7 min read

Wake Up To Politics Exclusive: Biden racks up endorsements ahead of Missouri visit

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP world headquarters in my bedroom. It’s Saturday, March 7, 2020. 3 days until the next Democratic primaries. 241 days until Election Day. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.

Exclusive: Biden nabs high-profile endorsements ahead of Missouri visit

A slate of high-profile Missouri Democrats will announce their endorsements of former Vice President Joe Biden today, Wake Up To Politics has exclusively learned.

Biden's new Show Me-State supporters include former Gov. Jay Nixon, Jackson County Executive Frank White, Jr., St. Louis Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed, former Kansas City Mayor Sly James, former St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, and former St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley.

"Joe Biden is the experienced, empathetic leader America and the world needs now to end this untruthful, divisive and incredibly simplistic presidency in November," Nixon said in a statement provided to WUTP. "I believe he will, and look forward to working to make it happen."

Nixon, who served as governor from 2009 to 2017, previously endorsed former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's now-defunct presidential campaign and headlined an event for the billionaire candidate last month.

"We need a President now more than ever that understands our values, is passionate about supporting working families and has a proven track record of getting things done," said White, who leads the county that includes Kansas City, Missouri's most populous municipality. "Our nation needs someone like Joe Biden, an honest, hard-working and dedicated leader who has been a reliable champion for American families for more than 40 years."

"It is time that we restore our country’s dignity and respect, at home and abroad and I have no doubt that Joe Biden is the man to lead the way," he continued. "Joe Biden will be a President that we can be proud of."

The new endorsements — 67 in total, including two state senators, 15 state representatives, 13 members of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen, and six members of the Kansas City Council — come hours before Biden touches down in Missouri for his first public campaign events in the state.

The former vice president will hold "Get Out The Vote" events at Kiener Plaza Park in St. Louis at 11 a.m. Central Time and at the World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City at 4:15 p.m. Central Time. At the Kansas City event, he will be joined by Missouri Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, who is among a crop of Missouri politicians (including former Sen. Jean Carnahan, former Gov. Bob Holden, and St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson) who have already endorsed Biden.

The Missouri primary will be held on March 10, along with primaries in Idaho, Michigan, Mississippi, and Washington, as well as the North Dakota caucuses.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is Biden's only remaining major rival for the Democratic nomination, will also be in St. Louis at the Stifel Theatre on Monday. Sanders came within one-fourth of a percentage point of winning the Missouri primary in 2016, making it the closest state of his drawn-out battle with eventual nominee Hillary Clinton that year.

Former Vice President Joe Biden at St. Louis' Gateway Arch in 2014 with then-Mayor Francis Slay (left), one of his new endorsers.

Democratic strategists in Missouri told Wake Up To Politics this week that they expect Sanders will come up short once again on Tuesday. "I say that since we are now effectively down to two candidates, Joe Biden should do well here," said Tony Wyche, a former adviser to Carnahan and ex-Sen. Claire McCaskill. "There hasn’t been a ton of polling here, especially recently, with straight head-to-head Biden vs. Bernie matchups, but my gut tells me that the majority of other candidates’ supporters, including Elizabeth Warren’s, will wind up in Biden’s camp, giving him a solid victory."

Biden will likely benefit in Missouri from the recent withdrawals of moderate candidates like Bloomberg; a poll conducted before Super Tuesday found both the former Vice President and the former mayor taking more support than Sanders.

Until this week, Bloomberg had been by far the most visible candidate in Missouri: as the other candidates were slow to build operations in the state, his team blanketed the area with TV ads and leaflets. Bloomberg invested the most of any Democratic campaign in Missouri, hiring 45 full-time staffers in five offices throughout the state. According to the Kansas City Star, Bloomberg spent more than $9 million on television ads in the Show-Me State before dropping out.

"It's not that we've been given a blank check, but we've been told do what needs to be done," a Missouri spokeswoman for Bloomberg campaign told Wake Up To Politics in the campaign's closing days.

"I love it," Ryan Hawkins, a veteran political strategist who served as a senior adviser to Bloomberg's Missouri effort, said in an interview at the time with WUTP of the campaign's massive budget. "I get all the toys and the tools that I need."

"We have the resources. We have the viability and we have a path to victory. So I think you're going to see us in this thing for a long time," Hawkins confidently predicted in the interview, a "Mike 2020" lanyard around his neck and a $6,000 check strewn about his desk.

Two days and a nationwide drubbing later, Bloomberg had bowed out of the race, scrambling the 2020 campaign in Missouri and across the country.

Bloomberg had snapped up endorsements from many of the state's highest-profile Democrats, some of whom have since joined the Biden campaign, including Nixon and Dooley.

A new Missouri poll released late last week showed Biden with a slight edge over Sanders in the state, 48.1% to 43.7%, within the survey's margin of error.

Mirroring the nationwide dynamic, Biden's new endorsements mean he heads into Primary Day having notched the support of most leading members of the Democratic political class in Missouri. Meanwhile, Sanders' top backers in the state include less mainstream pols like Cori Bush, a registered nurse whose is backed by the Vermont senator in her primary challenge against a longtime Democratic congressman, and Megan Green, a democratic socialist member of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen.

"I endorsed Senator Sanders because he's been fighting for Medicare for All, environmental justice, and workers rights, and against perpetual war and the influence of big money in our political system, since before I was born," Green told WUTP, predicting that Sanders would "do very well" in the Missouri primary.

Jeff Smith, a former Missouri state senator and political science professor, acknowledged that Sanders would likely perform well in liberal pockets of the state like midtown Kansas City, Columbia, suburbs like University City in St. Louis County, and neighborhoods like Tower Grove Park in St. Louis City, but said in an interview with Wake Up To Politics that he expects Biden to ultimately "prevail" in the Show-Me State.  

"From a demographic perspective, Missouri looks more like the states that Biden won [on Super Tuesday] that those that Bernie won," said Smith, who is neutral in the primary but previously supported Pete Buttigieg (and spent four years dating the ex-mayor's communications mastermind Lis Smith, herself an ex-McCaskill aide.)

"There are three voter blocs with whom Bernie has been doing very well: Latinos, young people, and those who call themselves 'very liberal,'" Smith added. "Missouri is an older, moderate state with few Hispanics: not a great fit for Bernie."

Trump ousts Mulvaney, installs Meadows as chief of staff

President Trump announced Friday night that acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney had been pushed out and replaced by Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), one of Trump's top allies in Congress.

"I have long known and worked with Mark, and the relationship is a very good one," Trump said in a tweet, the timing of which surprised some aides, according to the New York Times.

Mulvaney had served as Trump's top aide on an interim basis for more than 14 months. The former South Carolina congressman, who has also served as Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget since the outset of the Trump administration, will now become the U.S. Special Envoy to Northern Ireland, Trump announced in a follow-up tweet.

Meadows, a leader of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus who had already announced he wouldn't be seeking re-election in November, will become Trump's fourth chief of staff in just over three years. The North Carolina Republican has become one of Trump's most trusted advisers in Congress and a full-throated advocate for his agenda.

"This President and his administration have a long list of incredible victories they've delivered to the country during this first term, with the best yet to come — and I look forward to helping build on that success and staying in the fight for the forgotten men and women of America," Meadows said in a statement.

Mulvaney's ouster and Meadows' installation is just Trump's latest personnel change since his acquittal in the Senate last month. The addition of a new top aide in the West Wing comes as the president gears up for his re-election campaign and wrestles with responding to the global outbreak of novel coronavirus.

Upcoming event: Gabe will be moderating an event with Jeff Fleischer, author of "Votes of Confidence: A Young Person's Guide to American Elections," at Left Bank Books in St. Louis this Sunday at 2 p.m. Central Time. If you live in the area, please stop by!

New podcast: And don't forget to listen to the latest episode of Gabe's podcast with St. Louis Public Radio, a deep dive into the complex world of campaign finance with Washington Post reporter Michelle Ye He Lee!


President Donald Trump will participate in a working dinner with President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, tonight.

Vice President Mike Pence will travel to Florida as well, addressing the 2020 Republican National Committee Spring Retre in West Palm Beach, participating in a coronavirus briefing with cruise line executives and port directors in Fort Lauderdale, and leading a White House Coronavirus Task Force conference call.

The Senate, House, and Supreme Court are not in session.

Former Vice President Joe Biden will hold "Get Out The Vote" events in St. Louis and Kasnas City, Missouri. Sen. Bernie Sanders will travel to Michigan, holding a rally in Dearborn and a town hall on racial and economic justice in Flint. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard will hold a town hall in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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