[REUTERS] – Joe Biden scored decisive primary victories in Michigan and three other states on Tuesday, taking a big step toward the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination and casting doubt on the future of rival Bernie Sanders’ fading White House bid.
The sweeping wins put Biden, 77, on a path to face Republican Donald Trump in the Nov. 3 election, and the former vice president quickly looked ahead with a call for party unity and an appeal to supporters of Sanders.
“We share a common goal, and together we are going to defeat Donald Trump,” Biden said in Philadelphia, thanking Sanders and his supporters for their energy and passion.
Biden’s wins in Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi and Idaho were powered by a broad coalition of supporters, including women, African Americans, those with and without college degrees, older voters, union members and all but the very liberal, according to exit polls by Edison Research.
Two other states, Washington and North Dakota, were still too close to call, but the results narrowed the path forward for Sanders, 78, who had hoped for an upset win in Michigan to keep his White House hopes alive.
The loss in a state Sanders won during his 2016 White House campaign will increase the pressure on the democratic socialist senator from Vermont to exit the race and help Democrats prepare for a bruising campaign against Trump.
With 91% of the precincts reporting, Biden had 53% of the vote in Michigan, well ahead of Sanders’ 37%. He also won Missouri and Mississippi with 60% and 81% of the vote, respectively.
Sanders, who returned home to Vermont on Tuesday night, did not make a public statement after his losses, a departure from his usual practice on primary nights.
Biden’s campaign also canceled a Thursday get-out-the-vote event in Florida, one of four states that will hold nominating contests next week. Biden said he would instead deliver an address on Thursday on the U.S. coronavirus response in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware.
“This whole coronavirus is a matter of presidential leadership,” said Biden, the former vice president under Barack Obama
The COVID-19 disease has so far sickened almost 1,000 people in the United States and killed 29, mostly in Washington state.
Both candidates bowed guidance from public officials over the pandemic, and the party said the next debate between the two would have no audience
Here is a quick look at the state of play in last night’s primaries:
Delegate count: 125
The biggest prize on Tuesday, Michigan delivered a crucial victory for Biden. He will secure at least 46 delegates and Sanders at least 33 delegates.
Both candidates campaigned hard in the state, where Sanders pulled off a stunning upset over eventual nominee Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic primary.
Delegate count: 89
With an estimated two-thirds of the vote counted in Washington, Sanders and Biden were tied at 33% each. They will both secure at least 11 delegates.
Sanders cruised to victory in this liberal-leaning state in 2016. But a surging Biden appeared to have closed the gap, even though Sanders had a far bigger presence on the ground.
Washington switched this year from holding caucuses – a format that has historically helped Sanders by drawing a younger, more activist electorate – to a primary election in which voters cast their ballots by mail. The mail system makes the vote tallying process stretch for days and could delay knowing the winner until later in the week.
Delegate count: 68
Biden won Missouri and will secure at least 32 delegates. Sanders will win at least 18 delegates.
While neither campaign made a major investment in Missouri, Biden’s support from black voters helped propel him to victory in the state. Sanders lost Missouri by a tiny margin to Clinton in 2016.
Delegate count: 36
Biden won Mississippi and will secure at least 30 delegates.
Biden was the clear favorite in Mississippi, given his strength among black voters and his dominant performance last week in neighboring Alabama. In 2016, more than two-thirds of Democratic primary voters in Mississippi were black.
Delegate count: 20
Biden won Idaho. He will get at least 10 delegates, while Sanders will secure at least eight.
Sanders easily won the state in 2016, but its shift to a primary from caucuses may have hurt his chances for a repeat.
Delegate count: 14
Biden and Sanders will each secure at least 3 delegates in North Dakota.
Like Idaho, North Dakota strongly backed Sanders in 2016. Unlike Idaho, the state chose to stick with caucuses in 2020, a system seen as an advantage for Sanders and his intensely loyal followers.
Ohio, Florida, Illinois and Arizona next week will hold their primaries
Compiled by Irelyne Lavery.