Wednesday, March 04, 2020
Biden Revives Campaign, Winning Nine States, but Sanders Takes California
The Democratic presidential race emerged from Super Tuesday with two clear front-runners as Joseph R. Biden Jr. won Texas, Virginia, North Carolina and at least six other states, largely through support from African-Americans and moderates, while Senator Bernie Sanders harnessed the backing of liberals and young voters to claim the biggest prize of the campaign, California, and several other primaries.
The returns across the country on the biggest night of voting suggested that the Democratic contest was increasingly focused on two candidates who are standard-bearers for competing wings of the party, Mr. Biden in the political center and Mr. Sanders on the left. Their two other major rivals, Senator Elizabeth Warren and Michael R. Bloomberg, were on track to finish well behind them and faced an uncertain path forward.
Mr. Biden’s victories came chiefly in the South and the Midwest, and in some of them he won by unexpectedly wide margins. In a surprising upset, Mr. Biden even captured Ms. Warren’s home state of Massachusetts, where he did not appear in person, and where Mr. Sanders had campaigned aggressively in recent days.
It was a remarkable show of force for Mr. Biden, the former vice president. In just three days he resurrected a campaign that had been on the verge of collapse after he lost the first three nominating states. But he bounced back with a landslide win in South Carolina on Saturday, and on Tuesday, in addition to victories in Texas,Virginia, North Carolina and Massachusetts, he prevailed in Arkansas, Alabama, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Minnesota.
Mr. Sanders rebounded late in the evening in delegate-rich Western states: He was quickly declared the winner in Colorado and Utah after polls closed there, and he also claimed the largest delegate lode of the primary race, California, The Associated Press reported. Mr. Sanders also easily carried his home state of Vermont.
Yet Mr. Biden’s sweep of states across the South and the Midwest showed he had the makings of a formidable coalition that could propel him through the primaries. As he did in South Carolina, Mr. Biden rolled to victory in several states with the support of large majorities of African-Americans. And he also performed well with a demographic that was crucial to the party’s success in the 2018 midterm elections: college-educated white voters.
“We were told, well, when you got to Super Tuesday, it’d be over,” a triumphant Mr. Biden, 77, said at a celebration in Los Angeles. “Well, it may be over for the other guy!”
After a trying stretch in February, even Mr. Biden appeared surprised at the extent of his success. “I’m here to report we are very much alive!’’ he said. “And make no mistake about it, this campaign will send Donald Trump packing.”
For his part, Mr. Sanders continued to show strength with the voters who have made up his political base: Latinos, liberals and those under age 40. But he struggled to expand his appeal with older voters and African-Americans.
The results also called into question Mr. Sanders’s decision to spend valuable time over the past week campaigning in both Minnesota and Massachusetts, two states where he had hoped to embarrass rivals on their home turf. The gambit proved badly flawed: It was Mr. Biden who pulled off upset wins in both states, with the help of a last-minute endorsement from Senator Amy Klobuchar that upended the race in Minnesota.
The unexpected breadth of Mr. Biden’s success, on a day when more than one-third of the delegates were at stake, illustrated the volatility of this race as well as the determination of many center-left Democrats to find a nominee and get on to challenging President Trump. The former vice president had little advertising and a skeletal organization and scarcely even visited many of the states he won, including liberal-leaning Minnesota and Massachusetts.
But his smashing victory in South Carolina echoed almost instantaneously, and his momentum from there proved far more powerful than the money Mr. Sanders and Mr. Bloomberg had poured into most of Tuesday’s contests.
The early returns were a comprehensive setback for Mr. Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York City, who entered the race late and spent more than half a billion dollars on an aggressive advertising campaign. But Mr. Bloomberg slumped badly after a series of damaging clashes with Ms. Warren, and many moderates and African-Americans appeared to have abandoned him for Mr. Biden. Hours into vote-counting, Mr. Bloomberg had won only one contest, in American Samoa.
Addressing supporters in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Tuesday night, Mr. Bloomberg tried to put the best face on a dismal evening. “Here’s what is clear,” he said. “No matter how many delegates we win tonight, we have done something no one else thought was possible: In just three months, we’ve gone from 1 percent in the polls to being a contender for the Democratic nomination for president.” Still, Mr. Bloomberg planned to review Tuesday’s results and decide his path forward in the race, people familiar with the campaign’s plans said.
Ms. Warren’s loss in Massachusetts left her without a single victory after a month of primaries and caucuses, and in many places on Tuesday she was running in a relatively distant third or fourth place. Most dispiriting to Ms. Warren may be that she lost her home state not to Mr. Sanders, who worked hard to defeat her in her home state, but rather Mr. Biden, suggesting that none of the recent tumult in the race had worked to her advantage.
But Ms. Warren’s campaign in recent days explicitly laid out a strategy of accumulating delegates for a contested convention, and it was not clear that her latest setbacks would deter that approach. Ms. Warren campaigned on Tuesday in Michigan, which holds a primary next week, and urged voters to “cast the vote that will make you proud” rather than making more calculated assessments. And she has announced campaign stops in Arizona and Idaho, two other states that vote this month.
At Mr. Sanders’s campaign party in Vermont on Tuesday night, he answered Mr. Biden’s surge in the race with a battle cry for his supporters: He proclaimed “absolute confidence” that he would win the Democratic nomination, and delivered a scathing critique of Mr. Biden’s record that left little doubt he would confront Mr. Biden’s revived candidacy in blunt terms in the coming days.
Without naming the former vice president, Mr. Sanders said there was another candidate in the race who had supported the invasion of Iraq, endorsed cutting Social Security, voted for international trade deals and “represented the credit card companies” by backing a 2005 overhaul of the bankruptcy code. As for himself, Mr. Sanders said, he had stood on the opposite side of every issue.
“You cannot beat Trump with the same-old, same-old kind of politics,” Mr. Sanders said. “What we need is a new politics that brings working-class people into our political movement.”
Mr. Sanders was on track to rack up delegates in California, but he was sharing some of them with Mr. Biden in his own state of Vermont. And in Colorado, another state Mr. Sanders carried, he was dividing them four ways, as he, Mr. Biden, Mr. Bloomberg and Ms. Warren all reached the 15 percent threshold to win delegates there.
The voting followed an extraordinary reframing of the race in the past 48 hours, as moderate candidates came together to form a united front against Mr. Sanders, a democratic socialist whose general election prospects are viewed skeptically by much of the party leadership. Mr. Biden’s overwhelming victory in South Carolina on Saturday established him as the clear front-runner in the Democrats’ centrist wing, prompting two rivals, Ms. Klobuchar and former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., to end their bids and throw their support to Mr. Biden.
As Mr. Sanders, 78, returned to Vermont, where he voted Tuesday morning, his allies acknowledged that they had been caught off guard by the swiftness with which Mr. Biden’s former adversaries had locked arms to oppose Mr. Sanders’s campaign. They argued that Mr. Sanders was still far better equipped — financially and in his campaign organization — than Mr. Biden to compete for the nomination over a long primary race. And they vowed to highlight to voters the sharp differences in their agendas.
With their long tradition of elevating moderate Democrats, Virginia and North Carolina were fertile terrain for Mr. Biden. He got a lift from his triumph in nearby South Carolina, a state many Super Tuesday voters were watching to see whether Mr. Biden could recover from his early struggles, and then won a series of endorsements from party leaders, including many in Virginia.
His advantage only grew after Ms. Klobuchar and Mr. Buttigieg, who were competing for some of the same voters, withdrew from the race and gave their support to Mr. Biden.
Mr. Bloomberg had poured millions of dollars from his personal fortune into TV ads in the two states and made repeated appearances in both, with his advisers holding out the most hope in North Carolina. And while he has been more focused on liberal states, Mr. Sanders made multiple stops in Virginia and North Carolina in the weeks after the New Hampshire primary last month.
The Democratic campaign barreled into Super Tuesday in a state of extraordinary flux, as a loose alliance of party leaders, elected officials and centrist voting blocs seemed to fall in behind Mr. Biden since his weekend triumph in South Carolina. On Monday night, Mr. Biden made appearances in Texas with three former rivals — Ms. Klobuchar, Mr. Buttigieg and former Representative Beto O’Rourke — who are now supporting his candidacy, while Mr. Sanders rallied supporters in Minnesota in an effort to capture Ms. Klobuchar’s home state.
Few presidential candidates have endured the political roller coaster Mr. Biden has found himself riding in recent weeks. After finishing a distant fourth in Iowa and then coming in fifth in New Hampshire, he was short on money, in danger of losing support to Mr. Bloomberg and facing a do-or-die primary in South Carolina.
Yet after shaking up his campaign and installing a longtime adviser, Anita Dunn, as his chief strategist, Mr. Biden was able to claw back into contention by finishing second in Nevada. Then, after two solid debate performances during which his ascendant rivals were the ones under attack, he picked up a crucial endorsement: Representative James E. Clyburn, the highest-ranking African-American in Congress and the most influential South Carolina Democrat, came out for Mr. Biden at an emotional news conference.
With Mr. Clyburn’s imprimatur, Mr. Biden built a considerable advantage with black voters that propelled him to a 28-point rout in South Carolina.
His big victory immediately prompted what Mr. Biden had been seeking for months: a flood of support from Democratic leaders, donors and his onetime rivals. By Monday night, just 48 hours after what was his first victory over three separate presidential runs, Mr. Biden was at the rally in Dallas, gaining the endorsements of his three former opponents.
Mr. Sanders entered the day with a modest delegate advantage and was poised to extend his lead because, having consolidated much of the party’s left, he was better organized and better funded than any of the more moderate candidates.
Having finished at the top of Iowa and New Hampshire with less than 30 percent of the vote, Mr. Sanders extended his lead with a commanding victory in Nevada, where he demonstrated that he could expand his heavily white base to include Hispanic voters.
The propulsive energy behind both Mr. Biden and Mr. Sanders posed a challenge to two other formidable candidates, Ms. Warren and Mr. Bloomberg, who have charted drastically different paths to the final stages of the Democratic race. For Mr. Bloomberg, the Super Tuesday contests were the first time he appeared on a ballot, because he bypassed the February contests entirely.
Mr. Bloomberg, the wealthy former mayor of New York City, has been a pervasive presence in the race: He has run more than half a billion dollars in paid advertising since he announced his campaign in November, offering himself to the Democratic establishment as a potential savior if Mr. Biden failed to halt Mr. Sanders in the earliest primaries and caucuses.
Yet Mr. Bloomberg’s prospects were uncertain heading into Super Tuesday, after his disastrous performance in a debate last month in Las Vegas and Mr. Biden’s resurgence in the polls.
Mr. Bloomberg’s campaign publicly signaled he planned to forge ahead even if he faced a disappointing night, announcing plans to stump later this week in Pennsylvania and Michigan, and holding his election-night event in Florida, which holds a primary in two weeks. But advisers to Mr. Bloomberg have also acknowledged that the former mayor would make a cold assessment of his options once the results of Super Tuesday became known. He is likely to face intense pressure to make way for Mr. Biden if his self-funded candidacy does not yield impressive results.“