Bi­den adds Michi­gan to win to­tal, de­liv­er­ing blow to San­ders

The Kansas City Star - - Election - BY ALEXAN­DER BURNS AND JONATHAN MARTIN The New York Times

For­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den swept to vic­tory in the South and Mid­west on Tues­day, demon­strat­ing the strength of his mul­tira­cial coali­tion and ex­tend­ing his del­e­gate ad­van­tage over Sen. Bernie San­ders as he took com­mand of the Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial race.

Bi­den won Michi­gan, Mis­souri and Mis­sis­sippi with over­whelm­ing sup­port from African Amer­i­cans and with large mar­gins among sub­ur­ban and ru­ral white vot­ers, repli­cat­ing an ad­van­tage he dis­played on Su­per Tues­day a week ago when he cap­tured 10 of 14 states.

San­ders had an op­por­tu­nity to slow Bi­den in the West, where Idaho and Wash­ing­ton vot­ers were go­ing to the polls, but he suf­fered a griev­ous blow in what was the most closely watched and big­gest del­e­gate prize of the day: Michi­gan.

One week af­ter suf­fer­ing a series of un­ex­pected losses on Su­per Tues­day, San­ders had raced to re­vive his can­di­dacy in the state. But even af­ter hold­ing sev­eral events across Michi­gan and mount­ing some of his most pointed at­tacks against Bi­den, he was de­feated in what could be a piv­otal Mid­west­ern bell­wether in a race where the for­mer vice pres­i­dent has tri­umphed in the South and San­ders has won in the West.

The con­test in Michi­gan held great sym­bolic sig­nif­i­cance for both can­di­dates, each of whom has pre­sented him­self as uniquely ca­pa­ble of re­claim­ing the Mid­west for Democrats in 2020. Bi­den has long boasted of his bond with work­ing-class vot­ers there, while San­ders has en­joyed a last­ing po­lit­i­cal glow from his up­set vic­tory over Hil­lary Clin­ton in the Michi­gan pri­mary four years ago. His in­abil­ity to repli­cate that feat against a more pop­u­lar op­po­nent, Bi­den, fur­ther un­der­cuts his ar­gu­ment that only a can­di­date who trum­pets far­reach­ing change can en­er­gize vot­ers there.

The Michi­gan and Mis­souri re­sults were espe­cially fore­bod­ing for San­ders be­cause they sug­gested his strength among ru­ral Mid­west­ern vot­ers in 2016 largely owed to their op­po­si­tion to Clin­ton. Against Bi­den, San­ders was routed across the coun­try­side of both states.

Bi­den’s vic­to­ries came against a back­drop of un­ex­pected in­sta­bil­ity in the econ­omy and wide­spread fear about the coro­n­avirus as a grow­ing threat to public health — forces that may have fur­ther bol­stered the for­mer vice pres­i­dent’s mes­sage of steady lead­er­ship against San­ders’ prom­ises of so­cial trans­for­ma­tion.

The spread of the coro­n­avirus across the United States also raised the specter that po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties could soon be cur­tailed or re­struc­tured for rea­sons of public health. Just hours be­fore the polls closed, both can­di­dates can­celed planned ral­lies in Ohio, cit­ing con­cerns re­lated to the virus.

Mark Brewer, a for­mer chair­man of the Michi­gan Demo­cratic Party, said San­ders had con­fronted cir­cum­stances this time that made the state a tougher bat­tle­field for him. Brewer, who was a sup­porter of Sen. El­iz­a­beth War­ren of Mas­sachusetts, said vot­ers ap­peared to have made a straight­for­ward as­sess­ment of the two can­di­dates’ electabil­ity and that “at least for tonight, in Michi­gan, Bi­den won that ar­gu­ment.”

San­ders scram­bled to shore up his po­si­tion in Michi­gan, above all, can­cel­ing cam­paign stops in other states in or­der to fo­cus on that bat­tle­ground state, where he re­vived his cam­paign against Clin­ton four years ago af­ter a series of Su­per Tues­day losses. He held ral­lies there with Rep. Alexan­dria Oca­sio-Cortez of New York and the Rev. Jesse Jack­son, seek­ing to rev up his base of young vot­ers and make head­way with the black vot­ers who have pro­pelled Bi­den’s surge since the South Carolina pri­mary in late Fe­bru­ary.

In the days af­ter last week’s con­tests, three of the most prom­i­nent Michi­gan Democrats elected in 2018 — Gov. Gretchen Whit­mer and Reps. Ha­ley Stevens and Elissa Slotkin — en­dorsed Bi­den in part be­cause they say he will be palat­able to the mod­er­ate vot­ers who pro­pelled the party in the midterm elec­tions.

“Joe Bi­den res­onates with Michi­gan­ders,” Whit­mer said in an in­ter­view, ar­gu­ing that he was us­ing the same cen­ter-left “blue­print I used in 2018.”

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