A resurgent Joe Biden scored victories from Texas to Massachusetts on Super Tuesday, revitalizing a presidential bid that was teetering on the edge of disaster just days earlier.
Biden took Texas, Alabama, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Minnesota and the battleground states of North Carolina and Virginia, a strong start as 14 states went to the polls across the nation. He also won the solidly Republican state of Arkansas and Elizabeth Warren’s home state of Massachusetts.
His rival, Bernie Sanders, countered with a win in his home state of Vermont, Colorado, and Utah and was leading in the crucial, delegate-rich California.
The race in Maine has not been called.
Suddenly, the Democratic Party’s presidential field, which featured more than a half dozen candidates a week ago, transformed into a two-man contest.
Biden and Sanders, lifelong politicians with starkly different visions for America’s future, were battling for delegates as 14 states and one U.S. territory held a series of high-stakes elections that marked the most significant day of voting in the party’s 2020 presidential nomination fight.
It could take weeks — or months — for the party to pick one of them to take on President Donald Trump in the November general election.
But the new contours of the fight between Biden and Sanders crystallized as the former vice president and the three-term Vermont senator spoke to each other from duelling victory speeches delivered from opposite ends of the country Tuesday night.
WATCH | Biden says he’s the true Democrat in the race:
“People are talking about a revolution. We started a movement,” Biden said in Los Angeles, knocking one of Sanders’ signature lines.
Without citing his surging rival by name, Sanders swiped at Biden from Burlington, Vermont. “You cannot beat Trump with the same-old, same-old kind of politics,” Sanders declared, ticking down a list of past policy differences with Biden on Social Security, trade and military force.
“This will become a contrast in ideas.”
The other two high-profile candidates still in the shrinking Democratic field, New York billionaire Mike Bloomberg and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, were teetering on the edge of viability. Warren finished in an embarrassing third place in her home state, and Bloomberg planned to reassess his candidacy on Wednesday after spending more than a half billion dollars to score a single victory — in American Samoa.
WATCH | Bloomberg tells supporters in Florida he remains optimistic:
The balance of Super Tuesday’s battlefield — with Biden winning at least nine states and Sanders taking three and leading in California — raised questions about whether the Democratic primary contest would stretch all the way to the July convention or be decided much sooner.
Biden’s strong finish punctuated a dramatic turnaround in the span of just three days when he leveraged a blowout victory in South Carolina to score sweeping victories on Tuesday that transcended geography, class and race.
The former vice president showed strength in the U.S. Northeast with a victory in Massachusetts. He won delegate-rich Texas in the Southwest, Minnesota in the upper Midwest and finished on top across the South in Virginia, Alabama, North Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas — in addition to Oklahoma.
Across the Super Tuesday states, there were early questions about Sanders’s claims that he is growing his support from his failed 2016 presidential bid.
Biden bested him in Oklahoma, though Sanders won the state against Hillary Clinton four years ago. In Virginia, where Democratic turnout this year surpassed 2016’s numbers by more than 500,000 votes, Sanders’s vote share dropped significantly.
WATCH | Sanders describes exactly who he needs in order to win in November:
And in Tennessee, Democratic turnout was up more than 30 per cent from 2016, but Sanders’s raw vote total was only a few hundred votes greater than four years ago.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg was trying to look beyond the primary to the November election against Trump, who racked up easy victories in lightly contested Republican primaries across the country.
“We have the resources to beat Trump in swing states that Democrats lost in 2016,” Bloomberg said Tuesday night while campaigning in Florida.
The billionaire former New York mayor, who threw more than a half a billion dollars into the Super Tuesday states, will reassess his campaign on Wednesday, according to a person close to his operation who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal deliberations.
Warren was also fighting to be optimistic.
Facing a roaring crowd in Michigan before news of her disappointing home-state finish was announced, she called on her supporters to ignore the political pundits and predictions as her advisers insist she’s willing to go all the way to a contested convention in July even if she doesn’t claim an outright victory anywhere.
“Here’s my advice: Cast a vote that will make you proud. Cast a vote from your heart,” Warren declared. She added: “You don’t get what you don’t fight for. I am in this fight.”