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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Leading Democrats suddenly see their primary as a clear, two-person race — with Mike Bloomberg as the likely odd man out.

Why it matters: The Biden team feels like "a clear choice" is emerging between him and Bernie Sanders, a campaign aide told Axios' Alexi McCammond.

The state of play: South Carolina was a wake-up call for the establishment, Axios' Margaret Talev emails.

  • The Rep. Clyburn surge (tons of voters told exit pollsters his endorsement affected their vote) shows endorsements still matter. Terry McAuliffe follows.
  • President Obama let it be known he called Biden, even if he won't endorse yet.
  • Harry Reid jumps on the train.
  • Pete Buttigieg wants a future so he drops out and will endorse Biden early enough to not get blamed if Sanders runs away with it.
  • Amy Klobuchar may lose Minnesota anyway plus could be a good VP choice if Biden survives, so she endorses too.

Bloomberg, campaigning in Virginia, addressed the Buttigieg/Klobuchar endorsements:

  • “I thought both of them behaved themselves, is a nice way to phrase it, but they represented their country and their states very well. ... And I felt sorry for them, but I’m in it to win it.”

Flashback: The nascent Never Trump movement split votes well past Super Tuesday in 2016, with Gov. John Kasich and Sen. Marco Rubio hanging on in hopes of winning their states.

  • That denied Sen. Ted Cruz or another candidate a chance to unify the non-Trump vote.

The bottom line: The non-Bernie/Warren wing of the field is coalescing around Biden before Super Tuesday, rather than when it's too late.

Go deeper: Biden racks up endorsements one day before Super Tuesday

Go deeper

Dave Lawler, author of World
6 mins ago - World

China's Xi Jinping congratulates Biden on election win

Photo: Paul J. Richards/AFP via Getty Images

Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a message to President-elect Biden on Wednesday to congratulate him on his election victory, according to the Xinhua state news agency.

Why it matters: China's foreign ministry offered Biden a belated, and tentative, congratulations on Nov. 13, but Xi had not personally acknowledged Biden's win. The leaders of Brazil, Mexico and Russia are among the very few leaders still declining to congratulate Biden.

This story is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
58 mins ago - Sports

College basketball is back

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A new season of college basketball begins Wednesday, and the goal is clear: March Madness must be played.

Why it matters: On March 12, 2020, the lights went out on college basketball, depriving teams like Baylor (who won our tournament simulation), Dayton, San Diego State and Florida State of perhaps their best chance to win a national championship.

1 hour ago - World

Scoop: Israeli military prepares for possibility Trump will strike Iran

Defense Minister Benny Gantz attends a cabinet meeting. Photo: Abir Sultan/POOL/AFP via Getty

The Israel Defense Forces have in recent weeks been instructed to prepare for the possibility that the U.S. will conduct a military strike against Iran before President Trump leaves office, senior Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: The Israeli government instructed the IDF to undertake the preparations not because of any intelligence or assessment that Trump will order such a strike, but because senior Israeli officials anticipate “a very sensitive period” ahead of Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20.