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Biden triumphs on Super Tuesday just a week after trailing far behind Sanders

Democratic US presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden waves with his wife Jill at his Super Tuesday night rally in Los Angeles, California, on March 3, 2020.
Democratic US presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden waves with his wife Jill at his Super Tuesday night rally in Los Angeles, California, on March 3, 2020. © Kyle Grillot, Reuters

Former Vice President Joe Biden was projected to win at least eight states on Super Tuesday, with his main rival Bernie Sanders expected to pick up four, including California, the biggest prize of the night.

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Super Tuesday, one of the more decisive dates in the US election calendar, is the day 14 US states, the territory of American Samoa, and Democrats abroad hold their primaries. Candidates need 1,991 delegates to make the democratic ticket. On Tuesday’s vote, a total of 1,357 delegate votes were in the offing – about a third of the national total.  

With votes still being counted across the country, an AP projection has allocated 362 delegates to Biden, 285 to Sanders, 30 to Bloomberg, 20 to Warren and one for Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. The numbers are expected to shift dramatically throughout the night as new states, none bigger than California, report their numbers.

The evening showed that Biden was a formidable contender to Sanders. Until a week ago, Sanders was the star Democratic candidate. Then, after a much-lauded performance in the South Carolina debate, Biden caught his second wind, picking up 36 delegates to Sanders’ 11.

Biden gained even more momentum on the eve of Tuesday’s voting as moderate presidential rivals Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, endorsed Biden after withdrawing from the race.

All eyes on California and Texas

California was one of the most closely watched states because of its 415 delegates. Sanders was hoping to drive up big margins and amass an unsurmountable lead in delegates, while Biden was hoping to remain close enough to prevent a blowout.

The polls closed at 11 pm EST (0400 GMT Wednesday) but voters who were in line were still allowed to vote. Sanders' campaign requested an emergency injunction asking for polls in Los Angeles County to stay open for an extra two hours after reports of delays and long lines.

Meanwhile, Sanders and Biden were locked in a tight race in Texas, the night's second-biggest prize, with votes still being counted early Wednesday.

Biggest surprises

Perhaps the first shock of the evening was Biden winning Minnesota, a state where Sanders had been expected to win easily. Then, defying even bigger odds, the former vice-president took Massachusetts, defeating both Sanders and the state’s own senator, Elizabeth Warren.

Biden, 77, was also projected to win in Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Arkansas.

The 78-year-old Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist with a fervent voter base, who aims to reshape America's economy, was projected to win as expected in his home state of Vermont, Colorado and Utah.

In a defiant speech, Sanders tore into Trump, calling him “the most dangerous president in the history of this country.” But he also tore into Biden for having voted in favor of the invasion of Iraq and painting him as tarnished by billionaire contributors.

“We’re taking on the political establishment,” he said. “You cannot beat Trump with the same-old, same-old kind of politics.”

Money doesn’t buy everything

There was good news for critics of America’s campaign finance regulations, who for decades have argued that endless money spent equaled endless political influence. So far in the 2020 Democratic campaign, money does not seem to translate into delegate votes.

Former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg had made a calculated bet on going after the biggest bang for his buck by spending more than half a billion dollars in advertising and ground operations in an unorthodox and untested method of securing support from moderates. He didn’t even attempt to register for the four previous qualifying events in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina. 

Biden’s continued turnaround would be all the more surprising because Super Tuesday was supposed to be about monster fundraising and strong political organisation across such a large swath of the country. Biden largely had neither. He spent a mere $60 million on his campaign. 

Sanders defiant

Sanders argued that the party’s elders were scrambling to block him from a nomination it appeared just last week he could run away with.

“The political establishment has made their choice: Anybody but Bernie Sanders,” Sanders campaign manager Faiz Shakir wrote in a fundraising message Tuesday.

“The truth is, we’ve always known we were taking on the entire damn 1 percent of this country,” Shakir added. “But we have something they do not have: People. Lots and lots of people.”

In the 2016 presidential campaign, Sanders had struggled to connect with black voters. During this 2020 campaign, Sanders has made a concerted effort to improve his standing with minorities nationwide.

According to Edison Research exit polling, African Americans, older people and college graduates largely supported Biden in the 14 nominating contests, helping him win at least eight states.

Latinos, millennials and white men largely backed Sanders.

The pace of the Democratic race begins to accelerate after Super Tuesday, with 11 more states voting by the end of March. By then, nearly two-thirds of the delegates will have been allotted.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP, and REUTERS) 

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