Biden ready for big wins on Tuesday
Joe Biden appears headed for a strong showing Tuesday when voters cast ballots in six states, with the former vice president looking to grow his delegate lead over Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
Biden is on a roll after winning 10 of the 14 states up for grabs on Super Tuesday last week. He’s pulling his biggest crowds of the cycle, raising big sums of money and winning scores of new endorsements from Democratic Party leaders, who have rallied behind his campaign in rapid succession.
Over the past 48 hours, two former presidential candidates — Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) — have endorsed Biden, giving him six former rivals who are supporting his campaign.
Polls show Biden up big in Michigan, where 125 pledged delegates are at stake, more than anywhere else on Tuesday. Sanders badly needs a strong showing there to keep the race close, and he’s been hunkered in the state over the past week in an effort to pull out a surprise victory, as he did in the 2016 primary.
But Biden also has a massive lead in Missouri polls. And the black voters in the Deep South who delivered huge victories for Biden on Super Tuesday appear poised to do it once again in Mississippi, where Biden is expected to win by a wide margin.
Polls also show a tight race in Washington, where Sanders won big over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2016. There is no polling of Idaho or North Dakota.
Speaking at a rally in St. Louis on Monday, Sanders acknowledged that his campaign must do better on its promise to turn out young people and irregular voters if he hopes to win. So far, exit polls have shown that young people are not turning out in large enough numbers for Sanders to match Biden’s advantage with older people.
“The bad news, to be honest with you, is that young people vote in much lower rates than older people,” Sanders said. “That is the facts. I hope all of the old people vote, that’s great. But I want young people to be voting at the same rates because we are overwhelmingly winning young people’s votes.”
Biden enters the day with about one-third of the delegates needed to secure the nomination. He leads Sanders by about 90 delegates overall, although votes are still being counted in California, which Sanders won.
That’s not an insurmountable lead for Biden, but the party’s proportional allocation of delegates makes it difficult for any candidate to mount a big comeback if they fall too far behind.
The map is favorable for Biden in the coming weeks. He appears poised for blowout victories in Mississippi on Tuesday, Florida on March 17 and Georgia on March 24.
Sanders will get another shot at Biden on the debate stage on March 15.
But the urgency at the moment centers around Michigan, which accounts for more than 35 percent of the delegates that will be allocated on Tuesday.
The Vermont senator is seeking to cut into Biden’s support among black voters, who make up about 20 percent of the Democratic primary electorate there.
Over the weekend, civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson endorsed Sanders, who also held a racial and economic equality town hall in Flint.
Still, polls show Biden opening up a big lead in Michigan. A Detroit Free Press survey found Biden ahead by 24 points and a Monmouth University survey found him ahead by 15.
There are glimmers of hope for Sanders.
The progressive left, which had been split between Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), is rallying behind Sanders now that Warren is out.
The Working Families Party, which had backed Warren, officially endorsed Sanders on Monday. Justice Democrats, which is closely aligned with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), endorsed Sanders after having been on the sidelines. And the Warren-aligned group Progressive Change Campaign Committee is urging its members to vote for Sanders in Michigan to keep the race close, though it is not endorsing him.
In 2016, polls showed Sanders trailing Clinton by 20 points or more in Michigan heading into the primary. Sanders squeezed out a shocking victory that altered the way many viewed the race between Sanders and Clinton.
“You can see progressives coalescing behind Bernie Sanders in the closing hours,” said Neil Sroka, a Michigan-based progressive strategist for Democracy for America, which has endorsed Sanders.
“If you believe the polling, Biden should blow it out of the water tomorrow, but polling in Michigan regularly underestimates young people. That’s what happened in 2016. I think it’s a jump ball. Momentum is clearly on Biden’s side, but the question is how strongly progressives fight back.”
Outside of Michigan, new Data for Progress surveys show Biden leading by 55 points in Mississippi and by 30 points in Missouri.
In Washington, where Sanders won 73 percent support in 2016 caucuses, polls show Biden and Sanders running even. Like Idaho and North Dakota, the state has switched to primaries this year, which should benefit Biden.
Sanders is throwing everything he can at Biden in an effort to blunt his momentum.
Sanders is hitting Biden over his past support for freezing spending on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, hoping it will cut into Biden’s lead among older voters, and he is highlighting Biden’s role in shaping the 1994 crime bill, saying it led to the disproportionate incarceration of black and brown people.
Sanders is also hammering Biden for his support for trade deals he said cost Michiganders jobs, for his vote to authorize military action in Iraq in 2002 and for his support for a bill that made it harder for individuals to declare bankruptcy over credit card debt.
But Biden’s allies have been encouraged by Sanders going out of his way to call Biden a “friend” before drawing distinctions between their records, believing he’s paving the way for an amicable exit from the race if Biden opens up an insurmountable lead.
“I do think Bernie is coming to the realization that we’re approaching the end of the game here,” said Howard Gutman, a former Obama administration ambassador who supports Biden. “He has to campaign and he’ll knock Joe, but they’re friends and you can clearly see has Bernie has dialed it back a bit. That’s as it should be.”