Black voters propel Biden to big wins in Virginia, NC, Alabama

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenRealClearPolitics reporter says Freedom Caucus shows how much GOP changed under Trump Iowa governor suggests immigrants partially to blame for rising COVID-19 cases Biden officials pledge to confront cybersecurity challenges head-on MORE is off to a strong Super Tuesday start after he was declared the winner of the Virginia, North Carolina and Alabama primaries by networks immediately as polls closed in both states.

Exit polls suggested Biden was bolstered by heavy support from African American voters, a development that had previously boosted him in South Carolina and portends well for his chances in other Southern states holding primaries Tuesday.

Polls had shown a tight race between Biden and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWomen's March endorses Nina Turner in first-ever electoral endorsement GOP sees debt ceiling as its leverage against Biden Democrats brace for slog on Biden's spending plan MORE (I-Vt.) in Virginia and North Carolina as recently as last week.

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But Biden’s big victory in South Carolina gave him a burst of momentum that could help blunt the advantage Sanders likely will have when polls close in California later tonight.

Biden was boosted by a string of endorsements from high-profile Virginians, including Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineDemocrats brace for slog on Biden's spending plan Senate GOP likely to nix plan Schumer feels pressure from all sides on spending strategy MORE (D), former Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), and Democratic Reps. Bobby ScottRobert (Bobby) Cortez ScottBiden celebrates anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act Now is the time to end the subminimum wage for people with disabilities House passes bill to ease standards for age discrimination cases MORE, Jennifer WextonJennifer Lynn WextonLate Capitol Police officer's family urges Congress to agree to Jan. 6 commission Administration withdraws Trump-era proposal to loosen protections for transgender homeless people Trump the X-factor in Virginia governor race MORE and Don Beyer. 

And he’s benefiting from strong support among African Americans, taking more than 70 percent support among black voters in Alabama. Alabama is more than 40 percent black and has the largest population of black voters out of all the Super Tuesday states.

Exit polls in Virginia showed Biden taking about 66 percent support among black voters there as well.

The Democratic electorates in Virginia and North Carolina, as well as states across the Deep South, are more than a quarter black, according to exit polls.

In 2016, Sanders failed to win any state that had a black population of more than 21 percent, and that dynamic appears to be hampering him on Super Tuesday.

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Sanders, however, has strong support from Latinos, who helped him to a big victory in the Nevada caucuses. That could come into play later tonight in California and Texas, the two largest delegate hauls of the primary season.

Biden’s victories in Virginia and North Carolina are also harmful to former New York City Mayor Michael BloombergMichael BloombergWHO leader issues warning on 'harmful' e-cigarettes Six months in, two challenges could define Biden's presidency Why Democrats' .5 trillion reconciliation bill is a losing game MORE, who launched his campaign after becoming worried that Biden looked like a weak front-runner.

Bloomberg invested and campaigned heavily in Virginia, visiting it more than any other Super Tuesday state. He spent more than $12 million in North Carolina.

Now Biden stands to win at least a plurality of North Carolina’s 110 delegates and Virginia’s 99. 

Sanders, meanwhile, easily won the primary in his home state of Vermont, where 16 delegates were up for grabs.

Polls are still open in California, where 415 delegates are at stake, and Texas, which accounts for 228 delegates. 

Sanders will be looking to run up the score in California, the largest delegate prize on the map.

All told, about 1,300 delegates will be awarded Tuesday, accounting for about one-third of all pledged delegates up for grabs. 

A candidate must win 1,991 delegates to clinch the Democratic presidential nomination.

Updated at 8:07 p.m.