Joe Biden was the projected winner of the Florida, Illinois and Arizona presidential primaries Tuesday, giving him a delegate lead that makes it all but impossible for Bernie Sanders to catch up.
Biden was projected to win each state handily, after dominating the primary contests on the last two Tuesdays.
As some pundits declared Biden the presumptive nominee, attention will now focus on whether Sanders stays in the race, especially as states move to postpone their primary contests because of the coronavirus crisis.
“The race for the nomination is over,” David Axelrod, the CNN commentator and Barack Obama’s former senior adviser, wrote on Twitter. “That is the reality Bernie Sanders faces.”
On MSNBC, David Plouffe, Obama’s campaign manager, said, “Joe Biden is the Democratic nominee. The Democratic nomination is set. It’s Joe Biden versus Donald Trump.”
Sanders spoke earlier in the evening about the crisis, proposing a plan to give every American $2,000 a month in stimulus payments, but he did not talk about the primaries.
In remarks he gave via livestream, Biden tried to reach out to Sanders supporters. “I hear you. I know what is at stake. I know what we have to do,” he said. “Our goal as a campaign, and my goal as president, is to unify this party then to unify the nation.”
Throughout the evening, the coronavirus pandemic framed the coverage of the primary results, as news outlets focused on in-person voter turnout given the restrictions being placed across the country on public gatherings. CNN’s Gloria Borger called the day “surreal,” noting images of those in lines at polls in Illinois, spacing themselves out with a social distance.
One other state, Ohio, was to have a primary on Tuesday, but postponed it until June 2. It is joining a host of states delaying their votes to later in the spring, as the coronavirus limits public gatherings and exposes older voters and poll workers to increased risk.
Just a week ago, campaigns were just starting to adapt to the new reality of limited public appearances and virtual town halls and rallies.
In his livestreamed remarks from Wilmington, DE, Biden said, “My prayers are going out for everyone. My hopes are high, because I believe in times of crisis, Americans have always stepped up. We have to step up and care for one another.”
The impact of the national emergency also was apparent in the polls: In Illinois, for instance, 87% of voters said that they were “very” or “somewhat” concerned over the virus, according to a CNN survey.
The coronavirus also put limits on exit polling. Edison Research announced that it would not be conducting in-person surveys for the news networks. They did conduct phone polls.
The networks went back and forth from primary results and the unfolding coronovirus crisis. In one notable segment, CNN anchor Jake Tapper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta expressed their dismay at footage showing residents of San Francisco out on the streets, walking and jogging, even though the city has imposed stay-at-home requirements.
“This is actually kind of enraging,” Tapper said.
“People just aren’t taking this seriously,” Gupta said.
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