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Biden snags Booker endorsement, aims to knock out rival Sanders in Michigan

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Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden, who is seeking to deliver a knockout blow to rival Bernie Sanders on Tuesday as six states vote, received another boost on Monday when former presidential hopeful Cory Booker(top) endorsed his campaign.

[DETROIT] Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden, who is seeking to deliver a knockout blow to rival Bernie Sanders on Tuesday as six states vote, received another boost on Monday when former presidential hopeful Cory Booker endorsed his campaign.

The US senator from New Jersey, who ended his own White House bid in January, wrote on Twitter that Mr Biden would "restore honour to the Oval Office."

Mr Booker's endorsement - one day after another onetime candidate, Senator Kamala Harris of California, did likewise - means Mr Biden has picked up the backing of two black former presidential contenders as he seeks the party's nomination to take on Republican President Donald Trump this fall.

Mr Biden over the past nine days has powered to the front of the contest for the Democratic nomination to take on Republican President Donald Trump on Nov 3. A wave of endorsements by his former rivals has made him the clear standard-bearer for the Democratic Party's moderate wing, while Mr Sanders represents the party's more liberal elements.

Mr Booker and Ms Harris were planning to campaign with Mr Biden on Monday in Michigan, the biggest prize in Tuesday's voting. A win in the Midwestern "rust belt" state could give the former vice president an insurmountable lead in the number of delegates needed to win the nomination at the party's July convention.

Mr Sanders, a US senator from Vermont, may need a victory in Michigan to recapture momentum after Mr Biden showed surprising strength in last week's Super Tuesday contests.

An opinion poll from the Detroit Free Press published on Monday found Mr Biden holding a 24-percentage-point lead over Mr Sanders among Democratic voters in Michigan.

Mr Sanders will hold a rally on Monday in St Louis in Missouri, which along, with Michigan, Mississippi, Washington state, Idaho and North Dakota, will hold contests on Tuesday.

He will then return to Michigan, where he is due to join a round table on the coronavirus with public health experts in Detroit. Michigan officials on Friday said they would take steps, including having clerks repeatedly sanitise voting booths, to alleviate risks of infection spreading at polling places.

Washington state, which has seen the largest US cluster of coronavirus, conducts its primary election by mail.

Mr Biden will make stops in the Michigan cities of Grand Rapids and Flint before holding a rally alongside Ms Harris and Mr Booker in Detroit, where the majority of the population is black.

The event will give Mr Biden an enviable visual on the eve of an election for the second straight week. Last Monday, Mr Biden made appearances with former rivals Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar and Beto O'Rourke, just hours before polls opened on Super Tuesday.

One of the most talked-about moments of Harris' campaign was her blistering attack on Mr Biden during a June presidential debate. She called his remarks about working with segregationist senators hurtful and questioned Mr Biden's 1970s opposition to school busing.

Still, black voters have backed Mr Biden overwhelmingly, and propelled him to big victories in South Carolina's Feb 29 presidential primary and on Super Tuesday last week. They will be crucial in Michigan, where they comprise almost 14 per cent of the population.

Mr Sanders, who drew huge crowds to weekend campaign events across the state, scored a surprise upset in Michigan four years ago in the Democratic primary against eventual nominee Hillary Clinton. Mrs Clinton would later lose the historically Democratic state by a narrow margin to Mr Trump.

But Mr Sanders still lags well behind Mr Biden among black voters.

On Sunday, he sought to close that gap with an endorsement from the Reverend Jesse Jackson, a civil rights leader and 1984 and 1988 Democratic presidential contender. Mr Jackson said the senator's progressive agenda offered black Americans the best chance to catch up socially and economically.

Also on Monday, another former White House contender, Montana Governor Steve Bullock, announced he would run for Senate this year against incumbent Republican Steve Daines. The move, which had been expected, gives Democrats another opportunity to flip a seat in the Senate, where Republicans hold a narrow three-seat edge.

REUTERS