US Democratic primaries: Five takeaways from Super Tuesday

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden staged a dramatic comeback against fellow candidate Bernie Sanders, gaining a sizable lead after Super Tuesday. PHOTOS: AFP

WASHINGTON - Now that Super Tuesday is over, close to 40 per cent of the delegates that Democratic candidates will need to win to get the party's nomination to run against President Donald Trump in November have been allocated.

Former vice president Joe Biden staged a dramatic comeback against Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, leapfrogging him to gain a sizable lead of delegates.

Mr Biden won 10 states including Minnesota and Oklahoma, which Mr Sanders won in 2016, and the second-largest prize of the night Texas. In California, he denied Mr Sanders the blowout victory he had been seeking, and came away with a respectable chunk of delegates there as well.

The exact number of delegates each candidate scored will be known only days, or even weeks, later as the final tally will take time. But here are five takeaways for now:

1. It's Biden vs Sanders, but Biden has the advantage

Mr Biden's remarkable surge, aided by the endorsement of influential Democratic establishment figures over the weekend, means that the Democratic primaries are back to being a two-horse race.

Mr Biden has some advantages over Mr Sanders, however. Billionaire and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg's exit from the race on Wednesday, and his endorsement of Mr Biden, remove the last obstacle for moderate voters to unite around Mr Biden.

The former vice-president will also benefit from Mr Bloomberg's funds, field offices and campaign machinery, should the billionaire decide to throw his lot behind Mr Biden - which he likely will, given an earlier vow to financially back the eventual Democratic nominee.

Exit polls also show that late deciders went overwhelmingly with Mr Biden, suggesting people were waiting for a "safe" candidate they could see beating Mr Trump- and that Mr Sanders was not it.

2. Voter turnout favoured Biden

Mr Sanders' argument has been that his candidacy would drive voter turnout, especially among the youth. But high youth voter turnout did not materialise on Super Tuesday, according to Edison Research exit polls.

Instead, it was suburban moderates who came out in force on Super Tuesday, a demographic which Mr Biden does better with. A Washington Post analysis showed that Mr Biden won nearly 60 per cent of voters who sat out the 2016 primary but voted on Tuesday.

3. Biden had the broader coalition

Mr Biden was strongly backed by African-American voters, while Mr Sanders continued to command a strong following among Latino and young voters.

But this was the same following, largely liberal, that Mr Sanders has had since the start of his campaign. In contrast, Mr Biden picked up white college-educated suburbanites on Super Tuesday. Moderate Democratic voters, whom Mr Sanders likely alienated with his recent attacks on the Democratic establishment, also flocked to Mr Biden.

Political watchers are starting to suggest that Mr Sanders may not be able to make inroads past his base into African-American and older voters - and may be thus limited by the breadth of his coalition.

But these stark differences between the Biden and Sanders camps may make it harder for Democratic voters to come together when the nominee is eventually crowned.

4. Biden and Sanders will continue to fight it out

Mr Biden's lead over Mr Sanders is nowhere near big enough to rule the fight over. Several prized states, including Florida and New York, have yet to vote and have enough delegates available that Mr Biden's renewed front runner status could still be overturned.

5. Warren thwarted, but still influential

Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren faces calls to bow out following her dismal performance on Super Tuesday. She did not win a single state including her own home state of Massachusetts, where she came in third behind Mr Biden, who did not even physically campaign there, and Mr Sanders. She currently has about a tenth of the number of delegates that Mr Biden and Mr Sanders each have.

But she remains influential. Commentators have credited her attacks against Mr Bloomberg during the Democratic debates with demolishing his candidacy - the billionaire often had no good answer to her charges that he shared many of Mr Trump's failings, nor to her highlighting of his past sexist comments.

If she exits and endorses Mr Sanders, that could unite liberal Democrats against Mr Biden. She could even endorse Mr Biden, but that is less likely as her policy positions are closer to those of Mr Sanders.

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