Politics

Joe Biden takes a big step closer to the Democratic nomination with Michigan primary victory

Key Points
  • Joe Biden will win Michigan's Democratic primary, NBC News projected Tuesday.
  • Bernie Sanders hoped to win Michigan as he tries to keep up with Biden in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary. 
  • Michigan is among six states voting Tuesday including Washington, Mississippi and Missouri. 
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Joe Biden wins Michigan primary and cements front-runner status over Bernie Sanders

Joe Biden will win the Michigan primary, NBC News projected Tuesday, in a crushing blow to his last serious Democratic presidential rival, Bernie Sanders. 

The former vice president continued a run of early success Tuesday as he tried to put distance between himself and the Vermont senator in his push for his party's nomination. He will also win primaries in Mississippi and Missouri, as well as Idaho, NBC News projects. Sanders will carry the North Dakota caucus, NBC projects. 

As the mounting victories carried Biden closer to becoming his party's standard bearer, he gave subdued remarks in Philadelphia after coronavirus fears forced his campaign to cancel a planned rally in Cleveland. Projecting another "good night" on Tuesday, he said "we are a step closer to restoring dignity, decency and honor to the White House." 

As the night's results trickled in and his projected delegate lead over Sanders ticked higher, Biden suggested he had knocked Sanders out of contention and urged the party to unify to beat President Donald Trump in November. 

"I want to thank Bernie Sanders and his supporters for their tireless energy and their passion. We share a common goal — and together we'll defeat Donald Trump," he said at the National Constitution Center. 

Biden led polls of Michigan heading into the day. Sanders, looking for a spark for his campaign, hoped to duplicate 2016, when surveys showed him trailing Hillary Clinton by a wide margin before he narrowly won the state. 

The Vermont senator's campaign put an emphasis on winning Michigan, and not only because it awards 125 pledged delegates, the most of the six states voting on Tuesday. Biden won at least 65 delegates compared to Sanders' 45, according to an NBC tally. With 93% of the vote in Wednesday morning, Biden had 52.9% of the vote in the state, while Sanders had 36.5%.

Biden has opened up a bigger lead in the national delegate tally, according to NBC. The former vice president had 836 compared to Sanders' 686 as of Wednesday morning. A candidate will need at 1,991 delegates to win a majority at the Democratic National Convention, which is scheduled for July in Milwaukee.

Winning the critical general election state was seen as helping Sanders slow Biden's roll toward the nomination. Biden's bid for the White House was revived when a handful of presidential rivals and a slew of Democratic officials began backing him before and after his victory in the South Carolina primary 10 days ago. 

Success for Biden in Michigan, along with another state favorable to Sanders in Washington, was expected to all but crush the senator's hopes of winning the Democratic presidential nomination.

A senior aide to Sanders told NBC News that he does not plan to deliver remarks Tuesday evening to address the results. 

In the final days before the primary, Sanders hammered into Biden for supporting the North American Free Trade Agreement, which he has criticized as a job killer in Michigan's auto industry. He also highlighted past Biden comments suggesting he would freeze Social Security benefits —  messaging indicating the Sanders campaign saw the need to cut into the former vice president's support among older and white working class voters to win the state.

But he failed to replicate the success of his upstart 2016 bid. 

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In Michigan, Biden highlighted what he described as the Obama administration's achievements for the state. Campaigning with Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday, he pointed to the Affordable Care Act's role in expanding insurance coverage in Michigan. 

In the days before the primary, Biden looked to shore up support with black voters in Michigan, who made up about 18% of the state's primary electorate Tuesday, according to exit polls. He campaigned in the state with Sens. Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, his former presidential rivals and two of the three black U.S. senators. 

After Biden's win in Michigan, another former primary competitor in entrepreneur Andrew Yang endorsed him.

Overwhelming support among black voters helped Biden to big wins in Southern states such as North Carolina, Alabama and Arkansas on Super Tuesday earlier this month. Black voters also boosted him in Mississippi and Missouri on Tuesday. 

It was no different in Michigan. Biden garnered the support of about two-thirds of black voters, compared to 29% for Sanders, according to exit polls. 

Biden also beat Sanders by a 51% to 45% margin among white voters Tuesday, exit surveys found. The Vermont senator won a majority of white voters against Clinton in 2016. 

Young voters also failed to turn out at the rates Sanders would have hoped in the states voting Tuesday. In Michigan, 18 to 29-year-olds made up 15% of the electorate, exit polls found. In 2016, they were 19% of all voters. 

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