Joe Biden declared himself one step closer Tuesday night to the Democratic nomination at the National Constitution Center, a last-minute stop selected after a rally in Cleveland was canceled due to concerns there about the coronavirus.

Biden, who won Tuesday’s primaries in Missouri, Mississippi, Michigan, and Idaho, added to a string of Super Tuesday wins following a momentous shift in the race that started with his win in South Carolina. And with his surprise Philadelphia trip Tuesday, he capitalized on another big night.

“Tonight I want to speak to you from Philadelphia where we announced our campaign at the front end,” Biden said to a crowd of staffers and invited press. “This campaign is taking off and I believe we’re going to do well from now on.”

Biden said Ohio Gov. Mark DeWine had asked him to cancel the Cleveland rally because of the coronavirus, which is already altering the campaign. Biden will address his plans for how to respond to the crisis in a speech Thursday in Delaware.

Tuesday night’s event, in front of about 50 staffers, supporters, and members of the media, was not open to the public. It was held the same day Philadelphia health officials advised against any gatherings of more than 5,000 people.

Sanders returned to Vermont after his Cleveland rally was also canceled. His campaign said he would not speak about the results Tuesday night. The results in North Dakota and Washington were still too close to call as of Wednesday morning.

Biden thanked Sanders “for his tireless energy and passion,” and courted his opponent’s supporters with: “We share a common goal and together we’ll defeat Donald Trump. We’re gonna bring this nation together. We’re regenerating a Democratic base the Democratic party.”

With definitive wins in states he was only recently polling well in, Biden has placed Sanders in an extremely narrow lane to victory heading into next week’s elections in Ohio and Florida. Prognosticators were offering few scenarios in which Sanders could win and suggesting the more probable outcome if that Biden wins a majority of pledged delegates. That means Pennsylvania’s April 28 primary could be less of a factor in who becomes the nominee.

Former vice president Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, at the National Constitution Center, making a last minute stop in Philadelphia after a primary election night rally in Cleveland was canceled due to coronavirus.
TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Former vice president Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, at the National Constitution Center, making a last minute stop in Philadelphia after a primary election night rally in Cleveland was canceled due to coronavirus.

Biden spoke in the upper hall of the Constitution Center, noting its proximity to Independence Hall where the nation’s founding documents were written.

“We the People,” Biden said. “These words changed the world ... we’ve never fully lived up to the promise of these documents, but we’ve never walked away from them.”

He used his now signature phrase describing the race as one for the soul of the nation and the democratic principles it was founded on.

After he left the podium, hand-in-hand with his wife, Jill, his staffers ran toward one another, dancing to “Higher Love,” and then breaking into chants of “Go Joe Go!” led by senior adviser Symone Sanders.

Philadelphia politicos, including party chairman Bob Brady, former Mayor John Street and State Sens. Vincent Hughes and Malcolm Kenyatta, all Biden backers, attended the speech.

“People are realizing what he’s about,” Brady said of Biden’s renewed momentum. “They all relate to him. He’s got the heart, they can feel that when he speaks ... and mainly they trust him.”

Brady found out about the Biden drop-in while meeting with the city party’s policy committee, which voted earlier in the evening to back Biden. Brady said the vote was unanimous.