Deval Patrick Becomes Latest Former 2020 Rival To Back Biden

ATLANTA (AP) — Joe Biden secured the endorsement of another former presidential rival on Friday, with former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick adding his name to the list of campaign dropouts backing the former vice president’s bid for the Democratic nomination.

The decision continues the Democratic establishment’s consolidation around Biden as he battles progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders for the right to take on President Donald Trump in November. Biden has garnered a long list of key endorsements in the last week between South Carolina’s primary and Super Tuesday, the slate of 14 primaries that propelled Biden ahead of Sanders in the national delegate count.

Patrick, who was among the last candidates to enter the race and dropped out after the New Hampshire primary, is the first of three black 2020 candidates to make an endorsement. California Sen. Kamala Harris and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker remain on the sidelines. Black voters have anchored Biden’s comeback after dismal finishes in overwhelmingly white Iowa and New Hampshire put his campaign on the brink of collapse.

In a statement to The Associated Press on Friday, Patrick cited his personal and professional dealings with Biden, along with the 77-year-old candidate’s experience, and he called Biden the right choice for a “moment of profound consequence” in American history.

“Joe Biden has been a partner of mine for many years,” Patrick said.

Among other matters, he pointed to Biden’s role in implementing the economic stimulus bill in 2009, when Patrick was governor, and to their work together on matters of race when Patrick was the Justice Department’s top civil rights lawyer and Biden chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee.

RELATED: Black Voters Come Through For Joe Biden On Super Tuesday

Patrick waited until after his own state’s primary, which featured Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, to announce an endorsement. Biden won a surprise victory there, while Warren finished third. She ended her campaign on Thursday.

Biden and Patrick will campaign together on Sunday in Mississippi, one of six states to hold a primary next Tuesday, when 352 delegates are up for grabs. Patrick’s decision follows a cascade of endorsements for Biden since his commanding 30-point victory in the South Carolina primary and his slate of victories on Super Tuesday three days later.

Among his former rivals, Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg, Beto O’Rourke, Mike Bloomberg, Tim Ryan and John Delaney have all endorsed him. Sanders, meanwhile, has gotten the endorsement of Marianne Williamson and Bill de Blasio.

Biden dominated among black voters in South Carolina and on Super Tuesday, giving him wide delegate margins in Alabama, Virginia and North Carolina and helping him win a competitive primary against Sanders in Texas. Mississippi has just 36 delegates, but its Democratic electorate is majority African American, giving Biden a chance to pad his national delegate lead.

Sanders was riding high going into South Carolina’s Feb. 29 primary, but his struggle with black voters is imperiling his presidential bid, just as it did in 2016. Four years ago, after a promising campaign start, Sanders was blown out by Hillary Clinton in South Carolina, a prelude to Clinton romping on Super Tuesday, mainly because of strong black support. She built a delegate lead that Sanders never could eliminate.

The Vermont senator had been scheduled to speak Friday at Two Mississippi Museums in Jackson, the home of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. But his campaign announced Thursday that Sanders will travel instead to Michigan, where he is scheduled to hold rallies Friday night and Sunday. Sanders is sending surrogates to Mississippi in his place.

Michigan also holds its primary on Tuesday. Mississippi’s population is over one-third African American. African Americans make up about 15% of Michigan’s population.

It’s the second time in a matter of days that Sanders has ceded the campaign spotlight to Biden in front of black voters in the South. Two days before Super Tuesday, Sanders skipped the commemoration of the 1965 Voting Rights March that followed Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama. Biden was among several contenders who attended. Biden went on to win 63% of the vote in Alabama’s primary, with just 17% going to Sanders.

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