Power of the Black vote

African Americans help Biden win 10 Super Tuesday states; revive campaign.

Presidential hopeful Joe Biden reacts to Super Tuesday voting results at the Bald￾win Hills Recreation Center in Los Angeles on March 3.
ROBERT GAUTHIER/LOS ANGELES TIMES/TNS

BY MARK Z. BARABAK
LOS ANGELES TIMES/TNS

Joe Biden seized control of the Democratic presidential contest with a string of Super Tuesday victories over Bernie Sanders, as voters across the country cast their ballots determined to pick the candidate they believe stands the best chance of defeating President Donald Trump in November.

Sanders captured the day’s grand prize, California, on the strength of his performance among Latinos and younger voters. The senator also won Colorado and Utah as well as his home state of Vermont.

Biden, who had been all but written off after a stumbling start in Iowa and New Hampshire, emphatically marked his comeback with victories — some by double digits — in Alabama, Arkansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. Most surprisingly, he also won Texas, the day’s other prize.

Overwhelming Black support

From the hamlets of New England to the beach communities of Southern California, voters in 15 contests went to the polls in the campaign’s largest single day of balloting. At stake was about a third of the pledged delegates needed to win the Democratic nomination at the party’s July convention in Milwaukee.

Biden staged his roaring comeback by rebuilding the coalition that delivered him to victory Saturday in South Carolina — a win that turned around his fortunes overnight.

The former vice president garnered overwhelming support among Black voters across the South — the bedrock of his campaign — and won handily among older voters and those who are politically more moderate. He also prevailed among the unusually large number of late deciders, who were evidently impressed by his crushing South Carolina victory.

Priority: Beating Trump

In North Carolina, nearly 6 in 10 voters made up their minds in recent days and most backed Biden, according to exit polls conducted by Edison Research for a consortium of TV networks. In Alabama, nearly 4 in 10 voters decided late and more than 60% backed him.

Perhaps the greatest testament to Biden’s remarkable resurgence was the support of voters who said their top priority was beating Trump, an obsession among the president’s critics from the moment he took office.

Biden’s candidacy was predicated almost entirely on his claims of electability, which rang hollow after he finished far out of contention in the first two contests and a distant second in Nevada.

But on Tuesday night, exit polls showed in state after state that most voters were focused less on ideology than defeating the president; they preferred Biden over Sanders — often by huge margins.

“He’s going to get the job done and he’s gonna beat Donald Trump,” Angeline Sanders,
74, said of Biden after voting for him at the Jordan Downs housing project community center near Watts Towers in South Los Angeles. “None of the rest of them can do it. And it sure isn’t going to be Bernie Sanders.”

‘Very much alive’

Even before the polls had closed in California, a joyful and energized Biden took the stage at a park in Los Angeles’ Baldwin Hills section, telling hundreds of supporters, “It’s a good night, and it seems to be getting even better. They don’t call it Super Tuesday for nothin’!”

Biden assailed critics who left his campaign for dead before he ran away with the contest in South Carolina.

“I am here to report we are very much alive, and make no mistake about it, this campaign will send Donald Trump packing!” said Biden, who was at a near-shout for much of his speech, in contrast to previous low-key election night appearances.

He then previewed some of the issues he may highlight as he tries to outlast Sanders: “affordable and accessible” health care, lower drug prices and a promise to find cures for cancer and diabetes. He also cited gun control, more affordable college and a redoubled commitment to fighting climate change.

Sanders takes jabs

Across the country, a combative Sanders jabbed at his suddenly ascendant rival and hinted at his own campaign agenda going forward.

“One of us in this race led the opposition to the war in Iraq; you’re looking at him,” Sanders thundered at a boisterous Vermont rally, where he also questioned Biden’s commitment to funding programs such as Social Security and Medicare.

“One of us led the opposition to the disastrous trade agreement which cost us millions of good-paying jobs. And that’s me. And another candidate voted for disastrous trade agreements.

“If it comes out to be a campaign in which we have one candidate who is standing up for the working class and the middle class, we’re going to win that election,” Sanders said. “And if we have another candidate who has received contributions from at least 60 billionaires, we’re going to win that election.”

The Super Tuesday competition amounted to a fight pitting Biden’s momentum against Sanders’ muscle and Michael Bloomberg’s money. [Bloomberg halted his campaign on Wednesday and said he’ll support Biden.]

Supporters bolstered

Biden’s powerful showing on Saturday was enough to bring Frank Anderson around, along with a great many others.

The 74-year-old retired hospital administrator in Birmingham, Ala., had long considered himself a Biden man. But he began to worry after the former vice president slumped in Iowa and New Hampshire, finishing in fourth and fifth place, respectively.

South Carolina alleviated Anderson’s concerns. “Now I think he is the guy,” he said.

Times staff writers Noah Bierman in Washington, Jenny Jarvie in Birmingham, Michael Finnegan in Warren, Mich., and Melissa Gomez, Arit John, Seema Mehta and Matt Pearce in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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