Joe Biden Picks Up Substantial Wins In Super Tuesday Contests
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Joe Biden tells a story to explain his wins on Super Tuesday.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
JOE BIDEN: Just a few days ago, the press and the pundits declared the campaign dead. And then came South Carolina, and they had something to say about it.
BIDEN: And we were told, well, when you got to Super Tuesday, it'd be over. Well, it may be over for the other guy.
MARTIN: That was the former vice president speaking last night. He won the majority of states on Super Tuesday and performed better than expected in others. It was a stunning shift in momentum for a candidate who lost the first three contests of the Democratic primary season. For more, we are joined by NPR political correspondents Mara Liasson and Scott Detrow. Hi, guys.
MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hi there.
SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Hey, good morning.
MARTIN: All right, so, Mara, let's start with you. Exit polls show a lot of Democratic voters made up their mind at the last minute, the last few days. Maybe a lot of them voted for Joe Biden. How much did those last-minute endorsements play into it?
LIASSON: Oh, it made a huge difference. The big question going into last night was whether Bernie Sanders would come out of it on a glide path to having an insurmountable lead to get a plurality of delegates before the convention. We came out of last night with Biden with the most votes and delegates so far. Maybe he'll end up being on track to get a plurality before the convention.
What we know is that this is now a two-man race for delegates. Last night was a test for three things - money, momentum and movement or organization. Turns out money - Bloomberg spent a ton of it - didn't really matter that much. Movement or an organization - Bernie Sanders had a terrific one. Biden had almost nothing, one field office in Californian and Virginia. He didn't even campaign in a lot of the Super Tuesday states, but momentum really mattered. He got a lot of free, earned media from his big win in South Carolina, a lot of endorsements, and that mattered a lot.
MARTIN: Right. We should just say those big-name endorsements - Amy Klobuchar, Beto O'Rourke, Pete Buttigieg, former rivals all coalescing around him. Scott, you've been traveling with the Sanders campaign. They got the biggest prize in the form of the state of California, but it was disappointing overall for the Sanders campaign. Let's listen to the candidate himself trying to put the best spin on it.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
BERNIE SANDERS: I don't know what will happen, but 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.
MARTIN: So what happened Scott? Does the Sanders campaign keep on keeping on, or do they recalibrate in some way after this?
DETROW: Well, you're going to see a sharp change in the message from Bernie Sanders, and you really have over the last week or so already. He is increasingly spending a lot of time criticizing Joe Biden. Looks like the campaign just released new ads on that front which would be a new step in some of the states, Michigan and Florida, that will be voting over the next few weeks. Sanders is really critiquing Joe Biden's long track record pointing to votes on the Iraq War, for trade deals like NAFTA, for bankruptcy bills that a lot of Democrats don't like - Sanders making the argument that, time after time, Joe Biden has supported things that the current base of the Democratic Party does not support. Of course we saw, in overwhelming numbers last night, the base of the Democratic Party made a decision to vote for Joe Biden. And suddenly, he went from left-for-dead to winning 10 states or on track to win 10 states for Super Tuesday.
DETROW: And last point on California - yes, Sanders did win. We're not going to see the final margins for a few weeks based on the way that California slowly counts votes. But this was not the big win in California that Sanders needed to get a ton of delegates and really build out a delegate lead.
MARTIN: Right. So we mentioned earlier, Mara, Mike Bloomberg, all the money he has spent on this race. This was his first time on the ballot. He underperformed to put it generously. Let's listen to a clip from his remarks last night.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
MIKE BLOOMBERG: Now, while my fellow candidates spent a whole year focusing on the first four states, I was out campaigning against Donald Trump in the states where the election will actually be decided like Wisconsin and Michigan and Pittsburgh and Ohio and North Carolina and of course Florida.
MARTIN: I mean, North Carolina we should just mention Bloomberg came in third there. The only contest that he won outright was the territory of American Samoa. So, Mara, how does his campaign go forward at this point?
LIASSON: Well, the campaign says that they're reassessing today, and you know, he only got in when it looked like Biden was collapsing and the left wing candidates that Bloomberg thought couldn't beat Donald Trump were surging. So even if he pulls out and is no longer a candidate, Mike Bloomberg is still on track to become what might be a game-changing and historic factor in the election because he has said he will bankroll the Democratic Party no matter who is the nominee. He's going to fund down-ballot candidates, get-out-the-vote drives all over the country, spend whatever it takes. That could be several billion dollars, and if he does that, he will do something that's never been done before which is level the playing field financially between the president's party and the out party.
MARTIN: Lastly, we need to talk about Elizabeth Warren, Scott. She has not done well in the primary season in the outcome of these contests. And last night she finished third in her home state of Massachusetts, right? What's her path forward?
DETROW: It's very hard to see. She insists she's staying in the race even as her campaign concedes that the only way, if she becomes the nominee, is through a contested convention. But if you look at 2016 with Marco Rubio, 2012 with Rick Santorum, not winning your home state is a way to get out of the race very quickly. She's going to be under tremendous pressure to reassess her campaign. She's not finished any better than third in the 18 states that have had primaries or caucuses so far.
MARTIN: Mara, where are you looking next?
LIASSON: Next week, looking for Michigan. Week after that - Florida and Arizona. Not only are these big states with a lot of delegates, but they are general election battleground states. I want to see how the candidates do in those states.
MARTIN: NPR's Mara Liasson and NPR's Scott Detrow. Thank you to you both.
LIASSON: Thank you.
DETROW: Sure thing. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.