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Chris Cillizza’s winners and losers from Tuesday’s primaries

Voters in three states went to the polls Tuesday, handing former Vice President Joe Biden a trio of muted victories amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

With the wins, Biden stretched his delegate lead over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders to more than 300, effectively sealing the nomination. Below, my best and worst from the night that was.


*Joe Biden: The former VP didn’t just win in Arizona, Florida and Illinois, he crushed. His margin was nearly 40 points in Florida and more than 20 points in Illinois. (Biden also won Arizona by double digits.) Wins by such large margins delivered the lion’s share of delegates to Biden — he netted 100 delegates over Sanders in Florida alone, according to CNN’s projections — and put the race nearly out of reach for Sanders. Biden’s coalition of black voters, voters 45 years old and older, and moderates now appears to be a winning one. There’s no stopping him now. Expect Biden to turn toward the general election now, as he tried to do in his victory speech last night. “Senator Sanders and I may disagree on tactics, but we share a common vision — for the need to provide affordable health care for all Americans to reducing income inequality to taking on climate change,” said Biden.

* Donald Trump: For all the talk in the first two years of his term that Trump would face a serious challenge from within the GOP, it never, ever materialized. And on Tuesday, Trump secured enough delegates to officially be the party nominee in November. It speaks to how complete Trump’s takeover of the GOP has been that Bill Weld, the former Massachusetts governor, won just a single delegate in his attempt to provide an alternative to Trump.

* Vote by mail: In Florida, almost 700,000 Democrats had returned their mail ballots as of Tuesday with another 430,000 vote-by-mail ballots sent but not returned. Those numbers are a significant increase from 2016 and suggest that lots and lots of voters, as coronavirus fears began to mount, took advantage of the chance to vote from the comfort of their own homes. And good thing too: According to 538, in-person voting on Tuesday was down more than 40% from 2016.


* Bernie Sanders: It may never be entirely clear whether the Vermont senator might have had a chance to stage a comeback against Biden after Super Tuesday had the spread of the coronavirus not effectively ended active campaigning in the race. But it’s clear now that Sanders doesn’t have a plausible path to victory. He’s simply behind by too many delegates and hasn’t been able to broaden his devout but not-big-enough base of support. Sanders appears to see the writing on the wall. A statement from campaign manager Faiz Shakir on Wednesday morning said that Sanders is “going to be having conversations with supporters to assess his campaign.” No matter where those conversations end up, the race is over for Sanders.

* Democracy: As I wrote yesterday, it made zero sense to hold primaries amid guidance from the federal government to stay at home and avoid congregating in groups of 10 or more. Thanks to early voting — conducted prior to the stay-home recommendations — turnout was not drastically lower than in past primaries. But in-person voting was way down as people clearly decided it was not worth the risk to venture out into public for an extended time to vote. Primaries, which are party-run contests, are relatively easily shifted to different dates, as Louisiana, Georgia and other states have already done. That’s what should have happened for Arizona, Florida and Illinois as well. As it is, lots of people were forced to choose between public health and the right to vote. And that’s a terrible choice to have to make.

* Donald Trump: While the general election race has yet to begin in earnest, it’s clear from poll after poll in swing states that, at the moment, Biden represents Trump’s toughest challenge in November. It’s why Trump has spent the last few months insisting that Sanders is the victim of some conspiracy being led by the party establishment to keep him from the nomination. (Trump has never offered any proof for that claim.) Now Biden is on the precipice of being the nominee, and Trump can’t do anything about it except hope that by November the polls that show him trailing Biden have flipped around.

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