Biden won Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, Alabama and Oklahoma by double digits. Maine, which the Sanders camp expected to carry, remains too close to call. Sanders won the Pine Tree State decisively in 2016.
“We increased turnout,” Biden told supporters in Los Angeles. “The turnout turned out for us!”
Turnout grew not because of Biden’s ground game, which was essentially nonexistent in the 14 states and one U.S. territory that voted on Tuesday. In fact, he won big in several places where he spent little time and made no real investment in a field program. Momentum mattered more than money. After spending more than half a billion dollars of his personal fortune, former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg’s only win came in American Samoa, where Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) also got a delegate.
Turnout also did not appear to grow because of a surge in young voters that Sanders keeps promising will materialize any time now. Exit polls show about 1 in 8 voters in Super Tuesday states were 18- to 29-year-olds, compared to 3 in 10 who were 65 or older. Sanders struggles with these older voters.
Instead, turnout appears to have spiked from 2016 to 2020 in key general election battlegrounds because antipathy toward President Trump continues to galvanize suburban moderates to get engaged in Democratic politics. A Washington Post statistical model suggests Biden won nearly 60 percent of voters who sat out the 2016 primary but cast ballots on Tuesday. Our turnout analysis, conducted by in-house data scientist Lenny Bronner, also shows that Biden possibly received nearly 90 percent of Clinton’s 2016 voters.
Biden romped in the suburbs, excelling with the constituencies that fueled the Democratic takeover of the House in 2018. In addition to his stalwart base of African American voters, the foundation of his wins across the South, Biden fared well with white voters in suburbs from Richmond and Raleigh, N.C., to Houston and Hampton Roads, as well as Nashville and Minneapolis.
Exit polls show that many decided to back the former vice president in the days after his South Carolina landslide. These voters think he’s the most electable choice to take back the White House and that beating Trump is more important to them than agreeing with a candidate on the issues. It also helped Biden that the field winnowed, and he received endorsements on Monday from former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).
Biden credited his win in Minnesota, where Sanders invested heavily and held a massive rally on Monday night, to Klobuchar. Exit polls there showed 6 in 10 voters decided whom to vote for in the past few days. Biden won about half that group.
Consider Virginia as a window into why turnout grew. In 2016, 785,000 people participated in the Democratic primary. On Tuesday, about 1.3 million people did. This broke the turnout record set in the 2008 primary that pitted Clinton against Barack Obama. About a quarter of Virginia primary voters were African American, and roughly 6 in 10 chose Biden, according to the exit polls. But Biden also won 6 in 10 white voters older than 45. While Sanders won 3 to 1 among all younger voters, Biden still won the primary in Virginia by 30 points.
“The precincts that saw the biggest increases were largely clustered in Northern Virginia and the Hampton Roads metropolitan area,” Greg Schneider reports from Richmond. “In Henrico, Kate Giska, 39, a small-business owner and political independent, described Sanders as ‘just too extreme, just like Trump is a little too extreme. We’re kind of, like, in the middle, just, like, status quo, just get along.’ She voted for Biden, someone she thinks has appeal for ‘the middle voter, a candidate that can attract the masses.’ None of more than 50 voters interviewed at three Virginia Beach precincts on Tuesday said they planned to vote for Sanders, even if they liked some of his positions. Many said they simply thought Biden had a better chance of winning in November.”
Biden won from coast to coast among those who identify as “somewhat liberal.” He dominated among conservative and moderate primary voters across most of the 14 states that voted, with the exceptions of Colorado and Vermont. But he also fared very well among the large share of voters who self-identify as “somewhat liberal.” Biden won that group by a roughly 2 to 1 margin over Sanders in Alabama, Virginia and North Carolina. Those latter two states will both be battlegrounds this fall.
Sanders’s coalition is built around liberals and Latinos. One reason he’s widely expected to win California, although the race has not been called with 81 percent of precincts reporting, is that two-thirds of voters described themselves as liberal in the exit polling, and this group voted more than 2 to 1 for Sanders.
Hispanic voters also showed a strong preference for Sanders in the states where they made up the largest shares of the Democratic electorate. About 3 in 10 voters in Texas identified themselves as Hispanic, and just under half of them voted for Sanders. Biden got about 1 in 4 Hispanic votes in the Lone Star State. The share of Hispanic voters was slightly smaller in California, but Sanders won the group by a larger margin, capturing a majority. Biden got about 1 in 5 Latinos in the Golden State, giving Sanders a margin of about 30 percentage points, according to the exits.
Elsewhere, though, Biden made inroads with non-college-educated whites who backed Sanders four years ago. Exit polls suggested Biden had a greater than 2 to 1 lead among white voters in Alabama, and nearly as wide an edge in Virginia. Biden had a smaller but still visible lead among white voters in Minnesota and Oklahoma and a smaller edge in Tennessee, North Carolina and Massachusetts. In Maine and Texas, Biden and Sanders were neck and neck among white voters. And Sanders led among white voters in Vermont, Colorado and California.
Elizabeth Warren’s humiliating third-place finish in Massachusetts, a state she’s represented in the Senate for eight years, makes continuing her campaign increasingly difficult to rationalize. Warren also finished fourth in her native Oklahoma, with 13.4 percent, under the 15 percent threshold required to win any delegates, although not all the precincts have reported. Speaking early Tuesday evening in Detroit as polls remained open in several states, Warren pledged to forge ahead and seemed to plead with late deciders not to keep breaking for Biden. “What I see happening is a lot of folks trying to turn voting into some complicated strategy,” she said, acting almost as if Super Tuesday hadn’t happened. “They are playing games about prediction and strategy. Prediction has been a terrible business.”
After polls closed, Bloomberg campaign manager Kevin Sheekey backed away from his insistence that the former New York mayor would fight on until the Democratic convention in Milwaukee. “You make an assessment in any campaign like this after any time there is a vote,” he said. “As of right now we are committing to stay in, but we will see what happens tonight.” Another campaign aide told Michael Scherer that the campaign is regularly reevaluated, and that process would continue Wednesday, when Bloomberg is expected to return to New York from Florida.
Whether Warren and Bloomberg stay in or not, this has effectively become a two-man race, pitting the 77-year-old Biden – first elected to the Senate in 1972 – against the 78-year-old Sanders, who was first elected mayor of Burlington 39 years ago Tuesday and who has been in Congress since 1991. But the ideological contrast between the septuagenarians is stark. Sanders promises revolution. Biden pledges restoration.
Sanders is also struggling in some states he won last time because Biden is a less effective foil for him than Clinton. The self-described democratic socialist benefited four years ago in several red states like Indiana, West Virginia and Montana from being the sole alternative to Clinton. He ran up the score among self-identified conservative Democrats. With the benefit of hindsight, many of these folks were probably voting more against Clinton than they were voting for Sanders. But she’s not on the ballot this time. Biden has higher favorability ratings among conservative Democrats than she did, and there were other alternatives, including Bloomberg.
Consider Oklahoma. Sanders won the primary there four years ago by 10 points. “Clinton won self-identified Democrats by 9 points, according to exit polls. But independents, who were free to cross over, backed Sanders by 48 points,” Dave Weigel notes. “While Sanders ran to Clinton’s left, he beat her among self-identified ‘moderate or conservative’ voters by 11 points. Without Clinton as a foil, the Sanders vote fell apart. … Sanders badly lost moderate and conservative voters [on Tuesday], losing them to Biden by 28 points. … Bloomberg won 24 percent of the moderate vote, to just 11 percent for Sanders.”
The fight for the nomination could still drag into the convention in Milwaukee in July, even if Biden continues to consolidate support among moderate voters. Most delegates still have not been awarded, and 32 states still need to vote. Sanders expressed optimism in Vermont last night. “I tell you, with absolute confidence, we’re going to win the Democratic nomination,” he told thousands of supporters.
But, but, but: The calendar is going to get harder for Sanders. “The marquee primary next week will be in Michigan,” Dan Balz explains. “Sanders scored a major upset there four years ago against Clinton, although his victory margin was narrow. Also on the calendar next week is Missouri, a state Sanders lost by less than a percentage point and where the delegates split almost evenly. Missouri will provide another test of Biden’s and Sanders’s support among African Americans, who make up about a fifth of Democratic turnout in that state. Because Washington state has switched from a caucus to a primary, Sanders, though favored, will have a more difficult time piling up the kind of delegate margin he did in 2016. Meanwhile, Mississippi should be fertile ground for Biden, as African Americans made up about 70 percent of the Democratic electorate there in 2016 — even more than in South Carolina.
“The round of primaries on March 17 includes Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio. Sanders lost Florida badly to Clinton and will face serious resistance again this year because of qualms about his left-wing agenda. He also lost Arizona and Ohio decisively. Only Illinois was close, though Sanders was on the losing end there, as well. A week after that, on March 24, Georgia holds a stand-alone primary, and there again, Biden will be favored based on the size of the African American vote.”
For his part, Biden will face growing scrutiny that he’s mostly avoided since stumbling in Iowa. He faced few attacks in the last three debates. His performances on the stump can be uneven. Trying to stay disciplined, he delivered his speech in Los Angeles from a teleprompter. Most of it duplicated what he said on Saturday night in his victory speech in South Carolina. “They don’t call it Super Tuesday for nothing,” he said. “For those who have been knocked down, counted out, left behind, this is your campaign.”
Scott Clement contributed exit poll analysis.
More from the states
In Alabama, Jeff Sessions is headed to a March 31 Republican runoff against former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville in his quest to win back his old Senate seat. “Other Republicans, including Rep. Bradley Byrne and former state Supreme Court chief justice Roy Moore, significantly trailed,” Mike DeBonis reports. "Trump has so far remained silent on the race, and Republicans in both Alabama and Washington are speculating whether he might now get involved to block Sessions. … Meanwhile, in North Carolina, Democrats nominated a centrist favorite of national party leaders to take on GOP Sen. Thom Tillis in what promises to be a much more competitive race.”
Texas Reps. Key Granger (R) and Henry Cuellar (D) both claimed victory over primary challengers. “‘You know, we can keep waiting, but it remains 60-40 so far, so I’ll stay here,’ Granger said Tuesday evening … Asked if she was declaring victory, she said ‘yes,’” the Texas Tribune reports. Cuellar “was still fighting a primary challenge from attorney Jessica Cisneros … As of early Wednesday morning, Cuellar garnered 51.6% of the vote to Cisneros' 48.4%, with incomplete returns. The Cuellar victory is a setback for a massive coalition of Democratic allied groups, ranging from the Justice Democrats to EMILY's List to the League of Conservation Voters."
- Pierce Bush, a grandson of George H.W. Bush, didn’t make the runoff in a crowded GOP race to represent Texas’s 22nd District. Early results indicated that he was headed to either a third- or fourth-place finish in a 15-way primary race. (Texas Tribune)
- Former White House physician Ronny Jackson advanced to a Republican runoff for Texas’s 13th District, a comfortably Republican seat. (AP)
Long lines kept some Texans waiting to vote until late into the night. “Dozens of Democratic voters were still waiting to cast ballots at midnight in Houston, turning Super Tuesday into a painful slog for some citizens amid questions about how the County Clerk's office had allocated its voting machines across the county,” the Houston Chronicle reports. “Some people in line gave up and walked away … Polls closed at 7 p.m., but voters still can cast ballots as long as they stay in line. … After waiting four hours to cast his own ballot at TSU, Bryan Escobedo walked outside to a crowd cheering his patience. He spoke of voters sharing painkillers and water to keep their neighbors engaged. … The nonprofit Texas Civil Rights Project took issue with the delays, noting that many polling places with long waits were in predominantly black and Latino neighborhoods.”
The special election in California to replace Katie Hill, the freshman Democratic congresswoman who resigned after admitting an extramarital affair, will head to a runoff. “Democratic Assemblywoman Christy Smith of Santa Clarita and Republican defense contractor Mike Garcia were in a tight race … in one of California’s most competitive congressional districts,” the Los Angeles Times reports. “Former Rep. Steve Knight, the Republican who was ousted in 2018 by Hill, a Democrat, was running third and on the verge of losing his shot at recapturing his seat representing the northern suburbs of Los Angeles. The primary appeared likely to yield two runoffs between Smith and Garcia, a former Navy pilot — one in May to fill Hill’s seat for the rest of the year and another in November for the full two-year term that starts in January. Trailing far behind [was] George Papadopoulos, a 2016 Trump campaign advisor who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in the Russia scandal.”
Commentary from the opinion page:
The new world order
Vice President Pence said any American can get tested for coronavirus if a doctor orders it.
The comments “perplexed some public health officials, as physicians already have discretion to order testing. The announcement also raised questions about whether the government can rapidly accelerate the production of testing kits, as well as how much patients will ultimately have to pay for getting tested,” Seung Min Kim, Maria Sacchetti and Brady Dennis report. “Pence said roughly 2,500 testing kits approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should be distributed by the end of the week, primarily to hospitals in affected areas as well as to others that have requested them. Those kits collectively represent about 1.5 million individual tests. Seema Verma, the administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said testing for the coronavirus is covered under Medicare, Medicaid and health-care exchanges established under the Affordable Care Act, but it remained unclear how the costs would be handled for the estimated 27 million Americans who are uninsured.”
Washington state confirmed three additional fatalities, bringing the total to nine: “Overall, the U.S. has reported more than 100 confirmed cases. The previously unreported deaths were former residents of the Life Care Center of Kirkland, a nursing home facility that has emerged as the epicenter of the outbreak in the city northeast of Seattle. … Meanwhile, North Carolina reported its first coronavirus case Tuesday, bringing the total to 14 states … New York disclosed on Tuesday its second confirmed case. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) described the patient as a 50-year-old man from Westchester County, who had no recent history of foreign travel.”
Trump’s coronavirus effort has been undermined by mixed messages and falsehoods.
“The White House is handling the rapidly expanding coronavirus as a public relations problem as much as a public health crisis. Officials are insisting on message discipline among government scientists and political aides alike, part of what they say is a responsible effort to try to calm jittery Americans and provide uniform and transparent information,” Philip Rucker, Yasmeen Abutaleb and Ashley Parker report. Trump “has privately griped about what he considers to be hysteria from both the media and his own public health officials … White House aides managing the response have also sought to focus on tamping down what they consider to be alarmist rhetoric. …
“As Trump toured a laboratory at the National Institutes of Health on Tuesday afternoon, he and [National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director] Anthony Fauci appeared chummy. The president heaped praise on the infectious-diseases expert, telling him, ‘The world is extremely happy that you’re involved.’ But their bonhomie belied the tensions in an administration where the president tolerates only one star: himself. Public health experts and other government officials have found themselves struggling to manage the delicate balance of performing their jobs while not angering the president or his political aides.”
Quote of the day
“You should never destroy your own credibility. And you don’t want to go to war with a president,” Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci told Politico. “But you got to walk the fine balance of making sure you continue to tell the truth.”
Across America, the virus has triggered cancellations, closures and contingency planning.
Trump has “said he did not agree with contingency plans being considered for the NCAA’s March Madness basketball tournament, including a proposal to play games in empty arenas," Toluse Olorunnipa, Heather Kelly, Hannah Natanson and Julie Zauzmer report. "'I don’t think it would be necessary,' [he said]. With the lack of a coordinated national approach, local officials and individual communities are rushing to make their own plans. Some schools are considering closures, some companies have implemented restrictions on travel for employees, and religious organizations are altering how they conduct services.”
In turf warfare, the CDC temporarily blocked a top FDA scientist from its campus.
“Timothy Stenzel, who is the director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of In Vitro Diagnostics and Radiological Health, was made to wait overnight on the weekend of Feb. 22 — as senior health department officials negotiated his access in a series of calls — before Centers for Disease Control granted him permission to be on campus. Stenzel's visit had been expected … The FDA had dispatched Stenzel to the CDC in an effort to expedite the development of lab tests for the novel coronavirus outbreak,” Politico reported.
The outbreak continues to spread widely in the Middle East, Asia and Europe.
Iran has confirmed 92 deaths and 2,992 cases, while South Korea has 5,238 cases and Italy 2,263. China, which remains the worst-hit nation, announced 38 new deaths. Chile and Argentina reported their first cases yesterday, widening the numbers across Latin America. (Adam Taylor, Teo Armus and Rick Noack)
The U.S. Travel Association anticipates international inbound travel to the country will drop 6 percent between now and May, the largest dip in global visitation since the financial crisis in 2007 and 2008. "The forecast takes into account factors including hotel bookings, airline data and consumer sentiment data,” Hannah Sampson reports.
North Korea’s isolation is a possible virus buffer – but also a concern.
“Kim Jong Un’s insular world also could face a major crisis if the virus that causes covid-19 finds its way in. An outbreak could overwhelm the feeble health system — ranked 193 out of 195 on the Global Health Security Index — in a country already stalked by malnutrition and diseases such as tuberculosis,” Simon Denyer reports.
Doctors in Italy are turning into patients.
“In an effort to cope, Italy is graduating nurses early and calling medical workers out of retirement. Hospitals in the hardest-hit regions are delaying nonessential surgeries and scrambling to add 50 percent more intensive-care beds,” Loveday Morris reports.
Trump spoke with a senior Taliban leader by phone.
This was apparently the first direct verbal communication between a U.S. president and the Afghan insurgent force since the Afghanistan war began. Anne Gearan reports: “Trump confirmed the Taliban’s announcement Tuesday that he had spoken by phone with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban’s top political leader. ‘I spoke to the leader of the Taliban today. We had a good conversation. We’ve agreed there’s no violence, we don’t want violence; we’ll see what happens,’ Trump told reporters at the White House. ‘They’re dealing with Afghanistan, but we’ll see what happens. We had actually a very good talk.’ Baradar is a senior figure representing the insurgent group in talks with the United States in Doha, Qatar. …
"The phone call is notable for the stature it confers on Baradar. U.S. presidents typically deal directly with other heads of state or government … In a statement, Baradar welcomed the phone call and said that ‘we assure with full confidence that if the U.S. implements the agreement, this will have positive impact on the bilateral relations in future.’ … The Taliban statement quotes Trump as saying the Taliban has been ‘fighting for your country’ and that the time has come for the United States to leave. The Taliban said Trump also pledged that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will speak to [Afghan President Ashraf] Ghani ‘to remove hurdles in the way of intra-Afghan dialogue.’”
The Pentagon said overnight the U.S. military has conducted an airstrike against Taliban forces in southern Afghanistan, the AP reports: “Spokesman Col Sonny Leggett said in a tweet Wednesday that it was the first U.S. strike against the militant group in 11 days. He said the attack was to counter a Taliban assault on Afghan government forces in Nahr-e Saraj in the Helmand province.”
Iran has sharply increased its uranium stockpile since Trump blew up the nuclear accord.
“Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency reported a near-tripling of Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium just since November, with total holdings more than three times the 300-kilogram limit set by the nuclear accord,” Joby Warrick reports. “Iran also substantially increased the number of machines it is using to enrich uranium, the agency said, allowing it to make more of the nuclear fuel faster. … Iran’s low-enriched uranium, the kind typically used in nuclear power plants, would have to undergo further processing to be converted into the highly enriched uranium needed for nuclear bombs. Independent analysts said the bigger stockpile and faster enrichment rate has substantially decreased Iran’s theoretical ‘breakout’ time — the span needed for acquiring enough weapons-grade material for a single nuclear bomb.”
Domestic developments that shouldn't be overlooked
The tornadoes in Tennessee killed at least 24.
“An EF-3 tornado with winds up to 165 mph tore across the Nashville area," Brandon Gee, Meryl Kornfield and Kim Bellware report. Some of the dead were children. "Dozens more are still missing as of Wednesday morning. The destruction stretched for 50 miles across four counties, and Gov. Bill Lee (R), who surveyed the area via helicopter, said it will take days just to assess the scope of the damage.”
A Louisiana case is the first abortion test for the new Supreme Court.
Since Roe v. Wade in 1973, no state has passed more abortion restrictions that Louisiana. Today, a repopulated and more conservative Supreme Court will consider one of those laws. “Some politicians here wonder if it might be the breakthrough they’ve been waiting for in a decades-long effort to rid the state, and the nation, of abortion," Robert Barnes reports from the Pelican State. "‘I prayed one day that it would come, but I never thought it would be with this bill,’ said state Sen. Katrina Jackson, a Democrat who calls herself ‘pro-whole life’ and says she has been ‘very aggressive’ in pursuing legislation to impose more restrictions. … Abortion providers say Jackson’s law would force two of the state’s three abortion clinics to close. It’s hard to overstate what a decision about this law — requiring difficult-to-obtain hospital admitting privileges for doctors who perform abortions in clinics — will reveal about this Supreme Court and its jurisprudence on [abortion] … It will be the first time the two justices selected by President Trump, Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh, confront the merits of an abortion case. It marks a key moment for Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who has never voted against an abortion restriction, in his pivotal role at the court’s center.”
A new White House questionnaire includes a litmus test for prospective appointees.
“Candidates applying to join [Trump’s] administration will now have to explain what part of Trump's campaign message ‘most appealed’ to them and why,” CNN reports. “The new questionnaire, distributed by the White House's Presidential Personnel Office to federal departments on Monday, … is the latest move by the office's new head John McEntee to emphasize loyalty to the President in the hiring process.”
Speaking of loyalty, John Bolton’s book release date was pushed back to May amid Trump's efforts to block publication, per Tom Hamburger.
Social media speed read
A former National Security Council spokesman under Obama noted the American people only learned about Trump's conversation with a Taliban official because the Taliban posted about it:
Mike Pompeo tried to avoid being photographed with Taliban leaders, but a Wall Street Journal reporter obtained this picture:
The DNC’s communications director pushed back on the idea that Tulsi Gabbard will appear in the next debate because she won a delegate in American Samoa. She noted that the bar will be raised to appear onstage in Phoenix:
The former FBI director, a Republican until Trump fired him, voted for Biden in Virginia:
Never Trumper George Conway, husband of counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway, maxed out to Biden:
And Amy Klobuchar said goodbye to her “Saturday Night Live” counterpart:
Videos of the day
A group of anti-dairy protesters rushed the stage during Biden’s speech, but Jill Biden and campaign spokeswoman Symone Sanders stopped them cold:
“I broke a nail,” Sanders quipped on Twitter afterward.
Stephen Colbert denounced the Trump administration’s coronavirus response:
Seth Meyers held his own Democratic debate: