Biden Gets Endorsement From Leon Panetta: Campaign Update

(Bloomberg) -- Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta endorsed Joe Biden for president on Friday, becoming the ninth member of the Obama administration cabinet to back the former vice president.

“Biden will work to heal our nation from this era of polarization, bring us together as one America, unify our country so that we can work together to govern and solve the difficult problems we confront,” Panetta, who also was Central Intelligence agency director, said in a statement.

Panetta, who served eight terms as a congressman representing California’s Central Coast and later became a CIA director, offered his endorsement days before that state’s primary on Super Tuesday, though early voting has been open there since early February.

“We cannot afford four more years of hate and anger and gridlock. Joe’s honesty, decency and respect for every human being is what this nation needs now more than ever,” Panetta said. He also praised Biden’s “principled leadership in action,” which he said he’d witnessed firsthand since first meeting Biden, then a senator from Delaware, in the mid-1970s.

Biden has been racking up high-profile endorsements this week ahead of the South Carolina primary and Super Tuesday. Earlier Friday, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine announced his support and, on Wednesday, the fourth-ranking House Democrat, James Clyburn of South Carolina, backed him.

Biden Attacks Sanders’s Gun-Legislation Record (4:36 p.m.)

Joe Biden evoked the 2016 massacre at a Charleston church on Friday as he sought to remind South Carolina voters of Bernie Sanders’s mixed record on guns one day before the state holds its primary.

Biden recalled his work in the Senate to pass the 1993 Brady Bill that created background checks and waiting periods for gun purchases, and noted that the then-Vermont congressman opposed it. “While I was fighting to pass that bill one of my opponents, Bernie Sanders, voted against it five times. But we got it done,” Biden said during a stop at Toliver’s Mane Event, a barber shop in Columbia.

He said Sanders also voted in favor of a 2005 measure to shield gunmakers from civil liability when a weapon is used in a shooting. “Bernie also voted for loopholes that allowed white supremacists to get a gun that was used in Mother Emanuel in the first place,” Biden said in a reference to the killing of nine African Americans at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Sanders has sought to distance himself from his past positions on guns, saying at a debate this week in South Carolina that he had cast “bad votes.”

Biden pledged that he would change gun culture. “As long as I have a breath in me, I’m going to do everything I can to see to it that things change,” he said. “That we eliminate those assault weapons, we eliminate the magazines, we allow people to sue the folks who lie to them about guns. Look, I’m not going to stop until we beat the NRA.”

Hillary Clinton’s Running Mate Endorses Biden (11:24 a.m.)

Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, the 2016 Democratic vice presidential nominee has endorsed Joe Biden ahead of Super Tuesday, when 99 delegates are up for grabs in the commonwealth.

Kaine, who ran with Hillary Clinton, said he plans to vote for Biden on Tuesday and pointed to the former vice president’s work in the Obama administration. Barack Obama “rightly chose Joe as his partner in the White House.” As a senator, he said, Kaine saw Biden’s role in the administration’s accomplishments.

The senator also pointed to Biden’s character.

“It is sad to have a president who no one holds up as a role model for America’s kids,” he said. “By contrast, Joe Biden has exemplary heart, character, and experience. He reminds me of Harry S. Truman, an outwardly ordinary man whose work ethic, faith in the goodness of everyday Americans, and love of country made him a great president. I am proud to vote for Joe Biden.”

Kaine is the sixth sitting senator to endorse Biden, giving him more endorsements than any other candidate from the chamber in which he served for 36 years.

Biden is holding a rally in Norfolk, Virginia, on Sunday. -- Jennifer Epstein

COMING UP

South Carolina will hold its primary on Saturday, Feb. 29. Fourteen states and one U.S. territory will vote on Super Tuesday, March 3.

(Disclaimer: Michael Bloomberg is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination. He is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.)

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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