Joe Biden wins Florida and Illinois as he looks to stretch his delegate lead over Bernie Sanders

Former Vice President Joe Biden will win the Illinois and Florida Democratic primaries, CNN projects, victories that will allow him to substantially expand his delegate lead over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders as they vie for the Democratic nomination.

Posted: Mar 17, 2020 10:12 PM

(CNN) -- Former Vice President Joe Biden will win the Illinois and Florida Democratic primaries, CNN projects, victories that will allow him to substantially expand his delegate lead over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders as they vie for the Democratic nomination.

Florida, Illinois and Arizona were the three states where voters headed to the polls Tuesday amid the coronavirus pandemic. Tuesday's primaries come at a time when state and local officials are clearly conflicted about the ethics of asking Americans to leave their homes as many are anxious and self-isolating in an effort to slow the spread of novel coronavirus.

Biden had led in polls in both Illinois and Florida, where the most delegates are at stake on Tuesday. In Florida, Biden posted huge double-digit leads after his streak of victories in South Carolina and the two Super Tuesday contests.

Visit CNN's Election Center for the latest 2020 news

Last week, Biden led Sanders 66% to 22% in a University of North Florida poll -- showing his potential to increase his count in the delegate-rich state.

Amid anecdotal reports of low turnout and hand sanitizer shortages, Tuesday's contests unfolded under a cloud of uncertainty at the same time that the number of reported coronavirus cases continued to grow by hundreds every hour.

In addition to Florida and Illinois, Biden is heavily favored over Sanders and Arizona, a pattern that has been largely unchanged since he began his comeback in South Carolina on February 29 and then notched victories in 15 states over the two Super Tuesday contests.

Once again -- in both Illinois and Florida -- black voters, voters over 65 and moderates formed Biden's winning coalition. More than three-quarters of each of those groups in the CNN primary poll supported the former vice president over Sanders.

Biden's projected win in Florida was long expected given his advantage with older voters and the fact that Sanders lost the state to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2016. But Biden has turned out to be a stronger match for Sanders than Clinton in some areas. About a quarter of white men backed Sanders this year in Florida, compared with 52% in 2016.

Sanders also did not do as well with independents in the Sunshine State. Half of Florida's independent voters backed Biden, according to CNN's primary poll. In 2016, 55% of independents backed Sanders.

The Biden campaign expected a big night on Tuesday. In a campaign memo, Biden's deputy campaign manager, Kate Bedingfield, touted the level of early voting in Arizona, Florida, and Illinois while noting that in-person voting is likely to be down on Tuesday.

Bedingfield said the number of ballots cast early in Arizona already slightly exceeded the total number of ballots cast in the 2016 primary. In Florida and Illinois early voting is up compared with 2016, she said -- more than a million Florida voters have already cast ballots.

Noting Biden's delegate lead, Bedingfield argued that "it would take a drastic, historically incomparable swing for Senator Sanders to win more delegates than Biden today or to close the delegate differential."

Sanders, meanwhile, seemed braced for a tough night.

The Vermont senator spoke early and ignored the election results in remarks to supporters on Tuesday night, instead making a live-streamed speech on the coronavirus crisis. Sanders' remarks focused on how working families are affected by the crisis. He warned that the nation is bracing for "an economic meltdown that will impact tens of millions of workers in this country."

"In this moment of crisis, it is imperative that we stand together," Sanders said. The crisis, he said, "will require an unprecedented amount of money."

"My own guess is that we'll be spending at least $2 trillion in planning to prevent deaths, job losses and to avoid an economic catastrophe," the Vermont senator said. His campaign said he was not planning to speak again on Tuesday night.

Sanders' campaign faces serious questions about its future, with one adviser telling CNN's Jeff Zeleny that the senator must weigh whether staying in the race is the best way to keep his movement alive.

"If he ends his candidacy, will someone else step into the void and lead the movement?" the adviser said. "Is the best way to stay relevant by staying around for the rest of the race?"

Sanders is tightening his circle, aides say, with perhaps only himself and his wife, Jane, involved in the final decision making. Almost no one else knows what he will do, or when.

If the coronavirus pandemic were not escalating -- and the country were not gripped by uncertainty -- advisers have no doubt he would stay in the race for the duration, intent on holding Biden's feet to the progressive fire on a series of policies.

Biden also plans to focus on the pandemic with a speech focused on how the country can emerge from the crisis stronger as one nation.

In recent weeks, the two remaining contenders have both tried to convince voters they would be the most competent leader in this time of crisis -- with Sanders arguing that the coronavirus disruptions have underscored the fragility of the social safety net.

But preliminary primary polling suggests voters are more comfortable with Biden, a finding that underscores the rising hurdles for Sanders. Some 6 in 10 voters in both Arizona and Illinois said they trusted the former vice president to handle the crisis over Sanders, according to preliminary findings in CNN's primary polling. In Florida, 7 in 10 voters said they trusted Biden over the Vermont senator to handle a crisis.

Majorities of Democratic voters in all three states said their top concern was defeating President Donald Trump, who earned enough delegates to clinch the Republican nomination for president on Tuesday night. In the battleground state of Arizona, about 7 in 10 voters said they are angry about the Trump administration. The CNN primary polls were conducted by Edison Research for the National Election Pool; they were based on telephone polls conducted before Election Day.

The potential recession is also a top of mind for Americans. In Illinois, many voters said they were concerned about the direction of the economy. About half of voters in Illinois said they were very worried about the direction of the nation's economy. CNN reported Tuesday evening that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin warned Republican senators that the unemployment rate could hit 20% due to the crisis.

Ohio had also been slated to vote on Tuesday, but Republican Gov. Mike DeWine took drastic measures after a judge denied his request to move the primary to June. DeWine maneuvered around the courts by having Ohio Health Director Dr. Amy Action order a shutdown of the polls due to the public health emergency.

"It was simply untenable for us to continue telling Ohioans, go to the polls. So the governor made a difficult but ultimately the right decision," Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose said on CNN's "New Day" Tuesday.

He noted that state officials have asked people over 65 to stay in their homes and that the primary would be postponed until June 2. The Ohio Democratic Party went to the Ohio Supreme Court Tuesday night to ask for an order ensuring that the primary takes place.

Georgia, Maryland, Kentucky and Louisiana have also moved their primaries to later dates.

Sanders and Biden have suspended their in-person campaign events and ordered aides to work at home. Sanders signaled in a tweet Tuesday that he was more concerned about the safety of individual voters than the overall results.

Some voters showed up to vote in person even as restaurants, bars and schools in Illinois closed and state officials urged people to limit their trips outside of their homes. By Tuesday afternoon, the line outside of the polling place stretched for blocks, as poll workers enforced a one-in, one-out policy to encourage distancing inside.

But the process did not run smoothly everywhere. In suburban Chicago, election judge Kim Inman arrived at her polling place Tuesday to find that the hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes promised by Cook County officials had not arrived. Meanwhile, the precinct was operating with just half its election judges, after some had dropped out "due to sickness or fear," Inman said. By the afternoon, voters had stepped in -- donating their own Wet Wipes and travel-sized hand sanitizer to the polling place.

The delegate prize is significant in the three contests -- with the states together accounting for 441 pledged Democratic delegates, 11% of the national total -- but it was unclear how many people would show up to vote given the risks to themselves and others.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended no gatherings of 50 people or more over the next eight weeks; and the White House on Monday said Americans should not congregate in groups of more than 10, while older Americans were asked to stay home.

In Florida, at least 79 polling sites were relocated, largely to keep them away from the at-risk population in assisted living centers. In Maricopa County, Arizona -- where 60% of the state's population is concentrated -- officials decided to close 80 polling locations in an effort to consolidate operations.

Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey said election leaders were "working overtime to ensure that voting is safe." Secretary of State Katie Hobbs argued that the state needed to go forward with voting Tuesday, because the uncertainty would only increase in the coming months.

"There are thousands of workers in communities across the state that must continue the job of counting the ballots in the days following the election," Hobbs said. "The longer we wait, the more difficult and dangerous this will become."

This is a breaking story and will be updated.

The-CNN-Wire
™ & © 2020 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

Terre Haute
Partly Cloudy
70° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 70°
Robinson
Partly Cloudy
69° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 69°
Indianapolis
Partly Cloudy
70° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 70°
Rockville
Partly Cloudy
67° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 67°
Casey
Partly Cloudy
66° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 66°
Brazil
Partly Cloudy
70° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 70°
Marshall
Partly Cloudy
70° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 70°
Clouds move in today with showers possible this evening.
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Cases: 1363409

Reported Deaths: 24725
CountyCasesDeaths
Cook54578510114
DuPage906281281
Will75577990
Lake67248988
Kane58414774
Winnebago33247475
Madison30525520
McHenry28604288
St. Clair27862514
Peoria23136315
Champaign20649145
Sangamon18762234
McLean18167179
Tazewell16959288
Rock Island14994317
Kankakee14193210
Kendall1306094
LaSalle12553243
Macon10762199
DeKalb9874119
Vermilion9653132
Adams8466123
Williamson7433130
Whiteside7165172
Boone670773
Ogle611481
Grundy589375
Clinton576090
Coles568795
Knox5565145
Jackson502764
Henry498167
Livingston482585
Stephenson475983
Woodford475176
Effingham472972
Macoupin470282
Marion4472115
Franklin445075
Monroe435793
Jefferson4296120
Lee416952
Randolph413184
Fulton392756
Morgan390382
Logan388058
Bureau372082
Montgomery372074
Christian366773
Perry317560
Fayette317455
Iroquois302266
McDonough285647
Jersey268950
Douglas258835
Saline256454
Lawrence240525
Shelby229837
Union226040
Crawford212026
Bond205024
Cass199225
Jo Daviess181524
Clark179833
Warren179846
Pike179152
Ford178647
Wayne177553
Hancock176032
Carroll175436
Richland175040
Edgar170440
White169726
Washington164525
Moultrie161028
De Witt151324
Mason151045
Piatt149814
Clay148143
Mercer147033
Johnson144415
Greene143733
Wabash134512
Massac134340
Cumberland129019
Menard123612
Jasper115018
Marshall107318
Hamilton83315
Schuyler7587
Brown7066
Pulaski6877
Stark63823
Edwards57112
Henderson52514
Calhoun5182
Putnam4823
Scott4791
Alexander46811
Gallatin4584
Hardin38612
Pope3224
Out of IL40
Unassigned02356

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Cases: 733591

Reported Deaths: 13466
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1003871748
Lake54020975
Allen40829679
St. Joseph35898552
Hamilton35735408
Elkhart28745442
Tippecanoe22432219
Vanderburgh22342397
Porter18871310
Johnson18028381
Hendricks17283315
Clark13015191
Madison12725339
Vigo12482248
LaPorte12011214
Monroe11928170
Delaware10726187
Howard9959218
Kosciusko9451117
Hancock8325142
Bartholomew8085156
Warrick7792155
Floyd7677178
Grant7080174
Wayne7064199
Boone6722101
Morgan6596139
Dubois6162117
Marshall6083112
Cass5839105
Dearborn582178
Henry5767104
Noble563684
Jackson502773
Shelby493696
Lawrence4571120
Harrison436372
Gibson436292
DeKalb429685
Clinton428153
Montgomery425389
Whitley397439
Huntington393380
Steuben390057
Miami382668
Knox372690
Jasper370148
Putnam362360
Wabash354980
Adams341955
Ripley340270
Jefferson331581
White315654
Daviess298299
Wells291981
Decatur285692
Fayette281662
Greene280085
Posey271933
LaGrange268370
Scott267254
Clay260647
Washington241832
Randolph241481
Spencer232631
Jennings230649
Starke217854
Fountain213246
Sullivan212142
Owen202156
Jay196730
Fulton195640
Carroll189620
Orange184154
Perry184037
Rush173725
Vermillion169743
Franklin168435
Tipton163045
Parke146616
Blackford135132
Pike135134
Pulaski117145
Newton108334
Brown102641
Crawford101315
Benton99014
Martin89515
Warren82415
Switzerland7938
Union71110
Ohio57111
Unassigned0417