Former vice president Joe Biden did not just beat Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in Florida and Illinois; he obliterated him by margins rarely seen in a presidential primary (because the loser inevitably gets out before he is humiliated week after week).

In Florida, Biden leads by an astounding margin of approximately 62 percent to 23 percent, with more than 90 percent of the vote reporting. In pre-election polling (conducted in lieu of exit polling), Biden won whites by a margin of 66 percent to 23 percent and by a stunning 75 to 18 percent among African Americans. As he has in previous contests, Biden won women by an overwhelming margin (66 percent to 25 percent).

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, turnout in Florida increased from 1.7 million voters in the 2016 primary to an estimated 1.85 million. Voters’ level of determination and enthusiasm to turn out for Biden should terrify Republicans.

Just after the polls closed in Illinois, the race was called for Biden, indicating another massive victory. There, Biden won among white college graduates 58 to 37 percent; among white non-college graduates by 63 to 31 percent. Working-class voters, college-educated voters, white and blacks are turning out in droves for Biden.

Democratic Party lawyer Marc Elias says states and Congress need to act now to ensure all votes count during the general election. These changes are overdue. (The Washington Post)

With a total of 441 delegates to be awarded among the three states that voted on Tuesday, Biden will in all likelihood wind up with a lead close to 300 delegates when the night is over. Biden crossed the halfway point to the 1,991 delegates needed to secure the nomination before Arizona’s polls closed at 10 p.m. Eastern time, and there is no reason to believe the results will be any less decisive there than the tallies in Florida and Illinois.

During his speech Tuesday night, Biden spoke in somber tones, his green tie a reminder that — oh yes! — this was St. Patrick’s Day, celebrated nowhere due to the pandemic. He spoke once more as if he were president, expressing empathy for those affected and appreciation for poll workers who both protected citizens’ health and our democracy. He calmly ticked off the components of his broad coalition. Then, as though Sanders had already conceded, he thanked Sanders and his supporters for making a difference and moving the conversation forward in the party. He said: “I hear you. I know what’s at stake. I know what we have to do. Our goal as a campaign, and my goal as a candidate for president, is to unify this party and unify this nation.”

His call for unity at a time of great anxiety and uncertainty was reminiscent of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s fireside chats. Speaking softly — but confidently — he emphasized that both our leaders and individual Americans will get us through this ordeal.

There is near-universal recognition on the Democratic side, from Biden supporters and those who favored other candidates, as well as pollsters and operatives, that the Democratic primary is effectively over. Biden’s lead is insurmountable, and there is no conceivable mechanism by which Sanders might turn the tide. (There are no additional debates planned, for example.)

Sanders would be likely to draw anger for dragging out a primary process, compelling millions of people to leave their homes to vote and soliciting money. The party faces unique challenges, including the need to plan for a possible virtual convention and the conversion of the entire country to a vote-by-mail system. Biden should be able to access the apparatus of the Democratic National Committee, shift focus and begin to wage a general-election campaign right now.

It is far from clear what purpose Sanders serves by staying in the race. Each week, he is demonstrating his lack of support within the primary, diminishing his favored narrative that the party has moved left to embrace his democratic socialism. He has had his chance over nearly a dozen debates to make his case on the issues.

Sanders once said that when it became evident he could not win, he would get out. It has been clear for weeks now that Biden will be the nominee. His supporters might be enthralled by conspiracy theories to explain his losses, but Sanders should behave like an adult. He should behave as graciously as Biden did Tuesday night.

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