Former Vice President Joe Biden cemented his lead over Senator Bernie Sanders in the race for the Democratic nomination by sweeping Tuesday’s primaries with victories in Florida, Arizona, and Illinois.
Biden won decisively in Florida and Illinois. It was a closer contest in Arizona, where the state’s large Hispanic population likely gave Sanders a boost. The total number of delegates awarded is still being determined, but Biden has secured more than half of the 1,991 he needs to win the nomination outright. With Biden’s lead widening rapidly, Democrats could begin pressuring Sanders to withdraw from the race so the party can focus on beating Trump.
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The primaries marked the first balloting event since the coronavirus crisis hit its stride. As the outbreak significantly disrupts day-to-day life across the U.S., the campaigns have taken several precautionary steps in order to protect the candidates.
Sanders and Biden are both in their 70s, so they’re especially at risk if they were to get infected. As a result, the campaigns have suspended most public appearances and face-to-face meetings. The Democratic Party released a statement on Tuesday encouraging voters to avoid casting ballots in person and use vote-by-mail or other alternatives.
Ohio was supposed to hold their primary on Tuesday too, but the state health officials close the polls in response to the spreading pandemic. In-person voting will be postponed until June 2nd. There was a last-minute legal challenge to the postponement, but the Ohio Supreme Court denied the motion. Apparently, many voters were unaware of the decision to delay the primaries, so hundreds of annoyed callers swarmed the county election boards with complaints. Several other states have also decided to postpone voting in the wake of the pandemic. In the states that did vote, Biden was a clear winner.
Sanders’s pro-Castro commentary didn’t do him any favors in the Sunshine State. In Florida, Biden smashed Sanders by over 40 percentage points in Florida, a notorious swing state that was instrumental to Donald Trump’s 2016 victory. The former VP won nearly three times as many votes as Sanders in the state and carried all 67 counties.
Biden also posted a strong performance in Illinois, a well-known Democratic stronghold, where he beat Sanders by a margin of over 20%. Arizona was the closest primary of the evening, but Biden still won decisively. Some districts are still reporting but, with 88% of votes counted so far, Biden is leading by over 10%.
As Biden pads his lead, the pressure is ratcheting up on Sanders to drop out of the race. The Democratic base doesn’t seem to be as excited about socialism as the senator from Vermont would’ve hoped. Biden’s more moderate policies seem to be giving him an edge in the contest. A recent poll conducted by the Wall Street Journal and NBC showed that Biden is ahead nationally by nearly a 2-to-1 margin, with 61% of Democratic primary voters favoring the former VP while only 32% opted for Sanders.
Biden delivered his post-primary statement via live stream from his home in Wilmington, Delaware on Tuesday evening. He said his campaign is reaching out to Sanders’s supporters in an attempt to win over more votes. “We’ve moved closer to securing the Democratic Party’s nomination for president,” said Biden, “and we’re doing it by building a broad coalition.”
Sanders’s campaign is on its last legs. Biden’s victory seems almost certain, and many voters are beginning to wonder when the notoriously uncooperative Sanders will drop out. At this point, his campaign seems to be doing more harm than good. Democratic voters have spoken and they sent a clear message. Despite a small and very vocal segment of the party that would have us believe otherwise, America doesn’t want socialism and the votes prove it.
The writing is on the wall. Biden’s campaign is gaining more momentum with every primary. Coronavirus is delaying several primaries, but it’s in the Democrat’s best interests to unite the party behind a single candidate as soon as possible. Sanders is doing the party a disservice by hanging around when he can’t win, so he should be giving a lot of consideration to withdrawing from the race.