Primary night summary
That’s it from me after another strong primary night for Joe Biden and another disappointing performance for Bernie Sanders.
Here’s how the night shook out:
- Biden grew his delegate lead and left Sanders with few, if any, paths to the nomination. The former vice president has already secured four wins tonight in Mississippi, Missouri, Idaho and the key state of Michigan, with North Dakota and Washington state still too close to call.
- Biden looked ahead to the general election, effectively declaring himself the nominee. Speaking in Philadelphia, the former vice president applauded Sanders’ supporters for their “tireless energy” and promised to work with them to defeat Trump in November.
- Sanders supporters insisted the primary is not over. Some of Sanders’ allies threw punches against Biden on social media, potentially previewing Sunday’s debate between the two candidates, but Sanders’ decision not to speak tonight did not instill much confidence in his prospects.
- Biden’s win in Michigan sparked some reconsideration of Sanders’ 2016 campaign. With Biden currently beating Sanders by 15 points in Michigan, some wondered whether Sanders’ 2016 victory there may have had more to do with disapproval of Hillary Clinton than his strength among Rust Belt voters.
- Coronavirus has effectively frozen the presidential race. Sanders and Biden canceled primary night rallies in Cleveland, and CNN announced the next debate would take place without a live audience or a spin room. The precautionary measures leave Sanders with fewer opportunities to shake up the dynamics of the race, but both candidates acknowledged the priority right now was public health, as the number of US coronavirus cases surpassed 1,000.
The US politics live blog will be back tomorrow morning, so make sure to tune back in. And thank you for following our primary night coverage.
Joe Biden leads Bernie Sanders in Idaho by about 6 points, with 80% of precincts reporting.
Sanders’ loss in Idaho is another blow on a generally disappointing night for the Vermont senator.
Not only did Sanders win the Idaho caucuses in a landslide in 2016, but western states have also been one of his few strong points in recent weeks.
Biden’s win in Idaho underscores how Sanders’ path to the nomination has narrowed to the point that his critics are already declaring the primary to be all but over.
Biden wins Idaho primary
The AP has declared Joe Biden the winner of the primary in Idaho, where polls closed about two hours ago.
Bernie Sanders won the state in 2016, when Idaho used a caucus system, by about 56 points.
Trump once again accused Elizabeth Warren of costing Bernie Sanders the Democratic nomination.
Referring to Warren as “Pocahontas,” Trump tweeted that the Massachusetts senator had “destroyed the campaign of Bernie Sanders” by not dropping out sooner.
Warren dropped out of the race last Thursday after a disappointing performance on Super Tuesday.
Some of Sanders’ supporters had called on her to drop out sooner, as moderate candidates Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar withdrew to endorse Joe Biden.
But Sanders himself did not publicly pressure Warren to drop out before Super Tuesday, and it’s unclear whether Warren’s earlier departure would have helped Sanders in states like Michigan, where he is currently losing by 15 points.
Some of Bernie Sanders’ allies told PBS they believe the candidate still has a “slim path” to the nomination, despite his disappointing performance against Joe Biden tonight.
Sanders will likely make that argment himself on Sunday, when he is scheduled to face off against Biden in a debate in Phoenix.
However, it would take a truly catastrophic debate performance on Biden’s part for Sanders to have any hope of a campaign reset.
It’s also important to keep in mind that the four states voting next Tuesday — Florida, Illinois, Ohio and Arizona — are all states Sanders lost in 2016, likely making it difficult for him to regain momentum in the next batch of contests.
Bernie Sanders’ poor performance tonight has sparked some reconsideration of his 2016 campaign.
Sanders narrowly won the 2016 Michigan primary against Hillary Clinton, but Joe Biden was quickly declared the winner there tonight.
With 83% of precincts reporting, Biden is beating Sanders by about 15 points in Michigan, where 125 pledged delegates are up for grabs.
Sanders’ underperformance has led a number of political commentators to suggest his 2016 Michigan win had more to do with disapproval of Clinton than Sanders’ strength among Rust Belt voters, which the Vermont senator’s allies have frequently boasted about.
So this has been an overall terrible night for Sanders. Not only is his opponent effectively declaring victory in the noninating contest, but the story of his 2016 campaign is also being rewritten in a much less flattering light.
The Guardian’s Hallie Golden reports from Seattle, Washington:
As initial results showed Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders in a very tight race for Washington State delegates, Shaun Scott, Sanders’ local field director, alternated between watching results and saying encouraging remarks to election staff and volunteers.
“We got this,” he said to a few of the people who had gathered at a bar in Seattle to watch the results on a large television screen.
Scott highlighted the fact that election officials in Washington reported that 60,000 voters didn’t select a political party on their ballot, which could have invalidated those votes. He said the campaign team is prepared to go out this weekend and next to cure those ballots.
“Yet another reason for people to check out installment number two of the Washington state primary,” he told the Guardian. “Episode one was a cliff hanger. But we think we’re going to come to a pretty definitive conclusion here in episode two.”
Washington state is another example of how turnout often spikes when a caucus becomes a primary.
In 2016, when Washington held caucuses, roughly 230,000 people participated. (Bernie Sanders won that race by about 45 points.)
In comparison, more than a million votes have already been counted tonight in the state’s primary, with Sanders and Joe Biden running neck and neck.
Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden are neck and neck in Washington state, where 89 pledged delegates are up for grabs.
With 67% of precincts reporting, Sanders leads Biden by just 0.2 points, or about 2,000 votes.
Considering the narrow margin and Washington’s high rates of mail-in voting, it may take days to know the winner:
at 12.11am EDT
Progressive groups look ahead to November after Sanders’ bad night
Even though a number of Bernie Sanders’ allies insist the race for the nomination is not over, some progressive groups are already looking ahead to November after their preferred candidate’s disappointing performance tonight.
The political director of the group CPD Action, which endorsed Sanders in December, said the Vermont senator “has proven that his voice and his movement are vital to any success in November.”
“We are committed to the Bernie Sanders campaign and the values that it represents,” Natalia Salgado added in the statement. “We will continue to push this agenda forward in the primaries, the general and beyond. Our North Star is to defeat Donald Trump and we are prepared to do what it takes.”
Adam Green — the co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which initially endorsed Elizabeth Warren — said Sanders and Joe Biden should still debate on Sunday.
“Not because it will likely change the outcome, but because in order to not change the outcome Biden has to withstand one-on-one scrutiny similar to a debate with Trump,” Green told the Guardian.
All of this indicates that progressive groups have little hope of Sanders turning back the tide of momentum that appears to be carrying Biden to the nomination.