The end of former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign right before Super Tuesday potentially helps reshape the race—but only potentially. Early voting means that many votes have already been cast in key Super Tuesday states, and, while Buttigieg was reportedly considering an endorsement of former Vice President Joe Biden, he has limited time to make that decision and get the word out to those of his supporters inclined to follow his endorsement.
Buttigieg told donors that he was exiting the race in part to help Democrats get “the right kind of nominee” to run against Donald Trump in November, The New York Times reports (translation: not Sen. Bernie Sanders). He also had conversations with both Biden and former President Barack Obama. The latter, the Times reports, did not press him to endorse Biden but did, according to an unnamed source, “note that Mr. Buttigieg has considerable leverage at the moment and should think about how best to use it.”
In his end-of-campaign remarks Buttigieg made clear—without naming names—that he really, really does not want Sanders to be the nominee.
“We need leadership to heal a divided nation, not drive us further apart,” he said. “We need a broad based agenda to truly deliver for the American people, not one that gets lost in ideology. We need an approach strong enough not only to win the White House, but hold the House, win the Senate and send Mitch McConnell into retirement.”
But at the same time, he decided to take a pause and contemplate whether to endorse Biden rather than doing so immediately.
Biden and the other remaining candidates paid tribute to Buttigieg’s historic race following his announcement. The tweets from Biden and Sanders offer a particularly interesting contrast, with Sanders writing, “I want to congratulate @PeteButtigieg for running a strong and historic campaign, and to welcome all of his supporters into our movement. I urge them to join us in the fight for real change in this country,” while Biden went with, “@PeteButtigieg ran a historic, trail-blazing campaign based on courage, compassion, and honesty. We will be a better country for his continued service. This is just the beginning of his time on the national stage.” On the one hand, a message largely to Buttigieg’s supporters, and on the other hand, a hint about what Biden might be saying to Buttigieg about his future in a Biden administration.
The candidates still in the race are campaigning down to the wire, with Biden doing events in Houston and Dallas as he looks for a strong performance in Texas; Sanders hitting Utah and Minnesota; Sen. Elizabeth Warren campaigning and taping television appearances in delegate-rich California; and Sen. Amy Klobuchar speeding through Utah, Colorado, and Oklahoma. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will speak at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference and then do a Fox News town hall in Virginia, but really his money will be doing most of the campaigning for him.