Biden's wins in U.S. states that matter most set stage for duel with
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[March 19, 2020]
By James Oliphant and Steve Holland
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - With Bernie Sanders
on the ropes in the race for the Democratic Party nomination, Joe Biden
can turn his attention now to a November matchup against Republican
Donald Trump, backed by momentum in states that decide U.S. presidential
Biden dominated Sanders in Tuesday's contests in three states, including
Florida and Arizona, both known as political battlegrounds because their
voters can swing to either party and so decide who takes the White
Defying the coronavirus that has upended life in America as in the rest
of the world, turnout was robust in both states - many people voted
early - suggesting that enthusiasm to defeat Trump remains high among
Broad swaths of voters ensured Biden's success. Edison Research said
these included women, African Americans and white rural voters. It was
the same last week when Biden won Michigan, also likely to be decisive
in the Nov. 3 election.
Perhaps most significant is that the centrist former vice president, 77,
appears to be reaching the same moderate suburban voters who helped
Democrats seize control of the U.S. House of Representatives in the 2018
"We are seeing turnout spike in affluent, highly-educated suburban areas
– precisely the kinds of places where the GOP has slipped since 2016 and
where at least some formerly Republican voters appear to be more open to
voting Democratic than in the past," said Kyle Kondik, an analyst at the
University of Virginia Center for Politics.
While Kondik warned that primary voting is not always a reliable
indicator of general election turnout, Biden's success could bode well
in a battle with Trump, 73, the former businessman and reality TV star
seeking a second four-year term.
Democrats have placed Arizona, Florida and Michigan at the top of their
target list since 2016, when Trump took all three states. Former
President Barack Obama, a Democrat and Biden's former boss, won all
three in his 2012 re-election campaign.
Biden crushed Sanders on Tuesday in the areas around such cities as
Miami, Orlando and Tampa in Florida. With votes still being counted in
Arizona, he was up by 10 percentage points over Sanders in all-important
Maricopa County, home to 60% of the state's population.
Biden showed similar dominance last week in the suburbs around Detroit,
areas critical in November's election.
Turnout in Florida was up slightly over 2016 despite many voters staying
home because of the pandemic. In Arizona, the number of mail-in ballots
returned before the primary, 480,000, surpassed the number of total
votes cast four years ago.
In a Democratic race once defined by such rabble-rousing outsiders as
U.S. Senators Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, Biden has trumpeted his many
decades in government to project the image of a calm steward amidst a
Voters favored him over Sanders to handle a crisis by more than 2-to-1
in Florida and Arizona, according to Edison Research interviews.
Priorities USA Action, a top Democratic super PAC, said the coronavirus
crisis, with the economy reeling and American daily life being
dramatically refashioned, means trouble for Trump.
[to top of second column]
Democratic U.S. presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe
Biden speaks during the 11th Democratic candidates debate of the
2020 U.S. presidential campaign, held in CNN's Washington studios
without an audience because of the global coronavirus pandemic, in
Washington, U.S., March 15, 2020. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
“We can’t predict the future of this pandemic, but Trump’s
disastrous handling of the response so far makes him more vulnerable
everywhere regardless of demographics,” said Josh Schwerin, a
spokesman for the group, which plans to spend millions of dollars in
support of Biden.
Biden on Tuesday improved his performance with Latino voters key to
Democrats' fortunes. In his victory remarks, he appealed also to
younger voters drawn to the more liberal Sanders for his policies on
climate change, education and economic reform.
THE VIRUS AND THE VOTE
Opinion polls conducted by NBC News and Monmouth University show
Biden with a slight edge in a head-to-head contest with Trump in
The news has been worse for Trump in Florida, where a poll this
month showed 40% of voters believe he deserves a second term, and
that was before the coronavirus outbreak intensified.
That said, Fernand Amandi, whose Miami-based firm conducted the
Florida poll, suggested the pandemic now affords Trump, who has been
on national TV almost daily, an opportunity to right his ship in
“The coronavirus can reshape the race a dozen times between now and
Election Day,” Amandi said.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Tuesday showed 47% of Americans
approved of Trump’s handling of the crisis as the U.S. government
has become increasingly proactive, up 9 percentage points from early
Aides say Trump adopted a more serious tone toward the threat after
repeated warnings from his coronavirus team of advisers about the
dangers facing the country in view of how the virus exploded in
Italy and elsewhere.
Some Republicans say privately they view Biden as a formidable
One official close to the White House described him as seemingly "an
acceptable alternative to Trump," a candidate who could appeal to
suburban women who have trended away from the Republican Party in
the age of Trump but who would be reluctant to vote for Sanders, a
"My view was always that Biden was the biggest threat," said the
official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
But with the coronavirus likely being the only thing on voters'
minds at the moment, any strategic plans on both sides may seem
secondary and almost irrelevant, Amandi said.
If the crisis extends deep into the year, he said, "coronavirus will
be on the ballot - and the accountability for it.”
(Reporting by James Oliphant and Steve Holland; Editing by Colleen
Jenkins and Howard Goller)
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