Biden Broadens Path to Nomination With Win in Michigan, 3 More States

March 11, 2020 Updated: March 11, 2020

Former Vice President Joe Biden built a significant lead over Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the Democratic primary race on March 10, scoring a key victory in the battleground state of Michigan and picking up wins in Missouri, Mississippi, and Idaho.

Sanders won North Dakota. The two candidates were toe-to-toe in Washington state with two thirds of the votes counted.

The elections in the six states marked the first time voters weighed in since the contest narrowed to a two-person race on Super Tuesday, when Biden’s campaign made a dramatic comeback after underwhelming performances in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada.

Addressing supporters in Philadelphia, Biden noted that pundits had “declared that this candidacy was dead” only just over a week ago, but “now we’re very much alive.” He also asked Sanders supporters to back him going forward.

Sanders didn’t make a public statement after his losses when he returned home to Vermont late March 10, a departure from his usual practice on primary nights. The senator wrote a tweet in the early evening expressing concern over voter suppression.

“At a time when Democrats correctly attack Republicans for voter suppression, to see voters standing in long lines for hours in Michigan and around America is an outrage,” Sanders wrote.

Both candidates canceled rallies for late March 10 in response to recommendations from officials concerned over the spread of the coronavirus. In the address to supporters on March 10, Biden gave a nod to Sanders.

“I want to thank Bernie Sanders and his supporters for their tireless energy and their passion,” Biden said. “We share a common goal, and together we’ll beat Donald Trump.”

The March 10 results compound the lead Biden secured on Super Tuesday. The candidates now head to the March 17 primary contests in the populous states of Florida, Ohio, Illinois, and Georgia. Polling averages tallied by Real Clear Politics suggest Biden is the clear favorite in Florida and Georgia.

The two Democratic candidates will face each other in a live debate, but without a live audience, on March 15, according to the Democratic National Committee.

In 2016, Sanders upset Hillary Clinton by winning in Michigan. His loss to Biden in the state could undermine his argument of appealing to working-class voters and that he could expand the electorate with new young voters.

One of the few bright notes for Sanders was his strength among young voters, but the turnout among the group was not enough to help him. Sanders won 72 percent of those under 30 in Missouri and 65 percent in Michigan, according to AP VoteCast. The senator was roughly even with Biden among voters ages 30 to 44.

“There’s no sugarcoating it. Tonight’s a tough night,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y), one of Sanders’s highest-profile supporters, said on Instagram. “Tonight’s a tough night for the movement overall. Tonight’s a tough night electorally.”

Although six states voted, Michigan, with its 125 delegates, got most of the attention. Trump won the state by only 10,704 votes during the general election—his closest margin of victory among Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Those states gave Trump the narrow edge in the 2016 Electoral College after Clinton won the popular vote.

Biden has secured 847 delegates to the national convention, compared with Sanders’s 685. An additional 682 delegates are on the line on March 17. Either candidate can secure an outright victory before the convention by winning 1,911 delegates.

Sanders vowed to concede if Biden had more delegates by the time of the Democratic national convention in July. He also promised not to drop out regardless of the results on March 10.

In addition to the powerful groups now siding with Biden, the former vice president has picked up the endorsements of many of his former presidential rivals, including billionaire Michael Bloomberg, Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Cory Booker and, as of March 10, entrepreneur Andrew Yang.

“The math says Joe is our prohibitive nominee. We need to bring the party together,” Yang said on CNN.

Neither candidate had public events scheduled for March 11. That may work in Biden’s favor, as the 77-year-old has repeatedly stumbled into gaffes and arguments with voters on the campaign trail.

On March 10, Biden told a Detroit auto worker that he was “full of [expletive]” after the man asked how Biden planned to get the votes of union workers who are concerned about his stance on gun rights. Biden grew impatient and pointed at the man’s face, prompting the worker to say, “This is not OK.” Biden responded by calling the man a “horse’s [expletive].”

The Sanders and Trump campaigns spotlighted a video of the incident. The Biden campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Follow Ivan on Twitter: @ivanpentchoukov