Biden wins four more states — will Florida be the clincher?
Former Vice President Joe Biden continued his primary winning streak Tuesday by capturing four more states — Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri and Idaho. A projected winner has not yet been declared in two other states, North Dakota and Washington state.
Michigan (125) and Washington (89) held the most delegates in Tuesday’s primaries. After his wins Tuesday, Biden now leads Sanders 823 to 663 in delegates. A candidate needs 1,991 delegates to win the nomination.
The wins position Florida, along with three other states March 17, as potentially the last stand for Biden’s remaining rival, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders.
“This election is one that has character on the ballot. The character of the candidates, the character of the nation is on the ballot,” Biden said, speaking to staff in Philadelphia Tuesday night. “It’s more than a comeback, in my view, our campaign. It’s a comeback for the soul of this nation.”
Biden acknowledged Sanders and his supporters “for their tireless energy and their passion. He said, differences aside, the two camps have a common goal: Defeating President Trump.
“Tonight we are a step closer to restoring decency, dignity and honor to the White House," Biden continued. "That's our ultimate goal."
All told, the former vice president has won more than a dozen contests since Feb. 29 and amassed a large delegate lead that increasingly looks insurmountable.
If Sanders chooses to fight on through next week’s contests, he and Biden have a one-on-one debate scheduled for Sunday night. But the road is only going to become steeper. Polls show Biden with leads in next-up states Arizona, Illinois and Ohio.
Florida looks to be leaning heavy for Biden
And in Florida, a poll by Florida Atlantic University’s Business and Economics Polling Initiative shows the former vice president leading the Vermont senator 61% to 25% among Democrats in next week’s contest.
The poll reflects what other voter surveys, including FAU’s prior work, have also concluded — that Biden appears to be the overwhelming favorite of Florida Democrats.
“The trend line on this was unsurprising,” said Kevin Wagner, an FAU political science professor and research fellow. “Florida is just a better state for Joe Biden.”
Wagner said that’s because of the state’s demographics, including a larger share of older voters, plus Biden is a better known political figure. Those factors are more important than particular positions on specific issues, he said.
“Florida went for Obama twice, so there is familiarity with the former vice president,” Wagner added. “I don’t think it’s issue-driven with Joe Biden.”
Coming near the halfway point of early voting, and a week from the March 17 vote counting, the poll suggests Biden could be at the brink of another big delegate haul in a southern state.
Florida is one of the primary calendar’s biggest prizes, with 219 delegates at stake. Those delegates will be apportioned according to vote totals. The bigger the gap, the bigger the delegate take.
A big win for Biden in Florida, coupled with victories in the other three states would virtually close the door on Sanders’ White House aspirations.
While the Biden campaign announced Monday that he will hold a rally in Tampa on Thursday night, by Tuesday night, the campaign said it would cancel its event, out of caution of spreading the coronavirus.
The Biden campaign had also said on Tuesday that it would increase the number of surrogates appearing in Florida the rest of the week. Former Secretary of State John Kerry hit the stump for Biden on Monday in South Florida.
The campaign also said early Tuesday that it is focusing on turning toward get-out-the-vote efforts as early voting continues.
“We feel confident about where we are in Florida,” the campaign said in a statement. “But like the vice president said, we are not taking any votes for granted.”
The pressure was already on Sanders to stage a comeback in Tuesday’s six primaries.
Joe Biden joined by Corey Booker and Kamala Harris in Detroit on Monday
The roster included states like Michigan, North Dakota, Idaho and Washington that Sanders won against Hillary Clinton in 2016.
On Monday night, Team Biden put on a show of support in Detroit as he was accompanied by erstwhile campaign trail adversaries U.S. Sens. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris.
The event was reminiscent of a similar scene last week in Texas ahead of Super Tuesday when U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg endorsed Biden, catapulting him to upset wins in that state and Minnesota as part of an 11-state sweep.
FAU poll shows President Trump leading both Democratic rivals
The FAU survey also held some sour news for Democrats. The poll showed Trump leading both Democratic rivals in head-to-head contests.
Right now, Trump leads Biden, 51% to 49%, and Sanders, 53% to 47%.
Both results reverse what a FAU’s January survey showed. Two months ago, the polls had both Democrats leading the president.
Wagner said Florida is a state where the president tends to poll well, again, because of favorable demographics. “He performs better here than in other battleground states,” he said.
Still, Wagner cautioned the Trump-Biden race is within the margin of error.
“What it really points to is that Florida is in for a really competitive race going forward,” he said.
This story originally published to palmbeachpost.com. and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the USA TODAY Network - Florida.