Amid a backdrop of coronavirus fears, erratic market behavior and President Donald Trump’s regularly scheduled chaos, former Vice President Joe Biden’s netted at least three of the six states up for grabs Tuesday over Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and his promise of social revolution.
Michigan was the night’s big prize with 125 delegates. With 85 percent of the vote in, Biden had 53 percent to Sanders’ 39. Turnout in the state was also way up — per Reuters, about 1.7 million people voted, as compared to the 1.2 million who did in 2016.
Before Tuesday, Michigan was widely seen as one of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) last, best chances to change the tide of the race in the mold of his 2016 upset.
Sanders held a spate of last-minute events across the state and ran ads targeting Biden on social security and trade deals. He even cancelled an event in Jackson, Mississippi last week in an attempt to shore up the Wolverine State faster. But his burst of energy fell far short of the dramatic turnaround he pulled off in 2016.
“Bernie lost his white working class support from 2016,” Michigan State associate professor of political science Matt Grossmann told TPM. “He actually appears to be doing a bit better with nonwhite voters but tanking with white voters everywhere but college towns.”
“He may have made up a little ground this weekend, but nowhere near enough,” he added, of Sanders’ eleventh-hour campaign. “Biden is well on his way to the nomination.”
According to exit polls broken down by the Washington Post, Sanders slipped in his dominance with independents from 2016, a group with which he crushed Clinton. Biden won both black and white voters, and netted the majority of voters with and without a college degree. Sanders held his usual dominance with young voters, but Biden led with the older voters who made up a much larger portion of the electorate.
In states Biden was safely assumed to win, like Mississippi, he won big — by around 65 percent as of late Tuesday night. According to a CNN exit poll, he won a whopping 96 percent of black voters over 60: a large portion of the Mississippi Democratic electorate. At the end of the night Sanders was still fighting just for viability — the 15 percent needed to get any delegates.
Missouri was also called almost immediately after polls closed, a notable fact given that Hillary Clinton only eked out a win in the state by 0.2 percent. Biden was beating Sanders handily as of late Tuesday, with about 60 percent of the vote. Sanders does seem safely above the viability threshold there though.
The remaining three states, Washington, North Dakota and Idaho, share a trait that may have spelled disaster for the Sanders campaign: newly installed primaries, in lieu of caucuses.
The arduous and time-intensive caucus system favored Sanders in and his passionate fans in 2016. Tellingly, he ran away with Washington that cycle, when it was a caucus system; but when the state also held a just-for-kicks 2016 primary, Clinton won by 5 points.
As of late Tuesday night, Washington was neck and neck, the two candidates within a point of each other. While less than half of the vote was called in Idaho, Biden was enjoying a healthy lead. North Dakota, with a very small percent of the vote in, seemed poised to be the possible sole Sanders win of the night.
While many more votes are still to be counted, one thing is clear: Biden’s strength, born in South Carolina and on display on Super Tuesday, dominated the night again on Tuesday.