Joe Biden starts out strong on Super Tuesday

Joe Biden starts out strong on Super Tuesday
Phil Roeder

Former Vice President Joe Biden appears to be on the cusp of a big night — and possibly a decisive sweep — as Super Tuesday results come in.

Biden was projected to win Virginia, North Carolina and Alabama as soon as polls closed in those states, according to CNN. Sen. Bernie Sanders, meanwhile, is projected to win his home state of Vermont. Biden has earned 67 delegates to Sanders' eight delegates, as of 8 p.m. ET. Roughly half of the delegates up for grabs are in Texas and California, where the races are yet to be decided.

Polls have closed in Arkansas, Massachusetts, Maine, Oklahoma and parts of Texas and Tennessee, but races in those states have not been called.

Biden was projected to win all three of the Southern states called so far based on exit polling. Biden won with strong support from black voters and voters over 45, according to preliminary exit polls.

Early exit polls showed Sanders winning with 57% in Vermont, though Biden is expected to pick up delegates in the state as well. The Sanders campaign has its hopes set high for California, where 415 pledged delegates are on the line.

Former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg was projected to win the Democratic primary in American Samoa with nearly 50% of the vote with 99% of the precincts reporting, according to the Associated Press. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, is expected to pick up her first delegate in the state after winning more than 29% of the vote.

With more than one-third of all convention delegates on the line, voters in 14 states and American Samoa cast their ballots in the Democratic race on Tuesday. There are 1,357 delegates at stake on Super Tuesday, or about 34% of the 4,051 available delegates. A candidate needs to win at least 1,991 delegates to clinch the nomination on the first ballot.

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who won the popular vote in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, led the field going into Super Tuesday with 60 pledged delegates. Former Vice President Joe Biden, who won South Carolina by nearly 30 points, began the evening with 53 delegates. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has eight delegates, while former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg will appear on many state ballots for the first time.

This race looks very different after South Carolina. Former South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg won the most delegates in Iowa, but has now ended his campaign. So has Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who placed a strong third in New Hampshire but drew little support in Nevada and South Carolina. Billionaire Tom Steyer was banking on a strong showing in South Carolina and also dropped out following Saturday's first-in-the-south primary. Buttigieg and Klobuchar threw their support behind Biden on Monday. Their endorsements were joined by another former candidate for the Democratic nomination, Beto O'Rourke, along with former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Only Biden, Sanders, Warren, Bloomberg and  Gabbard, who has failed to qualify for any recent debates, officially remain in the race. With early voting in delegate-rich states like California, former candidates could still garner a significant share of the vote. Final results from California could take a while to trickle in, so election night will not necessarily provide a complete picture.

Sanders appeared to be on the cusp of an "insurmountable" delegate lead after winning the most votes in the first three contests of the primary cycle. However, Biden's big win in South Carolina and the endorsements of two leading candidates could help him shore up the so-called moderate lane. Polls have suggested that Buttigieg and Klobuchar supporters are more likely to split among several of their opponents, but they also showed Biden's support rising in key Southern states even before he landed the slew of big endorsements Monday.

Election forecaster FiveThirtyEight now projects that Biden has the best chance to win the most delegates in the primary cycle, though it also suggests that no candidate will win more than half of the delegates needed to secure the nomination ahead of the convention. The forecast, which previously showed Sanders as the odds-on favorite to win a plurality of delegates, quickly shifted after a spate of new polls showed Biden surging in Super Tuesday states.

Candidates will need to win at least 15% of the vote to win delegates in each state. Bloomberg and Warren appeared on the cusp of reaching that viability threshold in polls of several key states, which would award them a chunk of the delegates.

Warren has had an up-and-down primary season. Though she saw a bump in polls after strong debate performances last month, the senator is not expected to be competitive in many places outside her home state of Massachusetts. Bloomberg, the billionaire former Republican who has spent more than $500 million of his own fortune to blanket the airwaves with ads, could complicate matters for Biden if he reaches the 15% threshold in states where the former vice president performs the strongest.

If only one candidate wins more than 15% of the vote in a state, they win all statewide delegates. Sanders could negate Biden's advantage in Southern states, for instance, by winning a huge delegate haul in California.

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