Joe Biden notches 3 more victories; Bernie Sanders reassessing campaign
WASHINGTON — Joe Biden swept to victory in Florida, Illinois and Arizona, increasingly pulling away with a Democratic presidential primary upended by the coronavirus and building pressure on Bernie Sanders to abandon his campaign.
On Wednesday, Sanders' campaign manager said Sanders “is going to be having conversations with supporters to assess his campaign." But he suggested Sanders is in no hurry to make any decisions about leaving the race noting, “the next primary contest is at least three weeks away.”
Faiz Shakir said in a statement that “in the immediate term” Sanders “is focused on the government response to the coronavirus outbreak and ensuring that we take care of working people and the most vulnerable.”
Biden's third big night in as many weeks came Tuesday amid tremendous uncertainty as the Democratic contest collides with efforts to slow the spread of the virus that has shut down large swaths of American life. Polls were shuttered in Ohio, and although balloting went ahead as scheduled in the three other states, election workers and voters reported problems.
Still, Biden's quest for his party's nomination now seems well within reach. His trio of wins doubled his delegate haul over Sanders, giving the former vice president a nearly insurmountable lead. Top Democratic leaders and donors have also increasingly lined up behind Biden as the best option to square off against President Donald Trump in November.
Using a livestream to address supporters from his home state of Delaware, Biden seemed ready to move past the primary. He paid tribute to the Vermont senator for advancing key issues like affordable health care and combating climate change.
“Sen. Sanders and his supporters have brought a remarkable passion and tenacity to all of these issues. Together they have shifted the fundamental conversation in this country," Biden said. “So let me say, especially to the young voters who have been inspired by Sen. Sanders, I hear you. I know what’s at stake. I know what we have to do.”
With the exception of North Dakota and the Northern Mariana Islands, Sanders hasn't scored a victory since Super Tuesday on March 3. He made no immediate move on Tuesday to contact Biden, according to people familiar with the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak for the candidates. During remarks early in the night, Sanders said little about the future of the race and instead focused on the coronavirus outbreak.
Trump, meanwhile, formally clinched the Republican presidential nomination after facing minimal opposition.
But much of the action was on the Democratic side, where higher vote totals in some key states suggested enthusiasm that even the coronavirus couldn't contain. Turnout in Florida’s Democratic primary surpassed the 1.7 million who cast ballots four years ago.
Sanders' path to the nomination is quickly narrowing, and some Democrats are now calling on him to drop out in the name of party unity. Top advisers have said he's considering whether the political landscape could look different as the virus continues to reshape life across the country.
Still, the race increasingly favors Biden. He maintained strength on Tuesday with African Americans and older voters who have been the hallmark of his campaign. He also appeared to chip away at Sanders' previous advantage with Hispanics that helped him win Nevada and California early in the race.