Mike Bloomberg’s departure has left a vacuum in Florida politics. No other Democratic presidential candidate had paid as much attention to Florida, and in particular Palm Beach County, as Bloomberg.

About 14 hours after billionaire Mike Bloomberg walked off the stage at the Palm Beach County Convention Center on Super Tuesday evening for what would be his final campaign rally, the Democratic presidential contender who vowed to spend “whatever it takes” to beat President Donald Trump withdrew from the race.


Bloomberg’s departure has left a vacuum in Florida politics. No other Democratic presidential candidate had paid as much attention to Florida, and in particular Palm Beach County, as Bloomberg.


Photos: Bloomberg rally in West Palm Beach


Two of Bloomberg’s 14 campaign offices in the state were located in Palm Beach County — in West Palm Beach and Boca Raton. Bloomberg dumped loads of cash for television ads at local stations and ended a full day of campaigning in Florida on Super Tuesday in West Palm Beach rather than one of the 14 states holding primaries.


Bloomberg had picked up endorsements from U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch of Boca Raton, West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James, Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay and Tax Collector Anne Gannon.


“I’m disappointed — he was a strong candidate to take on President Trump, had local government experience and the resources to put up a great challenge,” said McKinlay, adding that she has not yet decided who she will endorse now that Bloomberg is out.


All the candidates minus Bloomberg parachuted into Miami for the first Democratic presidential debate in June. Few returned. Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren — now a long-shot hopeful — was the only candidate besides Bloomberg to open a campaign office in South Florida. And while in Miami for the debate last summer, she held a rally Florida International University and visited the Homestead detention center where migrant children were being held.


But former vice president Joe Biden and Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders mostly ignored Florida despite projections that Florida, a purple state with the fourth most delegates up for grabs, could likely end up being the holy grail of swing states.


Still, an inkling of Biden’s growing popularity in Florida came on Feb. 26, when St. Pete Polls released a survey of likely voters showing Biden leading Bloomberg, with 34 percent support to Bloomberg’s 25 percent. Sanders ranked fifth, with 13 percent support.


On Wednesday morning, as news broke of Bloomberg’s exit after a crushing defeat on Super Tuesday, the political climate in Florida began to shift.


U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, the only member of Palm Beach County’s congressional delegation who had not endorsed a candidate, announced she would back Biden. U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings had already endorsed Biden before Super Tuesday.


“Joe Biden is the candidate who can win Florida and help Florida Democrats win down ballot,” Frankel said in a statement released shortly after Bloomberg withdrew. “At a moment when our state legislators and governor are fighting against voting rights, gun safety, and access to health care, we need a leader at the very top of the ticket who won’t just help us halt these attacks on everyday Floridians, but also help us gain seats and political power across the state.”


By Wednesday afternoon, Biden had picked up another endorsement: Democratic U.S. Rep Ted Deutch. On Feb. 13, the day before the second anniversary of the deadly Parkland high school shooting in Deutch’s district, Deutch endorsed Bloomberg, citing his decades-long efforts to curb gun violence. Deutch had also assumed the role of co-chair for Bloomberg’s nationwide effort to rally support among Jewish voters.


In switching his endorsement, Deutch said he was proud to support Biden, adding that with Biden as nominee, he was confident Democrats would retain control of the House and “have a shot” at turning the Senate blue.


“We deserve a President who will tell the truth, stand up to the NRA to end the epidemic of gun violence, urgently take on climate change and stand proudly with our key allies around the world,” Deutch said in a statement. “It is time to end a presidency that has torn America apart and start an optimistic new chapter behind President Joe Biden.”


Deutch was one of two Democratic members of Florida’s congressional delegation who endorsed Bloomberg. Orlando U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy did not respond to a request for comment about Bloomberg leaving the race and who should would now endorse.


Florida has the most delegates up for bid in the 33 states and the District of Columbia that have not yet held primaries. Most of Florida’s 248 delegates are required to vote for candidates based on the proportion of votes a candidate wins in the March 17 primary.


However, Florida’s 13 Democratic members in the House are superdelegates, meaning they can vote for whomever they choose if no candidate wins the nomination after the first vote at the convention in July.


Superdelegates are coveted in close races and have the potential to swing and election. With Biden and Sanders now running neck and neck, the possibility that neither will secure the party’s nomination before the convention in July is a real possibility.


With the addition of Frankel and Deutch on Wednesday, Biden has secured endorsements of eight congressional superdelegates in Florida, including U.S. Reps. Alcee Hastings, Charlie Crist, Al Lawson, Kathy Castor, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Frederica Wilson.


Cstapleton@pbpost.com


@StapletonPBP