Biden's latest primary sweep effectively ends race for Dem nomination

After three loses in primaries that were not competitive, Bernie Sanders' path to the Democratic nomination has gone from narrow to closed.
Image: Joe Biden
Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden speaks about COVID-19, known as the Coronavirus, during a press event in Wilmington, Delaware on March 12, 2020.Saul Loeb / AFP - Getty Images
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By Steve Benen

After Joe Biden's successes on Super Tuesday -- which, believe it or not, was just two weeks ago -- Bernie Sanders' path to the Democratic nomination narrowed considerably. A week later, there were six more contests -- including some in states where the Vermont senator fared well during his 2016 campaign -- which ended in five more wins for the former vice president, narrowing Sanders' path some more.

After yesterday, it's difficult to see that path as anything but closed.

Joe Biden doubled his delegate lead over Bernie Sanders in Tuesday's primaries, giving him a nearly insurmountable advantage after sweeping Florida, Illinois and Arizona, according to NBC News projections.... Biden has passed the halfway mark and is well on his way to the 1,991 delegates he needs to win a majority of all delegates and capture the Democratic presidential nomination.

Yesterday was another excellent day for the Delaware Democrat, and none of his victories were close. Based on NBC News' tally, Biden entered yesterday's contests with a 154-delegate lead, and thanks to his margins of victory, that advantage has now more than doubled to 315. The former vice president's victories yesterday were so complete, he won nearly every county in Arizona, Florida, and Illinois.

So where does that leave us? After every big primary day, I like to publish a good-news/bad-news list for the remaining candidates, though given the circumstances, the landscape remains asymmetrical.

For Joe Biden, the good news is identical to what we discussed a week ago at this time: he's the presumptive nominee of his party and should probably be seen as the favorite to win the American presidency. The bad news is he still isn't connecting with younger voters; bringing Sanders supporters into the fold poses all kinds of challenges; and no one has any idea how to campaign in the midst of a global pandemic.

For Bernie Sanders, the good news is there's still a mathematical way for him to come from behind and prevail. The bad news, as the senator no doubt knows, is that the race has effectively ended, and mounting any kind of comeback bid in the midst of a viral outbreak simply isn't realistic. Indeed, given his long odds, Sanders is under increasing pressure to end his campaign, in part to avoid an unnecessarily dragged out process, and in part because the coronavirus crisis creates public-health challenges in upcoming primaries in states that don't have mail-in balloting.

For Tulsi Gabbard, the good news, if one is inclined to call it that, is that she finished seventh in Florida, seventh in Arizona, and sixth in Illinois. The bad news is she's one of only three candidates who's technically still in the race.

Speculation has now shifted to whom Biden might choose as a running mate, which seems sensible under the circumstances.