Election: Biden extends delegate lead over Sanders as he picks up key win in Michigan primary

Joe Biden speaks in Detroit.

Former Vice President Joe Biden defeated Sen. Bernie Sanders in Michigan’s Democratic primary on Tuesday, networks projected, tightening his grip on Democratic presidential nomination after last week’s Super Tuesday voting.

Michigan was one of six states to vote Tuesday, when a total of 352 delegates were up for grabs. Biden also notched victories in Mississippi and Missouri, locking down his support across the South.

Going into Tuesday’s contests, the former vice president had 670 delegates to Sanders’ 574, according to a Wall Street Journal tracker. It takes 1,991 to win the nomination on the first ballot at the Democrats’ Milwaukee convention this summer.

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All polls in Michigan, which offers the night’s biggest delegate prize, closed at 9 p.m. Eastern. The six states voting Tuesday are Idaho, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota and Washington. All polls will be closed by 11 p.m. Eastern.

Biden and Sanders both put a bullseye on Michigan, which has 125 delegates up for grabs. Sanders attacked Biden over trade issues as voters made their decisions, saying at a Detroit rally last week that if Democrats are going to defeat President Donald Trump in the state in November, “it will be very hard for a candidate who voted for these disastrous trade agreements,” such as the North American Free Trade Agreement.

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Sanders has called out Biden’s backing in 1994 of Nafta, while Biden has touted the Obama administration’s auto-industry bailout. Sanders narrowly won Michigan’s primary in 2016 and sought a victory Tuesday to bolster his White House campaign this year.

Biden and Sanders both canceled plans for election-night rallies in Cleveland amid concerns over the coronavirus outbreak. Hope for a fiscal response to the epidemic lifted spirits on Wall Street Tuesday, a day after the biggest one-day fall since the 2008 financial crisis. The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +4.89% closed up 1,167 points higher.

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Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in Michigan by just over 10,000 votes in 2016, and it will be a critical swing state in November. Biden, whose campaign revived after his win in South Carolina’s primary, has attacked democratic socialist Sanders by saying voters don’t want a “revolution,” and has trumpeted his own policies including building on the Affordable Care Act. Sanders proposes Medicare for All, which would eliminate private insurance companies.

Biden and Sanders also sparred over Social Security in the runup to Tuesday’s primaries, and the fight will almost certainly ramp up with Florida’s primary scheduled for next week. Sanders, harking back to comments made by Biden in the mid-1990s, has said “one of us has a history of not only fighting cuts to Social Security but working to expand benefits.”

Biden recently tweeted: “Get real, Bernie. The only person who’s going to cut Social Security if he’s elected is Donald Trump.” Biden in 1995 supported a balanced budget amendment, which he acknowledged could lead to cuts in the entitlement program.

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Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard also remains in the Democratic race. She has won two delegates, according to the Wall Street Journal.