Biden wins big in Arizona, Florida and Illinois. Sanders urges $2,000 a month for every family during crisis
Joe Biden swept three key primaries in Florida, Illinois and Arizona on Tuesday night, dominating a third consecutive week of elections as he built a nearly indomitable lead in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination under the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic.
His resounding victories all but eliminated a path for his rival, Bernie Sanders, whose campaign is at a crossroads as he contemplates whether to stay in a fight for the liberal agenda he’s championed for decades, or to exit and help Democrats unify the party behind his opponent as the country faces a public health crisis.
“Our campaign has had a very good night – and is a little closer to securing the Democratic party’s nomination for president,” Biden said on Tuesday in a speech live-streamed from his home in Wilmington, Delaware, after he was declared the winner of Florida and Illinois.
It came as Donald Trump formally sealed the Republican presidential nomination, surpassing the necessary delegate threshold after facing no significant opposition.
Tuesday’s elections underscored the uncertainty surrounding the Democratic presidential primary amid a global outbreak that has closed borders, roiled the economy and touched nearly every corner of public life. Ohio, which was also due to vote on Tuesday, postponed its elections, defying a court order and closing polls, even as Florida, Illinois and Arizona moved forward in spite of pressure to delay their contests.
Before polls closed on Tuesday, Sanders delivered an address responding to the public health and economic crisis caused by the coronavirus outbreak. He predicted the US government would ultimately spend $2tn “to prevent deaths, job losses and to avoid an economic catastrophe” and called for every American household to receive monthly payments of $2,000 during the crisis.
“Our country and our world are facing an unprecedented series of crises,” he said in remarks that made no reference to the election.
More than 6,300 Americans have tested positive for the virus, despite limited testing, with 108 deaths as of Tuesday evening. The message from officials is that the outbreak will worsen dramatically.
On Monday, Trump advised Americans not to gather in groups of more than 10, further restricting guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which recommended that no gatherings with 50 people or more be held for the next eight weeks.
Against that backdrop, Mike DeWine, the Republican governor of Ohio, announced on Monday afternoon that he would seek to postpone the election until 2 June. Hours later an Ohio county judge rejected the request, saying it would set a “terrible” precedent.
DeWine instructed the state’s director of health to declare a public health emergency. He argued that holding the election would place voters and poll workers in potential danger.
“We should not force people to make this choice, a choice between their health and their constitutional rights and their duties as American citizens,” DeWine said at a press conference, adding: “I think when we look back on this, we are going to be glad we did this.”
Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, assailed the move for causing “more chaos and confusion” and sought to discourage other states from following suit.
But it may be too late. Louisiana and Georgia were the first states to announce they would delay their primaries in response to the outbreak. Kentucky joined Ohio on Monday, choosing to delay its primary from 19 May to 23 June. And on Tuesday, Maryland became the fifth state to postpone its presidential primary election, moving it from 28 April to 2 June.
Officials in Florida, Arizona and Illinois took additional precautions to ensure the safety of voters and poll workers, including sanitizing voting machines and offering curbside voting. But there were reports of poll worker shortages and confusion over polling locations.