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Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders split spoils

Former VP wins at least eight states; Vermont senator takes California

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a primary election night campaign rally Tuesday in Los Angeles. Biden won at least nine out of 14 states on Super Tuesday. (AP)

WASHINGTON — A resurgent Joe Biden scored sweeping victories across the country with the backing of a diverse coalition and progressive rival Bernie Sanders seized Super Tuesday’s biggest prize with a win in California as the Democratic Party’s once-crowded presidential field suddenly transformed into a two-man contest.

The two Democrats, lifelong politicians with starkly different visions for America’s future, were battling for delegates as 14 states and one U.S. territory held a series of high-stakes elections that marked the most significant day of voting in the party’s 2020 presidential nomination fight. The winner will take on President Donald Trump in the November general election.

The other two high-profile candidates still in the shrinking Democratic field, New York billionaire Mike Bloomberg and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, were teetering on the edge of viability. Warren finished in an embarrassing third place in her home state, and Bloomberg planned to reassess his candidacy on Wednesday after spending more than a half billion dollars to score a single victory — in American Samoa.

The new contours of a nomination fight pitting Biden against Sanders, each leading coalitions of disparate demographics and political beliefs, were crystallizing by day’s end as the former vice president and the three-term senator spoke to each other from dueling victory speeches separated by 2,500 miles Tuesday night.

“People are talking about a revolution. We started a movement,” Biden charged in Los Angeles, knocking one of Sanders’ signature lines.

And without citing his surging rival by name, Sanders swiped at Biden from Burlington, Vermont.

“You cannot beat Trump with the same-old, same-old kind of politics,” Sanders declared, ticking down a list of past policy differences with Biden on Social Security, trade and military force. “This will become a contrast in ideas.”

The balance of Super Tuesday’s battlefield — with Biden winning at least eight states and Sanders four — raised questions about whether the Democratic primary contest would stretch to the July convention or be decided much sooner.

Biden’s strong finish punctuated a dramatic turnaround in the span of just three days when he leveraged a blowout victory in South Carolina to score victories on Tuesday that transcended geography, class and race. And lest there be any doubt, he cemented his status as the standard-bearer for the Democrats’ establishment wing.

The former vice president showed strength in the Northeast with a win in Massachusetts, won Minnesota in the upper Midwest and finished on top across the South in Virginia, Alabama, North Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas — in addition to Oklahoma.

Sanders opened the night as the Democratic front-runner and was in a position to claim an insurmountable lead. And while he scored the night’s biggest delegate-prize in California, he scored just three other decisive victories, winning his home state of Vermont, along with Utah and Colorado.

Still, Sanders proved he could deliver in perhaps the greatest test of his decadeslong political career. His success was built on a base of energized liberals, young people and Latinos. And his conclusive win in California marks a huge reversal in a state he lost four years ago.

A key to Biden’s success: black voters. Biden, who served two terms as President Barack Obama’s vice president, won 60 percent of the black vote in Alabama, where African Americans made up more than half the Democratic electorate on Tuesday. Bloomberg earned 25 percent, and Sanders won about 10 percent of African-American votes, according to AP VoteCast, a wide-ranging survey of the electorate.

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