Biden Wins Michigan Primary to Widen Delegate Lead Over Sanders

Gregory Korte, Tyler Pager and Jennifer Epstein
Biden Wins Michigan Primary to Widen Delegate Lead Over Sanders

(Bloomberg) -- Joe Biden won the Michigan primary over Bernie Sanders, taking the biggest prize in Tuesday’s six-state round of primaries and further widening his lead in the Democratic nomination race.

Biden also won in Missouri and Mississippi, as his campaign looked to build an advantage in the contest for delegates that would be difficult for Sanders to overcome before the primaries and caucuses wrap up in early June.

[Live blog: March 10 primary results]

Michigan had a third of the 352 delegates at stake on Tuesday and will be a pivotal general election state. Sanders had been looking to repeat his upset narrow win in the state four years ago to revive his candidacy after losing 10 of the 14 states that voted on Super Tuesday. But Biden’s advantage with minority voters and his ability to appeal to the state’s blue collar workforce was too strong.

“It’s more than a comeback,” Biden told supporters in Philadelphia Tuesday night, referring to the turnabout for his campaign over the past week and a half. “It’s a comeback for the soul of this nation.”

Sanders isn’t planning to publicly address the results on Tuesday night, according to a campaign aide.

Democrats in Idaho, North Dakota and Washington state also were voting in primaries Tuesday. Sanders was hoping for strong performances in those western states, where he did well in 2016.

Next week the focus turns to four states awarding 577 delegates: Illinois, Ohio, Florida and Arizona. The outcome of those contests could be decisive in the nomination battle.

The coronavirus is looming over the race, and its long-term impact on the presidential campaigns is unclear. Sanders and Biden both canceled planned rallies in Cleveland, Ohio, on Tuesday and said they were evaluating future events.

In Missouri, polling places were relocated from spots where older people gather, like assisted living facilities. In Washington, officials urged voters not to lick the envelopes of their mail-in ballots and election workers are wearing gloves to open them. Extra cleaning was under way at Michigan polling places.

“I have used more hand sanitizer in the last two weeks than I have used in my entire life,” Sanders, 78, said on CNN after shaking hands with supporters outside a polling location in Dearborn Heights, Michigan.

Trump said over the weekend that he would continue holding campaign rallies with thousands of supporters regardless of the threat of the virus. He planned an event in the Wisconsin Center, which holds thousands of people on March 19.

Also unclear was the impact of the turmoil in financial markets, which have been whipsawed over the past two days, and the economic disruption caused by closings and cancellations across the country.

Preliminary exit polls reported by ABC News showed that voters in Missouri, Washington and Michigan overwhelmingly trust Biden over Sanders to handle a major crisis.

With more than half of precincts reporting, Biden was leading in Michigan with 53% to Sanders’s 38%. He had 60% in partial returns from Missouri and 81% in Mississippi.

Delegates were still being counted in Tuesday’s contests, but Biden led Sanders by more than 100 delegates. Officials in March 3 states like California, Colorado and Utah were also still counting. He had a total of 756 of the 1,991 delegates needed to claim the nomination at the party convention in July.

The candidates had focused most of their attention on Michigan, the heart of the U.S. auto industry, which holds strategic importance for both parties in November; It was one of the previously Democratic-leaning manufacturing centers that Trump won in 2016, but only by the scant margin of 10,700 votes out of more than 4.7 million cast.

The Democratic Party has been rallying around Biden as he’s rolled up victories. Former competitors Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Michael Bloomberg and Andrew Yang have endorsed him.

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who was Sanders’s rival for leader of the party’s progressive wing, ended her campaign on March 5 after failing to place higher than third in a primary or caucus. She’s said she’s not ready to make an endorsement.

Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard is still campaigning for the nomination but is far behind with only two delegates.

(Disclaimer: Michael Bloomberg, the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, also sought the Democratic presidential nomination.)

--With assistance from Joe Sobczyk.

To contact the reporters on this story: Gregory Korte in Washington at gkorte@bloomberg.net;Tyler Pager in Detroit, Michigan at tpager1@bloomberg.net;Jennifer Epstein in Cleveland, Ohio at jepstein32@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Wendy Benjaminson at wbenjaminson@bloomberg.net, Max Berley

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