Former Vice President Joe Biden seized control of the Democratic presidential contest with a string of Super Tuesday victories over Sen. Bernie Sanders, as voters across the country cast their ballots determined to pick the candidate they believe stands the best chance of defeating President Donald Trump in November.
Biden, who had been all but written off after a stumbling start in early contests, posted victories in Alabama, Arkansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.
Sanders carried California _ the day’s grand prize _ Colorado and Utah as well as his home state of Vermont.
Former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who spent hundreds of millions of dollars seeking a Super Tuesday breakthrough after skipping earlier contests, managed only a win in American Samoa.
Biden once again garnered overwhelming support among black voters across the South _ the bedrock of his campaign _ and late deciders who were evidently impressed by his crushing victory in Saturday’s South Carolina primary.
In North Carolina, nearly 6 in 10 voters made up their minds in recent days and most backed the former vice president. In Alabama, nearly 4 in 10 voters were late deciders and more than 60% backed Biden.
His win in Minnesota came a day after the state’s U.S. senator, Amy Klobuchar, quit the race and threw her support to Biden.
Perhaps the greatest testament to Biden’s turnabout of fortune was the support of voters who said their top priority was beating Trump.
Claims of electability rang hollow after Biden stumbled through contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, finishing far out of contention. But on Tuesday night, in state after state, voters focused chiefly on defeating the president favored Biden over Sanders, in some instances by 2-to-1.
Even before the polls had closed in California a joyful and energized Biden took the stage at a Baldwin Hills park in Los Angeles, telling hundreds of supporters, “It’s a good night, and it seems to be getting even better. They don’t call it Super Tuesday for nothin’!”
Biden assailed critics who left him for dead before he ran away with the contest in South Carolina.
“I am here to report we are very much alive, and make no mistake about it, this campaign will send Donald Trump packing!” said Biden, who was at a near shout for much of his speech, in contrast to previous low-key election night appearances.
He then pivoted to remarks that offered a preview of the issues he will likely highlight as he bids to outlast Sanders: “Affordable and accessible” health care, lower drug prices and a promise to find cures for cancer and diabetes. He also cited gun control, more affordable college and a redoubled commitment to fighting climate change.
Across the country, a combative Sanders jabbed at his suddenly ascendant rival and hinted at his own campaign agenda going forward.
“One of us in this race led the opposition of the war in Iraq, you’re looking at him,” Sanders thundered at a boisterous Vermont rally, where he also questioned Biden’s commitment to funding programs such as Social Security and Medicare. “One of us led the opposition to the disastrous trade agreement which cost us millions of good paying jobs. And that’s me. And another candidate voted for disastrous trade agreements.
“If it comes out to be a campaign in which we have one candidate who is standing up for the working class and the middle class, we’re going to win that election,” Sanders said. “And if we have another candidate who has received contributions from at least 60 billionaires, we’re going to win that election.”
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren addressed a crowd in Michigan, which votes next Tuesday, before the results came in showing her losing her home state. She vowed to press on.
“I’m the woman who’s going to beat Donald Trump,” she said. “The pundits have gotten it wrong over and over.”
From the hamlets of New England to the beach communities of Southern California, voters in 14 states as well as American Samoa went to the polls to award about a third of the pledged delegates needed to win the Democratic nomination at the party’s July convention in Milwaukee.
The competition amounted to a fight pitting Biden’s momentum against Sanders’ muscle and Bloomberg’s money.
Sanders, who waged a strong bid for the 2016 nomination, was the candidate with muscle, a powerful turnout operation financed by an enormous fundraising base and a national army of devoted fans. Ivan DePaz voted for the Vermont senator just as he did four years ago.
“I love what he’s done. I love that he stands by what he says, and he’s been doing that since he started,” the 55-year-old talent manager said after casting his ballot in Los Angeles’ Los Feliz neighborhood.
Biden was riding a huge wave of momentum from his South Carolina win, which forced Klobuchar as well as rivals Pete Buttigieg and Tom Steyer from the race and drew many pillars of the party establishment to his side.
The strong showing was also enough to bring Frank Anderson around.
The 74-year-old retired hospital administrator in Birmingham, Ala., had long considered himself a Biden man. But he began to worry after the former vice president slumped in Iowa and New Hampshire, finishing in fourth and fifth place, respectively.
South Carolina alleviated Anderson’s concerns. “Now I think he is the guy,” he said.
The candidate with money _ in staggering sums _ is Bloomberg. After two uninspiring debate performances, he braced for a poor showing despite lavishing more than $660 million on his candidacy, including more than $224 million on Super Tuesday advertising alone.
Speaking to reporters at a Miami field office, Bloomberg said he wasn’t counting on winning a single state and suggested his hopes rested on Democrats turning to him in the event of a deadlocked convention _ the same scenario Warren clings to.
“You don’t have to win states,” Bloomberg said, “you have to win delegates.”
Even before Tuesday’s first votes were counted, Bloomberg’s campaign manager sounded as though his candidate was preparing a possible exit from the race.
“We will find out how well he does tonight and we’ll find out whether Mike Bloomberg is on his way to becoming the candidate, or we will find out if Mike Bloomberg is going to be the most important person to whomever that candidate is,” Kevin Sheekey told reporters ahead of a Florida campaign rally.
In Sacramento, Calif., one high-profile voter declined to reveal his pick.
Gov. Gavin Newsom , who originally supported California Sen. Kamala Harris until she quit the race in December, said it was better for him to keep mum for now.
“I felt like we’re at a moment where I was hoping we might find some unity,” Newsom told reporters as he cast his ballot Tuesday morning at the California Museum in downtown Sacramento, “and I think my voice is better served in that space than asserting myself on an endorsement that at the end of the day might not amount to much.”
Super Tuesday was so named because of the number of contests _ 16, including Democrats abroad, who have a week to make their preferences known _ and the 1,357 pledged delegates to be awarded. It takes 1,991 pledged delegates to win the nomination on the first round of balloting.
If the fight goes to a second round at the convention, it takes 2,375.5, or the majority of those eligible to vote, which includes superdelegates _ elected officials and other party leaders _ or, as they’re being called this election, “automatic” delegates.
Sanders entered the day with a narrow lead over Biden in the delegate count, according to The Associated Press, after a small fraction was awarded in the four earliest-voting states: Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. Biden pulled ahead Tuesday night, but that was before the two biggest prizes _ California and Texas _ had been decided.
Under rules established by the Democratic Party, delegates were allotted on a percentage basis, based on a candidate’s performance at both the statewide and congressional district levels. In each, candidates needed to meet a 15% threshold of support.
In Washington, Trump professed not to care whom Democrats choose.
Though he continued his effort to sow discord, claiming the Democratic establishment is trying to steal the nomination from Sanders, Trump insisted, “Whoever it is, we will take them on the job we’ve done.
“We’ve rebuilt the military, we have the strongest economy we’ve ever had, all of the things we’ve done,” he told reporters as he left the White House to visit the National Institutes of Health, a lead agency in combating the novel coronavirus. “I will take on anybody.”
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