(AP) — A resurgent Joe Biden scored sweeping victories from Texas to Massachusetts on Super Tuesday, revitalizing a presidential bid that was teetering on the edge of disaster just days earlier.
But his rival, Bernie Sanders, seized the biggest prize with a win in California that ensured he would drive the Democrats’ nomination fight for the foreseeable future.
Suddenly, the Democratic Party’s presidential field, once featuring more than two dozen candidates, transformed into a two-man contest.
Biden and Sanders were battling for delegates as 14 states and one U.S. territory held a series of high-stakes elections that marked the most significant day of voting in the party’s 2020 presidential nomination fight.
The clash between the two peaked on a day that could determine whether the Democrats’ 2020 nomination fight will stretch all the way to the party’s July convention or be decided much sooner.
Biden took Arkansas, Alabama, Minnesota, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia, while Sanders won California, Colorado, Utah and Vermont.
Sanders and Biden remained locked in a tight race in Maine early Wednesday, with votes still being counted.
It remains unclear how many of California’s 415 delegates Sanders will ultimately claim. The state’s complicated process for awarding them won’t be sorted out for days as the state continues to count late arriving mail-in ballots.
Sanders’ campaign has long seen the nation’s most populous state as a critical early contest and has had droves of volunteers organizing events across the state. Sanders lost the 2016 Democratic presidential primary to Hillary Clinton and was hoping for a comeback that would be a capstone moment for the state’s progressive wing.
The other two high-profile candidates still in the shrinking field, Mike Bloomberg and Elizabeth Warren, were teetering on the edge of viability. Massachusetts, which went to Biden, was considered a must-win state for its home-state candidate, Warren.
California continued a disappointing night for Bloomberg, who skipped the early primary states to focus his fortune on Super Tuesday. His ads dominated the airwaves in the state’s expensive media markets, but it wasn’t enough to surpass Sanders.
Bloomberg and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii won their first delegates thanks to American Samoa. The island has six Democratic delegates and their caucus awarded five to Bloomberg and one to Gabbard, who hails from Hawaii.
Sanders is expressing “absolute confidence” that he’ll be victorious in his pursuit of the Democratic presidential nomination, despite losing many of the early Super Tuesday races to Joe Biden.
Speaking to supporters in Essex Junction, Vermont, Sanders stuck to his standard criticisms of his Democratic rivals without naming them. He also promoted himself as putting together “an unprecedented, grassroots, multigenerational, multi-racial movement.”
Thus far, Sanders had won two contests of the night: his home state of Vermont and Colorado.
Referencing states yet to be counted, including delegate-rich Texas, Sanders said, “I don’t know what’s going to happen later on tonight,” noting he was “cautiously optimistic” he would win California.
He ended by thanking Vermonters for their support through the years, closing with, “Let’s go on to the White House.”
The future of Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign is in serious doubt after she finished a surprisingly weak third in the Democratic primary in her home state of Massachusetts.
The disappointing finish in the state she represents, and a weak showing in other Super Tuesday states, marked a striking collapse for the onetime darling of progressives who was known for “having a plan” for nearly everything.
After mediocre showings in the first four contests, where she never finished higher than third place, Tuesday’s results could speed her exit from the race for the Democratic nomination, where she was significantly trailing in the delegate count.
Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg plans to reassess whether he should stay in the race after disappointing results in Tuesday’s primaries.
A person close to the Bloomberg campaign confirmed the deliberations. Tuesday marked Bloomberg’s first elections, and he spent more than $180 million in the 14 states that voted.
Former Vice President Joe Biden won key states like Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee, where Bloomberg had spent millions of dollars and campaigned heavily. Bernie Sanders won California, the largest delegate prize in the primary contest and a state where Bloomberg spent at least $57 million on TV ads.
Technical issues have plagued voting sites throughout California, including in the nation’s most populous county. People turned out in droves, taxing a system meant to make voting easier with new technology, same-day registration and centralized vote centers in some counties.
Long lines and an overloaded new voting system in Los Angeles County prompted a legal complaint Tuesday from Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. Registrar Dean Logan apologized for the problems and said they’ll need to fine-tune the system.
Separately, the secretary of state’s office said election workers in 15 counties couldn’t connect to the statewide voter registration database, but the issues were resolved.
Los Angeles County’s $300 million election system raised concerns even before glitches caused frustration and confusion at polling places.
Some locations saw delays of two hours or more, including at the University of Southern California and in Beverly Hills. The electronic pollbooks were operating slowly because so many voters were trying to use them at once.
Many voters waited until the last minute to send in early ballots because the field was so fluid.
Deadly tornadoes have affected Super Tuesday voting in two southern states.
A state Democratic Party spokeswoman says a judge has ruled that all Tennessee polls must extend Super Tuesday hours in the wake of tornado destruction.
The Tennessee Democratic Party had sued the Davidson County elections commission and Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett’s office to extend voting hours in the tornado-stricken county.
The suit sought to extend polling hours from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Central Time.
The state is also moving some polling places damaged by deadly tornadoes that rolled through the Nashville area Monday night. The party on twitter says that voters assigned to 18 polling locations can vote at a designated high school, church and community center.
Tornadoes ripped across Tennessee early Tuesday, shredding at least 40 buildings and killing at least seven people. One of the twisters caused severe damage in downtown Nashville. Police said officers and fire crews were responding to about 40 building collapses around the city.
In Alabama, seven poll workers were getting ready to open the doors to voters at the Lawley Senior Activity Center southwest of Birmingham when cellphone alerts began going off with a tornado warning about 6:45 a.m. Tuesday, said volunteer Gwen Thompson.
She said they went into the bathroom and were OK, but trees were down. The storm knocked out electricity, Thompson said, but the precinct’s two electronic voting machines had battery backups and a few people had cast ballots less than an hour later.
“We’ve voting by flashlight,” Thompson said.
The early-morning storms in Alabama damaged homes and toppled trees. Winds as strong as 60 mph were reported by the National Weather Service. Tornado warnings issued in at least five counties.
Tuesday’s presidential primaries across 14 states mark the first major security test since the 2018 midterms. State and local election officials say they are prepared to deal with everything from equipment problems to false information about the coronavirus.
States have been racing to shore up cybersecurity defenses, replace aging and vulnerable voting equipment and train for worst-case scenarios since it became clear that Russia launched a sweeping and systematic effort to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
U.S. intelligence chiefs have warned foreign interference remains a threat for the 2020 election. And the recent outbreak of a new virus could present a bad actor with an opening to spread false information to keep voters away from the polls.
Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions will face ex-college football coach Tommy Tuberville in a Republican runoff March 31 as the former Alabama senator seeks to regain the longtime seat he held.
Sessions and Tuberville won the most votes in the primary Tuesday to advance from a crowded primary field. Awaiting the runoff winner in November is the Democratic incumbent, Doug Jones.
Sessions served in the Senate for two decades before becoming President Donald Trump’s first attorney general. Tuberville used to coach at Auburn University.
Trump has so far stayed silent on the race. Sessions left the Trump administration after falling out of favor with the president, and Trump’s failure to endorse him during the primary hurt Sessions.