Rep. Sylvia Garcia, a Democrat from Houston, is the sixth Congressional Hispanic Caucus member and 43rd member ofthe House to back Biden publicly. Both marks lead the Democratic presidential field, yet the former vice president still stands at a perilous point in his candidacy: He finished fourth in the Iowa caucuses and fifth in the New Hampshire primary, and now he's depending on Saturday's Nevada caucuses and the Feb. 29 South Carolina primary for a rebound ahead of the March 3 Super Tuesday lineup, which includes Texas.
Garcia, one of the first two Latina congresswomen from Texas, announced her decision as early voting begins in her state. Texas has the second most delegates at stake on March 3, behind only California. Nevada, meanwhile, is the first nominating contest to prominently feature Hispanic voters.
Biden’s disappointing start, Garcia said in an interview, doesn’t shake her belief that he would make the best president among Democrats and have the strongest chance to defeat the Republican incumbent in November. Garcia also echoed the Biden campaign’s argument that more racially and ethnically diverse electorates in Nevada and South Carolina will return the 77-year-old candidate to contention for the nomination.
“The vice president is probably one of the most qualified people I’ve seen run for president,” the 69-year-old Garcia told The Associated Press. “Having worked his way up from city hall to working side by side with President Obama is a story in itself.”
It’s not clear that elected leaders’ endorsements sway voters significantly. Biden had key backers in Iowa — two popular congresswomen and a widely known former governor — and still finished well behind the leaders: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
But Garcia said she wants to advocate forcefully for Biden around Houston and throughout Texas, especially given that the former vice president’s campaign has been vastly outspent by Sanders and, more recently, by billionaire Mike Bloomberg, the former New York mayor. Bloomberg, who’s skipping the four early nominating contests and concentrating on Super Tuesday, has seen an uptick in congressional endorsements in recent weeks.
Garcia argued that Biden’s frequently told biography of growing up in a working-class family, his public grief over burying his first wife and two children and his public discussion of his faith resonates with many Latino voters.
“He’s not forgotten where he came from,” Garcia said, adding that she believes Biden can achieve legislative success on issues including health care and immigration. “He’s proven himself. We know who he is. And like us, and I’m talking about Latinos when I say ‘us,’ he has a strong sense of social justice and a deep respect for humankind as a Catholic.”
Polls for much of the 2020 campaign have shown Biden leading among non-white Democratic voters, especially African Americans. But more recent surveys since Iowa and New Hampshire indicate some erosion in his support, and Sanders has made a serious effort in the Hispanic community, especially among younger voters.
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This story has been corrected to show Garcia is the 43rd member of the House, not of Congress, to endorse Biden.