Credit…Courtland Wells for The New York Times
Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. easily won the Democratic primary elections in Florida, Illinois and Arizona on Tuesday. The three states award a total of 441 delegates for the party’s presidential nomination.
These were the first primaries to be held amid the heightened fear and restrictions triggered by the coronavirus. The Trump administration has recommended avoiding groups of more than 10 people, and turnout was down in Illinois on Tuesday. But extensive early voting helped lift turnout in Florida and Arizona.
Here’s what you need to know:
Biden comes out on top in Arizona.
Mr. Biden continued his string of victories by winning the Arizona primary, dashing Mr. Sanders’s hopes in a state with many Latino voters.
Mr. Sanders held a rally in Phoenix this month before the coronavirus curtailed in-person campaigning, and he did well with Latino voters in previous contests. Younger Latino voters, in particular, have been receptive to Mr. Sanders’s candidacy.
But Mr. Biden was still victorious in Tuesday’s primary, completing his sweep of the day’s three contests. Arizona was the smallest delegate prize of the day, and Mr. Sanders also lost there in 2016 when he faced Hillary Clinton.
Turnout was on pace to surpass the 2016 primary, according to the secretary of state’s office. In Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, more than 40,000 people voted in person Tuesday, compared to 35,000 there in 2016, according to the county registrar.
Much of Mr. Sanders’s support has come from young voters, but it is unclear how that played out in Arizona. Voter surveys suggested that the turnout was driven largely by people over the age of 45. And activists supporting Mr. Sanders said over the weekend that they expected many of his core supporters would be less likely to cast ballots, as the pandemic shut down much of the service industry and concerns mounted over their health and keeping their jobs.
Biden tells Sanders supporters, ‘I hear you.’
Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. addressed his supporters after the latest round of primary elections.CreditCredit…Hannah Yoon for The New York Times
Mr. Biden made an explicit appeal to supporters of Mr. Sanders in a brief live-streamed address from his home in Wilmington, Del., in which he also spoke of the need for Americans to do their part in fighting the coronavirus.
“Senator Sanders and I may disagree on tactics, but we share a common vision,” Mr. Biden said, citing health care, income inequality and climate change. He continued, “Senator Sanders and his supporters have brought a remarkable passion and tenacity to all of these issues, and together, they have shifted the fundamental conversation in this country.”
His remarks were evidence of the delicate balancing act in which Mr. Biden is engaging: signaling to Sanders supporters that he respects them and wants their backing, without pressuring Mr. Sanders himself to leave the race. One of Mr. Biden’s most significant political weaknesses is with younger voters, and he spoke directly to them on Tuesday.
“So let me say, especially to the young voters who have been inspired by Senator Sanders: I hear you,” he said. “I know what’s at stake. I know what we have to do. Our goal as a campaign, and my goal as a candidate for president, is to unify this party and then to unify the nation.”
Mr. Biden appeared after notching victories in Tuesday’s two largest delegate prizes, Florida and Illinois. After first speaking about the coronavirus, striking a somber note, he addressed the day’s primaries. Citing those two states, he said his campaign had “a very good night.”
“We’ve moved closer to securing the Democratic Party’s nomination for president,” he said, “and we’re doing it by building a broad coalition that we need to win in November.”
Florida and Arizona will surpass 2016 turnout.
Two of the three states voting on Tuesday have now exceeded turnout levels seen in the 2016 Democratic primary, despite the coronavirus outbreak.
With 98 percent of precincts reporting, Florida had surpassed its 2016 turnout by more than 10,000 votes. In Arizona, turnout was also expected to easily best 2016 levels.
Both states had invested heavily in early voting systems, and they encouraged early voting and voting by mail as the outbreak worsened, in order to help reduce crowds at polling places on Primary Day.
In Florida, roughly 140,000 more Democrats voted by mail than in 2016, and nearly 75,000 more voted early. While some counties, including Palm Beach, had to relocate polling centers amid a poll worker shortage, turnout in Florida was lifted by the roughly 1.1 million people who voted early.
In Arizona, more than 380,000 people voted before polls opened on Tuesday, just 29,000 fewer voters than the total turnout for 2016. The state also offered curbside ballot drop-off for voters on Tuesday for those who didn’t want to come into a polling location.
Biden is the winner in Illinois.
Mr. Biden won the primary in Illinois, the second-largest delegate prize among Tuesday’s contests. With the victory, he continued to pad his sizable delegate lead over Mr. Sanders.
Mr. Sanders narrowly lost the state in 2016 to Mrs. Clinton, but he appeared to be at a significant disadvantage heading into this year’s contest.
As in Florida, black voters make up a significant portion of the Democratic primary electorate in Illinois. Strong support from black voters in South Carolina and a number of other Southern states was crucial to Mr. Biden’s resurgence in the primary. Mr. Biden has also performed well among white voters in recent contests.
Mr. Biden had widespread support among Democratic elected officials in the state. His backers included Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who endorsed him on Monday; Senators Richard J. Durbin and Tammy Duckworth; and Mayor Lori Lightfoot of Chicago.
Mr. Biden had planned to hold a campaign event in Chicago last week, but it was called off because of the coronavirus. Instead, Mr. Biden held a “virtual town hall” for Illinois voters, but his first attempt at virtual campaigning was marred by technical problems.
Biden cruises past Sanders in Florida.
Mr. Biden easily won the Florida primary, racking up an early — and expected — victory in the Sunshine State.
In 2016, Mr. Sanders captured just nine counties in the state, largely the kind of rural white areas he’s been struggling to hold against Mr. Biden this campaign. He has failed to win large numbers of black voters, who made up more than a quarter of the Democratic primary electorate four years ago.
In Florida, Mr. Sanders’s refusal to retract his praise of Fidel Castro and aspects of the Communist Cuban revolution drew ire not just from Cubans but also from a far more diverse group of Latinos, including Colombians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans. And though Mr. Sanders would be the first Jewish president, his comments about Israel turned off many Jewish voters, according to polling.
Florida was always going to be a good state for Mr. Biden. A.P. VoteCast, a voter survey conducted in the days leading up to the primary by The Associated Press, found that 25 percent of Florida’s Democratic electorate is African-American and 70 percent is 45 or older, two demographics that have voted overwhelmingly for Mr. Biden.
Much of Mr. Biden’s win most likely stems from the perception among Democratic voters in Florida that he was the stronger candidate to beat Mr. Trump and would fare the best in a national emergency, like the coronavirus. More than seven in 10 voters surveyed by A.P. VoteCast said that they saw Mr. Biden as the most electable and that they trusted him the most to handle a major crisis.
While Mr. Biden was always expected to win Florida, the margins of his victory will matter. The state awards 219 delegates, and if Mr. Biden wins an overwhelming share of them it could help block Mr. Sanders’s path to the nomination.
Neither candidate campaigned in the state: Rallies for Mr. Biden in Tampa and Miami were canceled because of fears about the spread of the coronavirus. Most of the candidates’ political activity was left to television ads, volunteers and campaign surrogates.
Supporters of the candidate who spent the most time in the state — former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York City — most likely went to Mr. Biden.
Sanders lays out a coronavirus plan, including $2,000 payments to Americans.
Sanders Wants Every Household to Receive $2,000
Senator Bernie Sanders called for the emergency monthly cash payments as he delivered an address on the coronavirus epidemic.
Our country and, in fact, the world are facing an unprecedented series of crises. We’re dealing with the coronavirus, which is spreading throughout this country and throughout the world. We’re dealing with a growing economic meltdown, which will impact tens of millions of workers in this country. We’re dealing with a political crisis as well. What happens to all the people who lose their jobs? What happens to people who tonight are worried that they may have the coronavirus, but don’t have the resources to get the tests they need or the treatment that they need? So this is a moment that we have got to be working together and going forward together. Most important point is workers need to continue to get a paycheck even when their businesses are shut down. Further, we need to provide a direct emergency $2,000 cash payment to every household in America every month for the duration of the crisis to provide them with the assistance they need to pay their bills and take care of their families.
Senator Bernie Sanders called for the emergency monthly cash payments as he delivered an address on the coronavirus epidemic.CreditCredit…Jacob Hannah for The New York Times
Mr. Sanders addressed the escalating coronavirus crisis on Tuesday night, calling it an “unprecedented moment” and laying out an extensive list of policy proposals to deal with the emergency that he said he would work with Democratic leadership to carry out. He estimated that combating the crisis would require at least $2 trillion in funding.
Among the plans he put forth were activating the armed forces to build mobile hospitals and testing facilities, as well as having the government provide a “direct emergency $2,000 cash payment to every household in America.” He also proposed a moratorium on evictions and utility shut-offs, and providing emergency unemployment assistance to anyone who loses their job.
And he again used this moment to call for his signature policy proposal, “Medicare for all.” In the meantime, he called for Medicare to cover all medical bills during the coronavirus crisis.
“What I believe we must do is empower Medicare to cover all medical bills during this emergency,” he said. But he also stressed that “this is not Medicare for all. We can’t pass that right now.”
Mr. Sanders has publicly addressed the coronavirus several times in the last week, and his remarks on Tuesday largely reflected his previous comments.
During his speech, which he delivered before many polls closed, he did not address the election. Neither CNN nor MSNBC showed his remarks live.
And the presumptive Republican nominee is …
President Trump achieved the inevitable on Tuesday night: After winning 122 delegates in Florida, he officially racked up enough delegates to become the presumptive Republican nominee for president. A candidate needs 1,276 delegates to win the nomination, and Mr. Trump on Tuesday night had 1,330 delegates.
Brad Parscale, the president’s campaign manager, said in a statement that Mr. Trump’s victory showed a unified Republican Party. He credited it to “his response to the coronavirus” and a “broad and strong economy,” even as markets plunged and a global recession appeared inevitable.
Mr. Trump has barely had a contest in the Republican primary. A onetime field of three challengers had already winnowed down to one left standing, William Weld, the former governor of Massachusetts, who has failed to make a dent in Mr. Trump’s support among Republican voters.
Tuesday is the last political action for a while. What comes next?
Three primary elections were held on Tuesday — and yet there will be no rallies for the winner or winners.
Presidential politics in the coronavirus era has left Mr. Biden and Mr. Sanders in a new reality. They’re running for president, but without the running.
There are no get-out-the-vote efforts, no rallies, no commercials, no fund-raising events and, for the foreseeable future, nowhere for them to go.
Ohio was supposed to have a primary, but the governor ordered precincts closed. Louisiana, Kentucky and Maryland have moved primaries planned for the coming weeks back to June in hopes the pandemic subsides by then. Democratic National Committee officials insist the party’s convention will take place as planned in Milwaukee in July, but the truth is nobody really knows what the world will look like in four days, let alone in four months.
If Tuesday night’s contests were unfolding under normal circumstances, the campaigns and the political press would be decamping for Georgia, which was supposed to be the only state with a primary next week.
But Georgia officials on Saturday moved their state’s primary to May 19. There will be no campaigning in the Atlanta suburbs, no tracking TV spending by the campaigns. No more counting the delegates Mr. Biden and Mr. Sanders need to accumulate to clinch the presidential nomination.
On Tuesday, the Democratic National Committee’s chairman, Tom Perez, urged the states remaining on the election calendar to conduct contests solely through vote by mail, “instead of moving primaries to later in the cycle when timing around the virus remains unpredictable.”
We’re all left waiting and wondering the same thing: What comes next?
Biden picks up Secret Service protection.
Mr. Biden now has Secret Service protection, the organization said on Tuesday, a development that comes as he has achieved front-runner status in the Democratic primary, and after several security incidents occurred at campaign events.
“The U.S. Secret Service can confirm that we have initiated full protective coverage for Democratic Presidential Candidate and former Vice President Joseph Biden,” a representative for the Secret Service said.
On a number of occasions, voters or activists have come physically close to Mr. Biden or his family, including on Super Tuesday, when animal rights activists moved toward him and his wife as he spoke, and several young campaign staff members physically interceded.
Reporting was contributed by Maggie Astor, Nick Corasaniti, Sydney Ember, Katie Glueck, Shane Goldmacher, Jennifer Medina, Matt Stevens and Annie Karni.