WASHINGTON - The race for the U.S. Democratic presidential nomination has narrowed to two competitors after Super Tuesday voting — resurgent former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-declared democratic socialist long at odds with the party establishment.
The voting across 14 states also forced former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg out of the contest after he had spent a reported $600 million of his own fortune on his campaign but only won the vote in the tiny American Somoa territory in the Pacific and a handful of delegates to the Democrats' national presidential nominating convention in July.
In defeat, Bloomberg quickly endorsed Biden, calling him "my friend and a great American."
Big win for Biden
Biden was the big winner in the coast-to-coast voting on Super Tuesday, capturing 10 states in a show of voter strength that extended from liberal Massachusetts, the Northeastern home state of rival Elizabeth Warren, through conservative southern states to Texas on the country's southwestern border.
Less than a week ago, Biden's campaign to take on Republican President Donald Trump in the November national election was on life support, with his poor finishes in the first three party nominating contests in February threatening to end his third run for the presidency that has spanned three decades.
But he won last Saturday's South Carolina primary with resounding support from African-American voters and expanded his base of voters in Tuesday's balloting. Exit polls showed him capturing voters who have an unfavorable view of socialism, who do not favor a government takeover of health insurance in the U.S., as Sanders does, and voters who thought Biden had the best chance of ousting Trump after a single term in the White House.
Sanders takes California, Utah, Colorado
Sanders won four states — his own in the northeastern U.S.; the country's biggest state, California; and Utah and Colorado in the West.
His support came from Hispanic voters, those who have a favorable view of socialism, and those who support his plan to end private health insurance in the U.S. in favor of the government takeover that would cover the medical bills for all 327 million Americans.
In the race for delegates to the Democratic National Convention in July, Biden took at least a 566 to 501 lead over Sanders, according to an Associated Press count. Neither candidate is yet close to the 1,991 needed to claim the nomination. Warren won 53 convention delegates in the Tuesday voting, but has yet to win any of the first 18 states that have voted in the lengthy nominating process. She was reassessing her candidacy Wednesday.
Biden told a cheering victory rally in Los Angeles, "It's a good night and it seems to be getting even better! They don't call it Super Tuesday for nothing."
"We are very much alive," he said. "Make no mistake about it, this campaign will send Donald Trump packing."
Sanders celebrated his own wins, denigrating Trump as "the most dangerous president in the history of this country."
But Sanders also chided Biden ahead of the nearly three dozen Democratic presidential primaries and caucuses yet to come over the next three months, saying, "We're taking on the political establishment. You cannot beat Trump with the same-old, same-old kind of politics."
Trump chimes in
Trump tweeted his own assessment, saying, "The Democrat establishment came together and crushed Bernie Sanders, AGAIN! Even the fact that Elizabeth Warren stayed in the race was devastating to Bernie and allowed Sleepy Joe to unthinkably win Massachusetts. It was a perfect storm, with many good states remaining for Joe!"
Trump claimed, "So selfish for Elizabeth Warren to stay in the race. She has Zero chance of even coming close to winning, but hurts Bernie badly. So much for their wonderful liberal friendship. Will he ever speak to her again? She cost him Massachusetts (and came in third), he shouldn’t!"
Biden presaged the battles to come against Sanders, discounting one of his signature lines.
"People are talking about a revolution," Biden said. "We started a movement."
Sanders, at his Tuesday night rally, recited his contrasting views with Biden, saying the upcoming political fight would be waged over their past policy differences over Social Security, trade and military force.
"This will become a contrast in ideas," he said.