WASHINGTON (AP) — Former Vice President Joe Biden has put an exclamation point on his Super Tuesday victories by winning the most delegates on the presidential primary calendar’s biggest night.
The Associated Press has allocated more than 92% of the 1,344 delegates that were up for grabs on Tuesday, and Biden has such a commanding lead that Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders cannot catch up as the remaining votes from that day’s 14 state primaries are counted.
Biden built his delegate lead on Tuesday by racking up huge victories in Alabama, North Carolina and Virginia, while scoring a narrow win in Texas. In all, Biden won 10 states and Sanders won four.
“Look, not long ago the press and the pundits declared this campaign dead, but this week we saw tremendous support across the nation,” Biden told supporters by phone Friday evening. “We changed the whole narrative.”
Sanders won California and three other states — Colorado, Utah and his home state of Vermont. Although Sanders won the biggest state, California, he didn’t rack up the commanding lead required to surpass Biden’s haul.
Biden has won at least 610 delegates from Tuesday’s contests, while Sanders has won at least 513, according to the AP delegate count. There are 102 delegates still to be allocated.
Most of the delegates still not allocated are in California, with the next biggest chunks in Colorado and Utah. Despite Sanders winning all three states, he has already been awarded the largest share of delegates in those states.
Many of the delegates are being withheld because it is unclear whether former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg will finish above the 15% threshold in California, which would score him a significant number of statewide delegates. Regardless of whether Bloomberg reaches the threshold, Sanders can’t catch Biden because many of the remaining delegates would then go to Biden.
Bloomberg dropped out of the presidential race on Wednesday.
Overall, Biden has 664 delegates to Sanders’ 573. Sanders started the week with a six-delegate lead. Biden’s performance was all the more remarkable considering his slow start in the first three contests. Less than a month ago, Biden didn’t win a single delegate in New Hampshire.
The contest could now become a drawn-out two-man battle for delegates to win the nomination at the Democratic National Convention in July. It takes a majority of pledged delegates won in primaries and caucuses — 1,991 — to win the nomination on the first ballot. With only two viable candidates left in the race, the prospect of a contested convention is remote.
The race now enters a key stretch as voters in 10 states cast ballots over the next two weeks. Sanders scrapped an appearance in Mississippi to campaign in Michigan — the largest prize on Tuesday, when six states representing 352 delegates vote. Sanders’ move was an acknowledgement that he stands little chance of blunting Biden’s edge with black voters in the South and must focus on fighting back in the Midwest.
Four states vote on March 17, including delegate-rich Illinois, Ohio and Florida, where Sanders could struggle because of the state’s older electorate and his recent praise of Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
When Sanders ran against Hillary Clinton in 2016, Clinton won in Florida, Illinois and Ohio — the three states with the most delegates at stake in the mid-March primaries. In Florida, the biggest prize of the next two weeks, Clinton nearly doubled Sanders’ vote.
Riccardi reported from Denver. Associated Press writer Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.