By Ken Bredemeier
Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has won eight states, and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders four, including the key state of California, in Tuesday’s Democratic presidential nominating contests that spanned 14 states from coast to coast.
Sanders also won the Western states of Colorado and Utah along with his home state of Vermont in the Northeastern U.S.
Biden, in his third run for the U.S. presidency, was strong across the South, capturing Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Arkansas, along with Minnesota and Massachusetts.
The results were generally in line with preelection polls that showed Biden winning the most Super Tuesday states, but Sanders winning the all-important delegate count for the day, largely because of California and Texas.
Biden’s victories projected new strength in the race to oppose Republican President Donald Trump in November’s national election, coming three days after his resounding win in South Carolina that was forged with robust support from African American voters.
Biden pointed to that resurgence as he addressed his supporters in California late Tuesday, saying, “It’s a good night, and it seems to be getting even better.”
“I’m here to report we are very much alive,” he said at a rally in Los Angeles. “And make no mistake about it, this campaign will send Donald Trump packing.”
Sanders also expressed confidence at his own late Tuesday rally in Vermont, saying not only he would become the Democratic nominee, but also defeat Trump.
“You cannot beat Trump with the same old, same old kind of politics. What we need is a new politics that brings working class people into our political movement, which brings young people into our political movement, and which in November will create the highest voter turnout in American political history,” Sanders said.
As was the case in South Carolina, CNN voter exit polls in Virginia showed Biden had captured a large share of the black vote, 63%, compared to only 18% for Sanders and 10% for former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. On the question of which candidate was best equipped to defeat Trump, 58% picked Biden, compared to 19% for Sanders and 11% for Bloomberg. Exit polling in North Carolina showed similar overwhelming African American support for Biden and confidence that he would be best able to topple Trump.
Voting was spread across the United States, the single biggest day of balloting in the race to pick a Democratic nominee to oppose Trump as he seeks a second term in the White House.
Last month’s contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina were conducted on different days. The one-day marathon of balloting Tuesday presented the candidates with a wide mix of diverse voters, from more liberal bastions in Vermont and Massachusetts to conservative enclaves in Alabama, Tennessee and Texas, and to the polyglot Pacific coastal state of California, with its heavy Hispanic vote.
According to pre-election polling, Sanders was expected to win the largest share of the delegates Tuesday to the party’s national convention in July, particularly if he did well in California, the country’s biggest state, which alone controls a fifth of the delegates to the quadrennial conclave.
In all, a third of the national convention delegates or 1,357 were being picked Tuesday.
However, Sanders faced stiff competition in several states from Biden who, after the South Carolina vote, was later endorsed by former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, and former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke — three of his opponents who dropped out of the race.
Sanders and Biden also had to contend with two other major opponents, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a one-time Harvard law professor, and Bloomberg, who has spent $600 million of his personal fortune funding his presidential campaign.
Bloomberg was entered in his first party contests after choosing to skip the first four in February. After disappointing results Tuesday, though, he plans to reassess Wednesday whether he should continue.
The states of Maine and Utah also voted, along with the U.S. territory of American Samoa and Democrats living abroad. CNN projected that Bloomberg won five of the six delegates from America Samoa with Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii winning one.
In CNN exit polls, voters in both Virginia and North Carolina widely said it was more important for them to pick a candidate who could beat Trump rather than to find a presidential choice who agreed with them on issues. In Alabama, Maine and North Carolina, voters said their overwhelming feeling about the presidential race is that they are angry at Trump, not just dissatisfied with his performance.
A total of 1,991 delegates to the national convention are needed to secure the party’s presidential nomination. No candidate is anywhere close to that number as yet.
Delegates to the national convention are awarded state-by-state on a proportional basis according to the vote count in each state’s primary election, but candidates have to clear a 15% vote threshold in order to win any delegates in states as a whole or in individual congressional districts.
The key question in California is whether any of Sanders’s challengers clears the 15% threshold to keep him from winning a massive haul of national convention delegates. Pre-election polls also show Sanders doing well in the second-biggest prize of the day, in the Southwestern state of Texas, with Biden ahead in smaller states with a fewer number of delegates at stake. Early returns show Biden trailing Sanders, but with a chance to claim some delegates in Texas.
Bloomberg has advertised heavily in the Super Tuesday states, but his halting performance and controversy over his tenure as mayor and as a business tycoon in two nationally televised debates raised questions about whether he would be able to amass wide voter support.
Warren once was near the top of Democratic favorites for the party’s presidential nomination, but she has yet to win a state nominating contest, and suffered the humiliation of losing to Biden in her home state of Massachusetts Tuesday.
She is hoping to win the nomination at a brokered national convention with no candidate clinching the nomination ahead of time, which has not occurred since 1952.
Trump has commented almost daily about the Democratic race, dishing out negative nicknames to all of his would-be Democratic opponents, calling Sanders “Crazy Bernie,” Biden “Sleepy Joe” and Bloomberg “Mini Mike” for his short stature.
The president said Tuesday he would gladly debate any of the Democrats in the weeks before the November 3 election, when the party’s nominee has been selected.
“Whoever it is, I don’t care. We’ll take them on,” Trump told reporters. “I’ll debate any of them, gladly. Very gladly.”
He said there is “no question the Democratic establishment is trying to take it away from Sanders. No question in my mind.”