Former US vice-president Biden rides ‘Joementum’ to win 8 of 14 Super Tuesday contests
Senator Bernie Sanders, the frontrunner before the Super Tuesday contests picked up, or projected to, three states, including the biggest catch of the night California in terms of delegates, who will elect the nominee at the party’s presidential convention in Milwaukee in Wisconsin state.Updated: Mar 04, 2020, 19:30 IST
Former Vice-President Joe Biden had won or projected to win nine of the 14 states that voted in the Super Tuesday Democratic nominating contests, in a stunning comeback that started last week South Carolina and is propelled by, what his supporters are calling “Joementum”, built in part on continuing coalescence of moderates in the party around his candidacy.
Senator Bernie Sanders, the frontrunner before the Super Tuesday contests picked up, or projected to, three states, including the biggest catch of the night California in terms of delegates, who will elect the nominee at the party’s presidential convention in Milwaukee in Wisconsin state.
“It’s good night, it’s a good night,” an elated Biden told supporters at a campaign event in California, reminding them of pundits and experts declaring his candidacy dead. “We are very much alive, make no mistake about it — this campaign will send Donald Trump packing.”
Sanders also sounded optimistic at a rally in Vermont, his home state, where he pitched his campaign as the one that could potentially beat Trump and not his rivals, drawing stark contrast between himself and them on politics and campaign funding and key issues such as healthcare, trade deals.
Senator Elizabeth Warren did not win any state, not even her home-state of Massachusetts. In fact, she finished third there. Billionaire and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg had win in the US territory of American Samoa to show for the millions he has spent on his campaign. He is said to be weighing his options now. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, the fifth candidate in the fray, barely registered her presence.
Biden started the night with a massive victory in Virginia, a key swing state that plays a crucial role in presidential elections, and went on to win North Carolina, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Alabama and the prize state of Texas. He also led in Maine, but it had not been called.
Sanders picked up home state Vermont, Utah, Colorado and, according to projections, California.
This race is more than about winning states. Unlike the Republican primaries system of winner-takes-all delegates, Democrats split up delegates among the candidates (only those who cross the threshold of 15% of the votes polled) per the proportion of votes won. The target is 1,991 delegates of the 3,979 pledged delegates. A third of them, 1,357 delegates were up for grabs on Tuesday.
With no or low possibility of any of the candidates wrapping up the contests before the conventions, talk has started about a contested convention in which 3,979 pledged delegates will vote to the elect the nominee in the first round. If there is still no winner, 771 super-delegates join the voting in the second round.
The former vice-president finished the Super Tuesday with an overall tally of 453 delegates, 71 more than Sanders’s 382. Warren stood at 50 and Bloomberg at 44. Gabbard has one, in her birthplace American Samoas.
The Super Tuesday nominating contests had looked headed Sanders’s way till a week ago. He was the frontrunner with victories in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada. He had seemed set to be on his way to the party nomination this time, unlike his failed bid in 2016, when he lost to Hillary Clinton.
Then came the South Carolina primaries, last Friday. This was going to be a make-or-break contest for Biden. He had finished poorly in the three nominating contests before and his campaign had begun to face serious life-expectancy questions because of his uninspiring debate performances and depleted war chest.
Boosted by a key election-eve endorsement from Jim Clyburn, a senior African American congressman, Biden scooped up South Carolina, which has a large population of African Americans, with a massive victory margin. In the hours after, he picked up endorsements of former rivals ex-mayor Pete Buttigieg, Senator Amy Klobuchar and former congressman Beto O’Rourke.
Moderates in the party were coalescing around Biden to stop Sanders, troubled by his progressive policies, which he packaged as Democratic socialism. They also feared he could have a debilitating impact on Democrats in other races, for the House of Representatives and US senate.
Biden’s stunning performance was fueled by the support of the African American community, specially in the souther states of Virginia, North Carolina and Alabama. But was not confined to it, as he also picked up predominantly white states of Minnesota, Oklahoma and Massachusetts.
Sanders, on the other hand, struggled to retain his hold on his constituency. He had won Minnesota and Oklahoma in the 2016 primaries (though anti-Hillary Clinton votes may have been a factor at the time). And he even looked in danger of Texas, a state that was crucial to his Super Tuesday strategy.