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Sanders to 'assess' campaign after Biden sweeps latest primaries

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Washington (AFP)

Leftist Bernie Sanders was under fresh pressure Wednesday to bow out of the race for the Democratic White House nomination after losing the three latest primaries in contests hobbled by the coronavirus pandemic.

Political moderate Joe Biden swept all three of Tuesday's contests, building a solid lead in delegates to the party's July nominating convention as Democratic voters appeared to coalesce around him as the best chance to defeat President Donald Trump in November.

Sanders, once the race's frontrunner, was considering his options as more states postponed their primary votes amid a national shutdown for the COVID-19 emergency.

"The next primary contest is at least three weeks away," said Sanders' campaign manager Faiz Shakir in a statement.

"Sen. Sanders is going to be having conversations with supporters to assess his campaign."

Biden handily trounced Sanders in each of Tuesday's battlegrounds. In the biggest prize of Florida, the 77-year-old former vice president grabbed 62 percent of the vote against 23 percent for 78-year-old Sanders.

In Illinois, Biden topped 59 percent to Sanders' 36 percent, and in Arizona, Biden came in with more than 43 percent to Sanders' nearly 32 percent, while former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has already withdrawn from the race, came in a distant third.

Biden has now won 19 of the 24 contests, with just over half to be held.

The victories underscored Biden's position as the party's frontrunner and the eagerness of Democratic leaders and party rank and file to come together around a moderate flag bearer, to challenge Trump.

According to a count by RealClearPolitics, Biden has racked up 1,147 delegates to Sanders' 861, with 1,991 needed to capture the nomination.

Given Biden's solid lead in national opinion polls among Democrats and in many of the states yet to hold primaries, Sanders faces a very steep battle to overtake his rival.

"Our campaign has had a very good night," Biden said in televised remarks from his home in Delaware.

"We've moved closer to securing the Democratic Party's nomination for president, and we're doing it by building a broad coalition that we need to win in November."

- Trump taunt -

From the White House Trump taunted the Democrats, repeating his accusation that the party elite sabotaged the campaign of Sanders -- whom the president's own campaign views as the weaker opponent in the November contest.

The Democratic National Committee "will have gotten their fondest wish and defeated Bernie Sanders, far ahead of schedule," Trump tweeted.

"Now they are doing everything possible to be nice to him in order to keep his supporters. Bernie has given up, just like he did last time. He will be dropping out soon!" he said, referring to Sanders' failed fight for the nomination in 2016.

By all accounts it is an astonishing reversal of fortune for Biden, whose campaign was left for dead just one month ago after poor showings in early voting states.

But following a string of victories in high-profile contests starting with South Carolina in late February, and continuing into his latest show of strength Tuesday, Biden now has a commanding lead in the all-important race for delegates.

Political analyst David Axelrod concluded that Sanders was a mortally wounded candidate.

"No Dem has ever come back from anything like this deficit," tweeted Axelrod, chief strategist for Barack Obama's two successful presidential campaigns.

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