Five takeaways from Tuesday’s primary night
Voters in Florida, Illinois and Arizona delivered big victories for former Vice President Joe Biden over Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Tuesday night amid a backdrop of fear and panic due to the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S.
Here are five takeaways from the latest round of elections.
Biden is the likely nominee
Biden won all three contests on Tuesday night. Last week, he went five for six. On Super Tuesday before that, he won 10 of 14 contests.
The former vice president will have a nearly insurmountable lead in delegates by the time all of the votes are counted from the latest elections.
Biden began Tuesday leading by about 150 delegates and as of 11 p.m. on Tuesday night appears to have doubled that lead to more than 300.
The Democrats award delegates proportionally, making it extremely difficult for candidates to make up a lot of ground very quickly.
Biden has more than 1,100 delegates, compared to just more than 800 for Sanders.
A candidate needs 1,991 to officially clinch the nomination, and about 40 percent of delegates are yet to be allocated. But election analysts agree — the race is effectively over.
Biden is winning by huge margins
Biden won Florida by nearly 40 points. In Illinois, where Sanders effectively fought Hillary Clinton to a tie in 2016, Biden was winning by more than 20 points with 85 percent of precincts reporting.
Sanders had hoped to perform well in Arizona on the strength of his support from Latino voters, but the race was called quickly after Biden ran up a double-digit lead in Maricopa County, where about 60 percent of all Arizonans live.
Last week, Biden won every county in Mississippi, Missouri and Michigan, an astonishing feat that underscored the chasm separating him from Sanders.
Sanders notched some early victories when the field was split.
But Sanders has been getting routed almost everywhere since the contest became a one-on-one between him and Biden.
Biden is cleaning up among older voters and black voters. He’s also winning by big margins among the white voters without college degrees who fueled Sanders’s 2016 run. And Biden is outperforming in college towns and rural areas, where Sanders should be doing better.
Sanders will face pressure to drop out
The progressive Independent has already faced some calls to end his campaign, but those are likely to intensify in the days ahead.
With Biden the likely nominee, many Democrats are eager to turn their attention to unifying the party around the shared goal of defeating President Trump.
Sanders has signaled that he’s winding down his campaign.
The Vermont senator has largely drawn back his attacks on Biden, focusing instead on pressing the former vice president to embrace some of his progressive policies.
In an address on Tuesday night, Sanders didn’t even mention the elections that were going on but rather laid out what he said should be the proper government response to the coronavirus.
Sanders will end the night with more than 800 delegates and a lot of political capital to spend at the national convention.
But the global pandemic will likely only raise pressure on him to bring a quick and orderly finish to the primary contest.
Coronavirus is impacting turnout
Democrats had been enjoying a surge in enthusiasm and turnout, which had helped Biden open up his commanding lead.
But there was a crash of in-person voting across the country on Tuesday, even as state officials sought to assure voters they’d taken steps to make sure it was safe to come out and cast ballots.
Turnout in Florida matched where it was in 2016, but that’s largely due to record numbers of people either mailing in their ballots or voting early.
In Illinois, which does not have a great track record of early voting, the primary was a mess.
Polling locations were closed or moved with little or no notice. In some cases, voting couldn’t take place because officials failed to show up. Local reports described polling outlets as ghost towns, and in some counties it appeared turnout would be cut in half from 2016.
States face tough decisions about future primary elections
Governors and state officials face tough decisions ahead about whether to hold in-person voting in future primaries.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued guidance saying that people should avoid crowds to contain the spread of the virus.
Polling places attract long lines and pack people into the same rooms. Older people vote in larger numbers than the young and are often the ones who volunteer at polling stations.
So far, primary elections in Ohio, Kentucky, Georgia, Louisiana and Puerto Rico have been pushed back from their originally scheduled dates.
The Democratic National Committee is asking states not to postpone their primaries but instead to take measures to make voting safer and more remote when possible through mail-in balloting, absentee voting, and expanded hours to reduce lines and crowds.
But governors are beginning to mull shelter-in-place orders. States are ordering the closures of restaurants and schools for long periods of time to limit large gatherings.
When Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) went to great lengths to postpone Ohio’s primary at the last minute, he said he did it because he couldn’t justify encouraging people to get out and vote when he’s also telling them to not leave their homes except for emergencies.
State officials will have to decide whether in-person voting has become too big of a risk during the global pandemic.
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