A resurgent former US vice president Joe Biden yesterday seized momentum in the race to become the Democratic challenger to US President Donald Trump with a string of Super Tuesday victories, including the key prize Texas, against his main rival, US Senator Bernie Sanders.
Sanders, a 78-year-old leftist who wants to reshape the US’ economy, had been the clear leader and was looking for a knock-out blow on the most consequential voting day on the primary calendar.
Instead, the results signaled a remarkable comeback for Biden, who was projected to win at least nine, and possibly 10, of the nomination contests held across 14 states.
Just one week earlier, the 77-year-old saw his campaign teeter on the edge of collapse. Now he is vying once again for front-runner status.
“It’s a good night and it seems to be getting even better. They don’t call it Super Tuesday for nothing,” Biden told cheering fans in Los Angeles.
Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, won his home state of Vermont, and was projected to win Colorado and Utah.
He was also ahead in California, the biggest delegate-rich state of all, with a nine-point lead as the count continued yesterday morning.
Biden was projected to win in Alabama, Tennessee and Massachusetts, and had won in Arkansas, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Virginia and even Minnesota — a state where Sanders had been expected to win handily.
Well after midnight, the projection was made for Biden to win Texas, the second-largest state, and by the morning he had a narrow lead in Maine with three-quarters of the vote counted.
Sanders had been polling ahead in both states.
“We expected a surge. We got a tsunami,” tweeted analyst David Axelrod, chief strategist for former US president Barack Obama’s two presidential campaigns.
“New race. Completely,” he said.
A defiant Sanders celebrated his own wins earlier in the night by tearing into Trump, calling him “the most dangerous president in the history of this country.”
However, he also attacked Biden for having voted for the invasion of Iraq and painted him as tarnished by billionaire contributors.
“We’re taking on the political establishment,” Sanders said. “You cannot beat Trump with the same-old, same-old kind of politics.”
Biden saw the results as proof that his bid to bring US politics back to the center, after four years of Trump’s right-wing populism, is on a roll.
“We are very much alive,” he told a crowd in Los Angeles. “Make no mistake about it, this campaign will send Donald Trump packing.”
A key takeaway from Biden’s long list of wins was his strong support among African Americans — vital for any Democratic presidential candidate.
He seemed to fare less well with the large Hispanic electorate, which in California reportedly went heavily for Sanders, but a victory in Texas, which also has a diverse population, suggests Biden has the capacity to build a broad coalition.
That was bolstered by Biden winning all five other southern states on the ballot on Tuesday.
Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, 78, and US Senator Elizabeth Warren, 70, were the other big-name candidates.
Despite spending record amounts of his own money on advertising, it was an embarrassing debut for billionaire media entrepreneur Bloomberg, who failed to win any state — although he did get a consolation victory in American Samoa.
Trump, who watched the results on television, tweeted his customary insults about the Democrats, deriding Warren for losing her state of Massachusetts.
Biden answered on Twitter: “Come November, we are going to beat you.”
Bloomberg faces calls from within Democratic circles to exit the race and not split the centrist vote.
Biden is making his third White House bid, after failed runs in 1988 and 2008.
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