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Pete Buttigieg to endorse Joe Biden for president

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By Adam Edelman and Mike Memoli and Mark Murray and Priscilla Thompson and Craig Melvin with NBC News Politics
Image: US-VOTE-2020-DEMOCRATS-DEBATE-POLITICS
Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg during a break in a debate in Las Vegas on Feb. 19, 2020.   -   Copyright  Mark Ralston AFP - Getty Images
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Pete Buttigieg will endorse former Vice President Joe Biden for president, multiple people familiar with the plan tell NBC News. The news comes a day after the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, exited the 2020 race.

The endorsement — which came shortly after news broke that Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar would also drop outand endorse Biden — appears aimed at consolidating the moderate Democratic vote behind Biden ahead of Super Tuesday. Biden has also won the endorsement of longtime political titans such as former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn.

Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg meanwhile told reporters on Monday that he is "in it to win it."

Biden, Buttigieg and Klobuchar all ran as moderates with similar health care proposals that departed dramatically from the "Medicare for All" policy offered by progressive front-runner Bernie Sanders.

Sanders told reporters on Monday that "the political establishment is coming together" to try and stop him.

"The corporate establishment is coming together," he said. "The political establishment is coming together and they will do everything. They are really getting nervous that working people are standing up. And by the way, when we talk about South."

Buttigieg, an Afghanistan war veteran who was seeking to become the first openly gay nominee of a major political party, won an impressive victory in Iowa and narrowly lost New Hampshire, two overwhelmingly white states.

But his momentum dissolved when the campaign moved to more diverse states. He placed third in Nevada and fourth in South Carolina, faring poorly with Latino and black voters who make up a large share of coming Super Tuesday states.

At a Sunday evening rally in South Bend, Indiana, the city he led as mayor until this year, that he no longer saw a path to victory and that he had a responsibility to "consider the effect of remaining in this race any longer."

An aide to Biden and an aide to Buttigieg told NBC earlier Monday that the two men had connected with one another by phone. They had attempted to get in touch with one another on Sunday, according to a Buttigieg aide, to talk about consolidating support behind Biden.

Despite the endorsement, it isn't entirely clear whom Buttigieg's supporters will now back. Recent polling by Morning Consult found his backers divided over their second choices: 21 percent picked Bernie Sanders, 19 percent picked Joe Biden, 19 percent liked Elizabeth Warren and 17 percent were on board with Mike Bloomberg.

Klobuchar, for her part, will fly to Dallas later on Monday to endorse Biden at a rally. It wasn't immediately clear whether Buttigieg would also make public his endorsement at that rally.

Buttigieg ended his campaign having won 26 delegates; Klobuchar won seven.

What happens now to those delegates is sure to be a big question moving forward.

According to the Democratic National Committee, district-level delegates (those won at the congressional-district level) remain entitled to those former candidates, regardless of their status. However, typically, these ex-candidates release their delegates to vote their choice or encourage them to support the candidate they've endorsed.

The statewide pledged delegates (those won at the statewide level) are reallocated proportionately to the candidates who remain in the race.

However, all pledged delegates are actually not legally bound to their candidates, whether these candidates remain in the race or not. As a result, Buttigieg's and Klobuchar's delegates can technically act as free agents.