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Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders outside a polling place in Michigan. Photo: Paul Sancya/AP
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders outside a polling place in Michigan. Photo: Paul Sancya/AP

The end of the road? Biden’s rout in March 17 primaries could spell the end for Bernie

The Vermont Senator is said to be “assessing” his presidential campaign after defeats in Illinois, Arizona and Florida.

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So much for a two-horse race. Ever since his major triumph in South Carolina three weeks ago, former Vice President Joe Biden has now won 18 of 25 Democratic primaries.

In the same timeframe, his competitor, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has only won four.

Biden’s most recent slate of victories came all by more than 10% of the vote on March 17 in Illinois, Florida and Arizona.

The victories boosted his delegate total to 1,165, only 826 away from the magic number of 1,991 to win the Democratic nomination for president. Sanders has 879 delegates, but with now more than half of all the delegates in the primaries awarded, his path to victory looks grim.

Sanders’ Latino dropoff

The most telltale sign of an ending for Sanders’ campaign is the dropoff in Latino support it experienced on March 17. 

Arizona and Florida were once potential big victories for Sanders given their large Latino populations and his campaign’s emphasis on the electorate. However, both ended in major victories for Biden, including among the Latino population.

In Florida, the former Vice President won over 60% of the vote and is projected not to lose a single county.

A big reason for Sanders’ dropoff in the state could have to do with the large Cuban and Venezuelan-American populations, which took issue with the Vermont Senator’s refusal to withdraw previous praise for Fidel Castro’s nationwide literacy program in Cuba.

COVID-19 and the primaries

Overshadowing March 17’s primaries was the growing concern around the U.S. surrounding the spread of coronavirus

Initially, four primaries were supposed to take place, but Ohio officials postponed the state’s primary to June 2. The move is one that’s gaining traction around the country.

In addition to Ohio, Louisiana, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland and Puerto Rico have all postponed their primary day to later dates to help avoid the spread of COVID-19.

Puerto Rico has pushed back its primary to April 26, while Georgia’s is now on May 19. Maryland will join Ohio on June 2, but Kentucky and Louisiana have pushed their primaries back to June 9 and June 20, respectively.

After the slew of reschedulings, a memo was sent out by the Democratic National Committee warning it would cut 50% of states’ delegates if their primaries take place after the deadline of June 9.

“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 that democratic process to a halt,” DNC Chairman Tom Perez said in a statement reported by Fox News.

Rather than reschedule, Perez is encouraging states to expand their mail-in options for the time being. 

The end?

As his defeats were confirmed on the night of March 17, Sanders held a video conference where he didn’t address the results, but talked about his plan for confronting COVID-19, which he said would cost $2 trillion and give Americans $2,000 a month. 

Biden also held a virtual speech from his home state of Delaware and struck a different tone, reaching out to the base of his competitor.

“Senator Sanders and his supporters have brought a remarkable passion and tenacity to all of these issues… Together, they have shifted the fundamental conversation in this country. So let me say, especially to the young voters who have been inspired by Senator Sanders. ‘I hear you,’” he said

Sanders is said to be “assessing” his campaign’s future. With the next primaries on April 4, he has plenty of time to consider.

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