at Texas Southern University in Houston on Monday, March 2, 2020. Michael Stravato for The Texas Tribune

HOUSTON —Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden came to Texas on Monday looking to capitalize on his big win in South Carolina — and eager to ride the momentum into the state's delegate-rich primary Tuesday, when 13 other states vote too.

"Just a few days ago, the pundits declared my campaign dead," the former vice president said at a rally here at Texas Southern University, a historically black school. "But then along came South Carolina, and South Carolina had something to say about it. As I stand here today because of the minority communities, I am very much alive because of you."

"Now — tomorrow Texas is gonna speak," Biden added, "and I think we're gonna do well here in Texas with the help of all of you."

Biden took the stage here as a raft of fresh endorsements across the country poured in for him and more were expected to come as he seeks to consolidate party support against Bernie Sanders. U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota was reportedly set to end her campaign and join Biden at a Dallas rally this evening to endorse him. There were also reports that Pete Buttigieg, who dropped out Sunday, was planning to back Biden.

"The moment to choose a path forward has arrived for our party, maybe sooner than people had anticipated, but it's here," Biden said, drawing a thinly veiled contrast with Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont, by billing himself as a "lifelong Democrat, a proud Democrat, an Obama-Biden Democrat."

In Texas, Biden on Monday gained the support of U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar of El Paso, state Sen. John Whitmire of Houston, state Rep. Jessica González of Dallas and Austin Mayor Steve Adler, who had been Buttigieg's biggest booster in the state.

"I think it's time for the party to consolidate," Adler said on MSNBC.

Another former Buttigieg supporter in Texas, Dallas school board trustee Miguel Solis, endorsed Biden while his Houston rally was underway.

Shortly before Biden took the stage here, Sanders' campaign rolled out 18 new Texas endorsements of its own, including a number of city council and school board members and progressive activists.

Biden and Sanders have consistently polled at or near the top of the field in Texas, though Michael Bloomberg remains a significant factor. The New York billionaire, who skipped the first four early voting states, is hoping for a strong performance on Super Tuesday, and he has built easily the biggest campaign in Texas, with 19 offices and 160 staffers.

Biden is coming off a resounding win Saturday in the South Carolina primary, which is breathing new life into his campaign after lackluster showings in the first three states. However, it is unclear how much of a bump he will get in Texas, where early voting is already in the books — it went from Feb. 18 through Friday — and over 1 million votes have already been cast in the Democratic primary.

"This past Saturday we witnessed a resurrection of this campaign ... and we will make sure that we continue that momentum tomorrow," said Alvarado, who helped introduce Biden here along with Whitmire and U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Houston.

Texas will award 228 delegates on Tuesday, 79 at the statewide level and 149 in each of the 31 state Senate districts. A candidate must get 15% statewide or in a Senate district to compete for delegates at either level.

Disclosure: Texas Southern University and Steve Adler, a former Tribune board chairman, have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.