AP

With 2 more victories, Biden pulls further away from Sanders

Mar 17, 2020, 8:10 PM
Former Vice President Joe Biden, participates in a Democratic presidential primary debate at CNN St...
Former Vice President Joe Biden, participates in a Democratic presidential primary debate at CNN Studios in Washington, Sunday, March 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Joe Biden swept to easy victories in Florida and Illinois on Tuesday, increasingly pulling away with a Democratic presidential primary upended by coronavirus and building pressure on Bernie Sanders to abandon his campaign.

The former vice president’s third big night in as many weeks came amid tremendous uncertainty confronting the Democratic contest as it collides with efforts to slow the spread of the virus that have shut down large swaths of American life. Polls were shuttered in Ohio, and although balloting went ahead in Florida, Illinois and Arizona, election workers and voters reported problems.

Biden’s quest for his party’s nomination now seems within reach. He needs less than half of the remaining delegates to become the nominee. The party establishment has increasingly lined up behind him, meanwhile, as the best option in November to try and unseat President Donald Trump.

“Our campaign has had a very good night and is a little closer to securing the Democratic nomination,” Biden said after his latest two primary victories.

Also Tuesday, Trump formally clinched the Republican presidential nomination against minimal opposition — a measure of good if not unexpected news for a White House trying to cope with the public health and economic crisis sparked by the coronavirus.

Results aside, the Democratic primary has remained largely in limbo, with rallies and big events canceled. That has given Sanders, whose pathway to the nomination has greatly narrowed, even less room to maneuver, unable to convene the large crowds across the country that are his trademark.

Some Democrats are now calling on him to leave the race in the name of party unity. But Sanders made no mention of that Tuesday night in a livestream to supporters. The Vermont senator has instead promoted calls for universal, government-funded health care under his signature “Medicare for All” plan. Top advisers say he’s betting that the national political landscape could look different as the virus continues to reshape life across the country.

During the coronavirus outbreak, “We must make sure everyone who has a job right now receives the paychecks they need,” Sanders said in an online appearance that started before Tuesday’s polls had even closed.

Biden maintained the strength with African Americans and older voters that has been the hallmark of his campaign but also appeared to chip away at Sanders’ previous advantage with Hispanics that helped him win Nevada and California early in the race. In Florida, Latinos were roughly 20% of Democratic primary voters, and they largely sided with Biden, with the former vice president getting the support of 65% of Puerto Rican voters and 56% of Cubans, according to AP VoteCast, a broad survey of voters.

Turnout in Florida’s Democratic primary was higher than it was four years ago, when 1.7 million voters cast ballots. This time, turnout was on pace to approach 2 million. Still, reports of havoc wreaked by the coronavirus dominated the day.

Officials in Ohio took the unprecedented step of closing polls Monday, mere hours before they were set to open, pushing back the state’s primary until June.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez blasted the move for breeding “more chaos and confusion” and sought to head off more states taking similar actions, urging those with upcoming primaries to expand vote-by-mail and absentee balloting, as well as polling station hours.

The fear is that the spread of the coronavirus derails his party’s nomination contest.

“The right to vote is the foundation of our democracy, and we must do everything we can to protect and expand that right instead of bringing our democratic process to a halt,” Perez said in a statement.

The damage, though, may already have been done. Four other states — Louisiana, Georgia, Kentucky and Maryland — have already moved to push back their upcoming primaries, and others may yet do so. That has left the Democratic primary calendar empty until March 29, when Puerto Rico is scheduled to go to the polls — but island leaders are working to reschedule balloting there, too.

That means, there is nowhere for Sanders to gain ground on Biden anytime soon, even if he could find a way to mount a sudden surge.

In the meantime, voting Tuesday saw problems pop up across the country. In Okaloosa County in Florida’s Panhandle, two dozen poll workers dropped out, leaving Elections Supervisor Paul Lux’s staff scrambling to train replacements.

“We are at the honest end of the rope,” Lux said.

Political observers say the coronavirus has cast a shadow over the race as debates over policy minutiae have taken a back seat to issues of life and death.

“It’s definitely eerie,” said Jesse Lehrich, a Democratic operative and former Hillary Clinton campaign spokesman who is based in Chicago, who added, “Biden and Sanders are debating the merits of marginally different policies in this little pseudo-reality, while America is consumed by an unprecedented crisis.”

Millions of voters have already participated in some form of early voting. But there were signs on Tuesday that voters — and poll workers — had stayed home.

“People are prioritizing their day-to-day survival right now — so they’re not thinking of voting as a priority,” said Debra Cleaver, the founder of Vote.org.

In Florida, Palm Beach County Elections Supervisor Wendy Sartori Link said three polling sites had to be moved and four opened significantly late because workers didn’t show up and hadn’t given notice.

“We probably should have been expecting it more than we were,” she said.

In Illinois, there was a push to relocate about 50 Chicago-area polling places after locations canceled at the last minute.

Jim Allen, a spokesman for the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, said Tuesday that the board asked Gov. J.B. Pritzker last week to cancel in-person voting, but the governor refused. Pritzker countered that state law doesn’t give him the authority to make the sweeping changes that elections officials wanted.

“Let me tell you this: It is exactly in times like these when the constitutional boundaries of our democracy should be respected above all else. And if people want to criticize me for that, well, go ahead,” the governor said.

There weren’t problems, everywhere, though. Mel Dockens, a 49-year-old small-business owner, voted in the Phoenix suburb of Glendale and said it was a tough choice. But he went for Biden because he thought Sanders’ progressive views might turn off some Democratic voters.

“It’s all about electability,” Dockens said. “It’s not that I don’t trust Bernie Sanders, but I trust (Biden) a little more.”

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Today’s Top Stories

AP

A woman sits on the rubble as emergency rescue teams search for people under the remains of destroy...
MEHMET GUZEL, GHAITH ALSAYED and SUZAN FRASER

Race to find survivors as earthquake aid pours into Turkey, Syria

The death toll has risen to above 5,300. Monday's quake and strong aftershocks hit hundreds of kilometers across southeastern Turkey and neighboring Syria.
1 day ago
quit their jobs...
PAUL WISEMAN AP Economics Writer

US added a strong 517,000 jobs in January despite Fed hikes

The Fed is aiming to achieve a "soft landing" — a pullback in the economy that is enough to tame high inflation without triggering recession.
5 days ago
Thousands of fraudulent nursing diplomas  were dispersed in Florida. (Canva)...
Associated Press via Miami Herald

Fake nursing diploma scheme in Florida; 25 arrested

The defendants each face up to 20 years in prison.
6 days ago
Microsoft is cutting 10,000 workers, almost 5% of its workforce, in response to "macroeconomic cond...
MATT O'BRIEN, Associated Press

Job cuts in tech sector spread, Microsoft lays off 10,000

Microsoft said in a regulatory filing Wednesday that had just notified employees of the layoffs, some of which begin immediately.
21 days ago
exxon mobil sign pictured...
SETH BORENSTEIN and CATHY BUSSEWITZ Associated Press

Study: Exxon Mobil accurately predicted warming since 1970s

Exxon said its understanding of climate change evolved over the years and that critics are misunderstanding its earlier research.
27 days ago
FILE - Protesters, supporters of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro, stand on the roof of the...
The Associated Press

Brazil and Jan. 6 in US: Parallel attacks, but not identical

RIO DE JANIERO, Brazil — Enraged protesters broke into government buildings that are the very symbol of their country’s democracy. Driven by conspiracy theories about their candidate’s loss in the last election, they smashed windows, sifted through the desks of lawmakers and trashed the highest offices in the land in a rampage that lasted hours […]
29 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Skier being towed by a rider on a horse. Skijoring....
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking for a New Winter Activity? Try Skijoring in Bear Lake

This article about skijoring is sponsored by the Bear Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau. Participate in Skijoring the Bear on February 20th, 2023.  What is skijoring? Skijoring is when someone on skis is pulled by a horse, dog, animal, or motor vehicle. The driver leads the skiers through an obstacle course over jumps, hoops, and […]
Banner with Cervical Cancer Awareness Realistic Ribbon...
Intermountain Health

Five Common Causes of Cervical Cancer – and What You Can Do to Lower Your Risk

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month and cancer experts at Intermountain Health are working to educate women about cervical cancer, the tests that can warn women about potential cancer, and the importance of vaccination.
Kid holding a cisco fish at winterfest...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Get Ready for Fun at the 2023 Bear Lake Monster Winterfest

The Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is an annual weekend event jam-packed full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy. This year the event will be held from January 27-29 at the Utah Bear Lake State Park Marina and Sunrise Resort and Event Center in Garden City, Utah. 
happy friends with sparklers at christmas dinner...
Macey's

15 Easy Christmas Dinner Ideas

We’ve scoured the web for you and narrowed down a few of our favorite Christmas dinner ideas to make your planning easy. Choose from the dishes we’ve highlighted to plan your meal or start brainstorming your own meal plan a couple of weeks before to make sure you have time to shop and prepare.
Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...
Macey's

5 Game Day Snacks for the Whole Family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The Best Tools for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Workplace Success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
With 2 more victories, Biden pulls further away from Sanders