ASHBURN, Va. — The Joe Biden comeback continues.
The results brought Biden dramatically closer to the front-runner, Sen. Bernie Sanders, as Democrats voted in 14 states on Super Tuesday, the most expansive day of the nominating contest. Combined with the South Carolina results three days earlier, Tuesday’s results altered a race that had looked like Sanders’ to lose.
It now looks increasingly like a two-person contest for the nomination, with the Democratic establishment, and voters across the map, rallying behind Biden.
“It’s a good night and it seems to be getting even better,” Biden told cheering supporters in Los Angeles, a few weeks after many wondered if his campaign was doomed. “They don’t call it Super Tuesday for nothing. ... It’s still early, but things are looking awful, awful good.”
Biden swept the South, carrying Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Texas. He was also declared the winner in Oklahoma and Massachusetts, and scored a surprise victory in Minnesota after receiving a last-minute endorsement from home-state Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a onetime Biden rival.
Virginia and North Carolina were called almost as soon as polls closed, suggesting that Biden had scored huge victories there and would win a substantial share of delegates toward the nomination in two of the largest states on the map, with 99 and 110 delegates, respectively.
Sanders, meanwhile, won Colorado, Utah, and his home state of Vermont — and the state with the biggest delegate prize of the night, California. But the popular-vote margin and the number of delegates he would carry out of that state weren’t immediately clear.
Still, the night dented one of the central premises of Sanders’ campaign: that he is the candidate who can bring out new voters, including disaffected liberals and working-class people.
Instead, it was Biden who seemed to juice the electorate. In Virginia, turnout almost doubled compared with 2016, and Biden won more than half the vote in the state, while Sanders had about 23%. Instead of a surge of liberals, Biden rode a wave of support from African Americans, as well as moderate voters who have turned away from the GOP in affluent, Democratic-trending suburbs similar to the ones outside Philadelphia.
“People are talking about revolution, we’ve started a movement," Biden said in a dig at Sanders’ frequent calls for a “political revolution.”
“We’ve increased turnout. The turnouts turned out for us,” Biden said.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren suffered a significant blow in failing to carry her home state, Massachusetts.
Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Biden supporter, said his state is "urban, rural, suburban.”
“It’s a real composite of who America is," McAuliffe said, "and I think this was a huge win for Joe Biden because it goes to electability, for me, in the general election.”
The margins of victory in each state are critical, because delegates are awarded proportionally, not on a winner-take-all basis.
Sanders, speaking to supporters in Essex Junction, Vt., seemed to acknowledge the new, stiffer competition, sharply contrasting himself with Biden.
“One of us in this race led the opposition to the war in Iraq — you’re looking at him," Sanders said. "Another candidate voted for the war in Iraq. One of us led the opposition to disastrous trade agreements which cost us millions of good-paying jobs — and that’s me. And another candidate voted for disastrous trade agreements.”
The success for Biden ensured that he would continue his momentum and made it likely that he would rack up enough delegates to rival Sanders.
As he did in South Carolina, Biden won with huge support from African Americans, winning 63% of black voters in Virginia and North Carolina, according to CNN’s exit polls. Among Virginia voters who said beating Trump was their top priority, 58% chose Biden, while 19% supported Sanders.
"I believe we need change, but revolution doesn’t happen overnight,” said Ken Steele, 70, who voted for Biden in Oakland, Calif. “I marched for civil rights. I remember when cities burned. We need to restart the revolution, but you can’t do it overnight.”
The coast-to-coast primaries provided a new test for the candidates just as the field narrowed. For the first time, campaigns had to organize across multiple states, and try to appeal to broad cross sections of the Democratic coalition all at once.
From Maine to Alabama to Texas to Minnesota to California, every region was represented.
The voting came as Democratic insiders increasingly worried that Sanders was building enough momentum to run away with the nomination, with some in the party thinking he would prove too liberal to beat Trump — and even hurt other Democrats on the ballot.
Biden hoped to counter with the new energy from big-name endorsements that followed his South Carolina victory, including support from former opponents Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg.
In Virginia’s upscale and moderate suburbs just outside Washington, most voters who said their main priority was beating Trump said they voted for Biden. Those motivated by specific issues such as health care or the environment often said they backed Sanders.
Cotrina McGue, 56, said “morality” was the main factor on her mind as she sought a candidate who could defeat Trump. For her, that meant supporting Biden. His rivals “just don’t compare with Joe’s experience,” McGue said as she voted in Ashburn, Va.
In Leesburg, another growing Virginia suburb, Seamus Welch, 32, was among the many younger voters enthused by Sanders. Welch said that while he lives in an affluent area, he grew up in a less well-off part of South Carolina and saw many struggle with health-care costs, including when his mother faced a bill of about $40,000 after an emergency appendectomy.
“I’m a big proponent of Medicare for All,” he said of Sanders’ single-payer health-care proposal. “I know how important that can be for a lot of people.”
In a sign of the importance of California, several candidates spent most of the day in the state. Biden started in Oakland and ended in Los Angeles.
As he walked into a diner in Oakland, Sanders supporters waved signs and chanted into a megaphone on the corner.
“I think the last 72 hours shows that the Democratic establishment is more afraid of Bernie than they are of Trump,” said Keith Brower Brown, 32, co-chair of the East Bay chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America. “Sanders is the only one who can defeat Trump. He’s the only one who has a movement of hundreds of thousands of people.”