SALT LAKE CITY — State Rep. Joel Briscoe, who’d introduced Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar to a few hundred fellow supporters at her first campaign event in Utah on Monday as someone who “will get things done for Utahns,” was as surprised as anyone when Klobuchar dropped out right after leaving the state.

The Minnesota senator’s sudden move to suspend her campaign and endorse former Vice President Joe Biden was the latest shake-up in the race ahead of Super Tuesday, when voters in Democratic contests in Utah and more than a dozen other states will award a third of the delegates to the party’s nominating convention.

Just hours after Klobuchar’s announcement, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg said he, too, is throwing his support behind Biden.

Biden was already expecting a boost in Utah and other Super Tuesday states from his big win in South Carolina’s primary on Saturday. Now that he has the support of Klobuchar and Buttigieg, he is increasingly seen as the party’s moderate alternative.

Briscoe, a Democrat from Salt Lake City, said he heard the news about Klobuchar after he hurried back to the Capitol from her downtown rally at The Depot. He said there’d been no hint that she wasn’t going to stay in the race through Super Tuesday.

“Nothing was said at The Depot. But it would have been something of a downer at a rally, wouldn’t it?” Briscoe said. “Her staff didn’t talk like that (was happening) to me. So the staff I spoke to was either keeping a very good secret or she hadn’t decided.”

He said Klobuchar arrived in Salt Lake City Sunday, the same day she canceled a rally in suburban Minneapolis when protesters took over the stage and shouted for her to drop out of the race over the case of a black teenager sentenced to life in prison when she served as a top county prosecutor.

Klobuchar’s staff said she had events scheduled in Denver and Tulsa later Monday. Instead, Klobuchar and Buttigieg joined Biden in Dallas, hoping to solidify his effort to stop the progressive front-runner in the Democratic race, self-described democratic socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

What that means for Sanders remains to be seen. Sanders also made a campaign stop in Salt Lake City on Monday — attracting a crowd of several thousand supporters to the Utah State Fairpark despite the cold — and leads in a new Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll with the support of 28% of likely voters.

The other progressive candidate in the Democratic race, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, announced new Utah endorsements Monday, including from state House Minority Leader Brian King and state Senate Minority Whip Luz Escamilla, both D-Salt Lake City, and former Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski.

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall, who had backed Buttigieg, said in a statement Monday, “With both Buttigieg and Klobuchar dropping out just ahead of Super Tuesday, there are some big shifts happening but my hope is that everyone who has the ability to will vote during this crucial election.”

There’s another moderate Democrat still in the race — billionaire former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who has a staff of 20 in Utah and has already spent $3 million just on advertising in the state. Bloomberg is staying in the race, a political operative with knowledge of the campaign’s activities told the Deseret News.

“He’s got the infrastructure to take it to convention and his support has only grown since he got into the race,” the political operative said. Bloomberg was endorsed by Utah’s only Democrat in Congress, U.S. Rep. Ben McAdams.

Lauren Littlefield, Bloomberg’s state director, said in a statement, “We are executing the plan we developed when Mike first got in this race: We have built a strong infrastructure in Utah and we’ve been laser focused on Super Tuesday. Mike is well-positioned here and we are looking forward to seeing what happens tomorrow.”

Bloomberg’s campaign announced late Monday that he is headed to Michigan, Pennsylvania and Florida later this week.

Biden’s Utah coordinator, Wayne Holland, said he believes Biden will do well on Super Tuesday, and even better in the upcoming big state primaries in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio, so-called “blue wall” states won by President Donald Trump in 2016.

Holland said he believes many moderate voters in Utah were waiting to see what happened in South Carolina before turning in their ballots in the state’s largely by-mail primary. He said he isn’t surprised the race is consolidating so quickly, with the departure of Buttigieg and now Klobuchar.

“I always figured it would,” the former Utah Democratic Party chairman said. “People have got to be rational and say the numbers don’t work.”

He said he’s already been hearing from Buttigieg supporters who want to back Biden and predicted the former vice president will reach the 15% threshold in Utah needed to share in Democratic delegates, even though Biden was at only 8% in the Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll.

“I can’t say I would make any guarantees,” Holland said. “But I think — the longer this race has gone on now and the more people have seen and come to understand what they might be a little bit leery about with Bernie’s politics — that Joe will do well.”

Klobuchar spoke for more than half an hour Monday morning to a small but enthusiastic group of supporters, taking an apparent shot at Sanders’ progressive policies by saying she understood the “difference between a plan and a pipe dream,” but also stressing the need for unity.

“Remember what unites us is bigger than what divides us in our party, and really in our country,” Klobuchar said to a few whistles. “The heart of America is actually bigger than the heart of the guy in the White House. I think about that all the time.”

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She mentioned Utah several times, saying she’s made a point in her campaign of going to the smallest towns and the reddest, most Republican parts of the country, “like your state,” and promising she would “never leave the middle of the country or states like Utah behind.”

Klobuchar had kind words for two Utah senators, Orrin Hatch and the man who replaced him, 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. She said she and Hatch worked together on legislation in the Senate and had once been voted “the least likely to get in a scandal” by a Washington, D.C., magazine.

Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar speaks to her supporters during a campaign rally at The Depot in Salt Lake City on Monday, March 2, 2020. The Minnesota senator is hoping to fire up voters before Tuesday’s presidential primary. | Steve Griffin, Deseret News

As for Romney, Klobuchar said she “truly did appreciate” his vote to remove the president in the Senate’s impeachment hearings, a moment, she said, that drove home that the country “can’t tolerate four more years” of a leader who puts himself above the law.

Susan Clissold said she brought her daughter, Pippa, 8, to see Klobuchar to help her get excited about politics. “I don’t even want my daughter to ever watch the news because it’s embarrassing. It’s not good for a young child to watch a misogynist run the country.”

Her goal as a voter, Clissold said, is to see Trump defeated. So the South African native said she’s already voted for Bloomberg, because his money allows him to “outrun” the president.

“I think he has the strongest chance against Trump. I would like to see Amy as vice president for the USA. She would make a fantastic president as well,” Clissold said. “I still think a lot of people can’t get their arms around a female being president.”

Catherine King, a retiree, said she’s already voted for Klobuchar in the primary, but she said Biden was her backup.

King also said she’s looking for the candidate with the best chance to win in November.

“I actually like what Bernie has to say. I really believe in his message completely. I just don’t know that he’s electable,” King said. “It’s whoever can beat Trump. ... He’s just such an offensive person. I think he offends Utahns.”

Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar speaks to her supporters during a campaign rally at The Depot in Salt Lake City on Monday, March 2, 2020. The Minnesota senator is hoping to fire up voters before Tuesday’s presidential primary. | Steve Griffin, Deseret News