Latest Dem primaries leave Joe Biden in a commanding position

The conversation will now shift to a general-election focus, with less speculation about delegates and more speculation about possible running mates.
Image: Joe Biden
Joe Biden speaks during a primary night speech at The National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Pa, on March 10, 2020.Brendan McDermid / Reuters

A week ago at this time, as the dust settled on Super Tuesday, Bernie Sanders looked ahead and saw reason for at least some hope. The next round of contests -- on a not-quite-as-super Tuesday -- featured primaries in states where the Vermont senator scored key wins in his 2016 campaign. If Sanders could excel in those same states again, it'd give him a chance to change the trajectory of the 2020 race.

At least, that was the idea. In practice, Joe Biden scored several additional primary victories, leaving him in a commanding position in the race for the Democratic nomination.

Biden appears on track to win Mississippi and Missouri by lopsided margins, which will lead to big delegate hauls since Democrats award delegates in proportion to the margin by which candidates win in each state. He won Idaho by a narrower margin, NBC News projected early Wednesday. Biden has also won the biggest state on the map, Michigan, with 125 delegates at stake.

For Sanders, the Michigan defeat is especially rough. Four years ago, the senator scored a surprise win in the Wolverine State, breathing new life into his candidacy, and he invested considerable efforts recently into doing the same thing this year. The plan fell far short: Sanders not only lost by a double-digit margin, he also appears to have lost literally every county in Michigan. Similarly, Biden won literally every country in Missouri and Mississippi, too.

The day was not a complete disaster for Sanders -- he won North Dakota, and he's well positioned in the state of Washington -- but those results are small consolation.

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 is clearly asymmetrical.

For Joe Biden, the good news is 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 the Democratic race will likely continue for a while; bringing Sanders supporters into the fold won't be easy; Biden still isn't connecting with younger voters; and the imposing Republican machine is poised to do everything it can to destroy him.

For Bernie Sanders, the good news is he still has plenty of money, a loyal base of support, and an upcoming debate that will give him a national platform and plenty of speaking time. The bad news is he's falling short with many of the constituencies that helped fuel his rise four years ago; there's nothing on the electoral calendar to look forward to; and his path to the nomination has effectively closed.

For Tulsi Gabbard, the good news is she's not facing any pressure to get out of the race. The bad news is much of the political world has forgotten that she's technically still in the race. Adding insult to injury, the Hawaii congresswoman received fewer votes in yesterday's contests than several candidates who exited the race a while ago.

Though the primaries will continue, the political conversation will now shift to a general-election focus, with less speculation about delegates and more speculation about possible running mates. Joe Biden's extraordinary comeback -- it was just last month when he finished fourth in Iowa and fifth in New Hampshire -- has been fueled in large part by African-American supporters and women voters, and he'd have to be a fool to overlook this when thinking about his 2020 ticket.