Tuesday primaries: Biden adds Michigan to win total, delivering blow to Sanders

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Joe Biden won Michigan’s Democratic primary on Tuesday, seizing a key battleground state that helped propel Bernie Sanders’ insurgent candidacy four years ago. The former vice president’s victory in Michigan, as well as Missouri and Mississippi, dealt a serious blow to Sanders, who is urgently seeking to jump-start his flagging campaign.

Sanders could still get a boost later in the night in Idaho, North Dakota or Washington state. But fewer delegates were at stake than in Mississippi, Missouri and Michigan, where Biden’s decisive performance again showed his strength with working-class voters and African Americans, who are vital to winning the Democratic nomination.

It’s a dramatic reversal of fortune for Biden, whose campaign appeared on the brink of collapse just two weeks ago. Sanders opened the nomination process with strong showings in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, but Biden rebounded in South Carolina and built on that success with a surprise Super Tuesday rout last week.

Sanders had been hoping to pull off a victory in Michigan, where his win four years ago lent much-needed credibility to his 2016 primary challenge of Hillary Clinton. The state is also vitally important since President Donald Trump’s win there was so narrow four years ago that Democrats are desperate to show they have the strength to flip it back.

Even as the contours of the race took shape, however, the campaigns faced new uncertainty amid fears of the spreading coronavirus. Sanders and Biden both abruptly canceled public events in Ohio that were scheduled for Tuesday night. Sanders’ campaign said all future events would be decided on a case-by-case basis, while Biden called off a scheduled upcoming stop in Florida. The Democratic National Committee also said that Sunday’s debate between Sanders and Biden would be conducted without an audience.

With 125 delegates at stake, Michigan got most of the attention Tuesday. Trump won the state by only about 10,000 votes during the general election in 2016, his closest margin of victory between it, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — the three states that gave Trump the edge in the Electoral College after Clinton won the popular vote.

Biden is hoping his showing can convince voters he’s the candidate who can win Michigan back for his party against Trump. Sanders, who has vowed not to drop out regardless of Tuesday’s results, may be unable to catch Biden, and perhaps only be left trying to deny him an outright delegate win ahead of the Democratic National Convention this summer in Milwaukee.

Although he has rejected notions he could drop out of the race if Tuesday goes badly, Sanders says he is now battling the “Democratic establishment.”

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Associated Press writers Mike Householder and Kat Stafford in Detroit and Seth Borenstein in Washington contributed to this report.

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