Former Vice President Joe Biden has won the Democratic presidential primary in Arizona, sweeping all three states that voted on Tuesday, dealing a heavy blow to the campaign of rival Sen. Bernie Sanders.
The Associated Press declared Biden the winner of Arizona only 13 minutes after ballot counting began, with Biden leading Sanders by 12 percentage points with only 2% of precincts reporting.
Arizona gives out a total of 67 delegates, which will be awarded in proportion to the number of votes the candidates receive.
Tuesday’s losses come as a huge blow to Sanders, who was courting the Latino vote in Arizona, after garnering overwhelming Latino support in California and Nevada.
However, recent polling showed Latinos in the Grand Canyon State were closely divided between Biden and Sanders, unlike in other states where their strong support propelled him to victory.
Biden also overwhelmingly won the delegate-rich states of Illinois and Florida, racking up what looks like an insurmountable delegate lead over his Democratic rival.
The former vice president delivered remarks after his wins in Illinois and Florida and reached out to Sanders supporters, emphasizing the need for unity ahead of the general election.
Thank you, Arizona! https://t.co/X8k3ftTFWf
— Joe Biden (Text Join to 30330) (@JoeBiden) March 18, 2020
“I know what’s at stake,” Biden said during his remarks from Wilmington, Del. “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 unify this nation.”
All three states held Democratic presidential primary contests today amidst the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic, and despite calls from health officials to stay home.
The pandemic caused several polling stations to shut down, with poll workers canceling their shifts and voters refusing to leave their homes.
But despite concerns that voter turnout would be low because of the coronavirus, more Democrats cast ballots this year in Arizona than in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary contest.
The Arizona Democratic Party announced that the number of early ballots cast this year alone exceeded the combined total of votes casted in 2016.
“We will know in-person voting numbers at a later time, but are thrilled at the number of early ballots that were cast,” Matt Grodsky, spokesman for the Arizona Democratic Party, said in a statement. “Democrats are energized and determined to beat this President in November.”
In Maricopa County, in-person voter turnout also exceeded the 2016 primary, with initial numbers showing 45,000 Democratic voters showed up to the polls this year, compared to 35,000 in 2016.
Democrats and Republicans are both vying for a win in Arizona, with the belief that the state could play a key role in who wins the presidency.
The two Democratic presidential candidates were supposed to debate each other in Phoenix on March 15, but the debate was moved to Washington, D.C., to reduce cross-country travel during the coronavirus pandemic.
Both campaigns also invested in television ads in Arizona, and Sanders invested time, appearing at a rally in Phoenix earlier this month in hopes of winning the state.
It is now unclear how the Democratic primaries will proceed, as more states continue to move their primaries to another date. So far, Ohio, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland and Kentucky postponed their primaries due to coronavirus concerns.