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SUSAN DAVIS (HOST): Former Vice President Joe Biden has won the states of Mississippi and Missouri this hour. From NPR News, this is live Special Coverage of Democratic primaries in six states. It's Big Tuesday, and I'm Susan Davis.
JEREMY HOBSON (HOST): I'm Jeremy Hobson. There are 352 delegates up for grabs tonight, including the crucial state of Michigan. Vice President Biden hopes to build on his Super Tuesday performance and increase his delegate lead. Senator Bernie Sanders hoping he can take back the momentum that he had early last month - both candidates are campaigning in the shadow of the coronavirus. They have both canceled their rallies tonight. We're going to have the latest on that and all the votes as they come in.
DAVIS: Stay with us.
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DAVIS: And we start the hour with breaking news. The Associated Press is projecting that former Vice President Joe Biden will win in the states of Mississippi and Missouri. And joining us in studio to talk about these results and all evening long are NPR senior Washington editor correspondent Ron Elving. Hi, Ron.
RON ELVING (BYLINE): Good to be with you, Susan.
DAVIS: And NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Hey, Mara.
MARA LIASSON (BYLINE): Hi there.
DAVIS: Ron, let's start with you. Two big wins for Joe Biden right out of the gate. What do you make of it?
ELVING: This is early to be calling a state the size of Missouri. Four years ago, Missouri split its vote between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders with a difference of one tenth of 1% between them, and it was late, late, late to call Missouri. It has been late to call Missouri in many primaries in the past. It was late between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama back in 2008. So for Missouri to be called the minute that polls are closed - and of course it's a projection from the Associated Press that Joe Biden will be the winner - that tells you something. It tells you that it's not close. And it tells you that it's going to be a majority and perhaps even a lion's share of Missouri's 68 delegates up for grabs tonight that go to Joe Biden.
And the same is true of Mississippi. Now, that's not as much of a surprise. Mississippi's electorate on the Democratic side is about 70% African American. Joe Biden's been blowing the doors off of the African American vote in South Carolina and all through Super Tuesday states. So we expected that in Mississippi, so that's not a surprise to see that state called. And of course it's only 36 delegates compared to Missouri's 68. But to see Missouri called right at 8 o'clock, that's meaningful.
DAVIS: Mara, it certainly seems that Biden, coming out of his South Carolina win, followed by a majority wins in Super Tuesday, two early calls tonight - it looks like the momentum continues.
LIASSON: Yeah, I think one of the most extraordinary stories - political stories ever, but certainly the most extraordinary story of this cycle has been the speed and size of the Biden resurrection. I mean, he looked like he was going to be left as roadkill for a while.
DAVIS: Like three weeks ago.
LIASSON: Three weeks ago. But something happened, and what was so interesting to me is that it's not because voters in these Super Tuesday and Big Tuesday states got a door-knock from a Biden field worker because he didn't have a field organization, it's not because they saw a television commercial about Joe Biden because he didn't have any money for commercials.
And instead, he had momentum, and Democratic voters who are high-information voters - primary voters generally are - took a look at the two candidates. And once he got that resounding win powered by black voters in South Carolina, they decided in large numbers that he was a better candidate to beat Donald Trump than Bernie Sanders. So far. We'll see what tonight tells us.
DAVIS: We have calls in Mississippi and Missouri. Just to clarify, there's four other states at stake tonight. We're waiting for results in Idaho, Michigan, North Dakota and Washington. And we have joining us NPR political correspondents Scott Detrow and Asma Khalid. Hey, there.
SCOTT DETROW (BYLINE): Hey, Sue.
ASMA KHALID (BYLINE): Hey there.
DAVIS: Asma, I want to start with you because you've been encamped with the Biden campaign. What do you make of his early wins tonight, and have you gotten any response from the campaign so far?
KHALID: Well, I haven't gotten any response from the campaign thus far. But what I will tell you, Sue, is there is just a remarkable shift in the mood and the atmosphere around the Biden campaign I would say just even after frankly the Super Tuesday win and certainly as we're heading into today. They're comfortable. I mean, there is a recognition that the mood and the momentum is with them, in part because he's just received such a flurry of endorsements from some of his own rivals who've gotten out of the race and all these elected officials.
But, you know, I think to echo Ron, seeing Missouri called so quickly, it frankly does not bode well for Bernie Sanders. I mean, that was a state that I believe he lost very narrowly. I believe it was by less than half a percent in 2016. So what we're seeing right now is Sanders of 2020 seems to be underperforming the Bernie Sanders campaign of 2016.
DAVIS: And, Scott, you're with the - you've been with the Bernie Sanders campaign What's your early take on these early calls tonight?
DETROW: You know, it's been an interesting day. I'm in Vermont right now, which was not where I was supposed to be. I was supposed to be in Ohio where Sanders had been planning to be, and he canceled his event there at the very last minute due to coronavirus public health concerns. This was as the traveling press corps was making its way to the airplane to go to Ohio. And I mention that because this is really a microcosm of the past week. I think there were significant reasons to cancel that event for sure, but I'm talking about last-minute scrambling and changing plans.
The Sanders campaign all along has been a campaign that's been very confident in its long-term plan, its long-term strategy, and that's suddenly evaporated this week. He canceled rallies in Missouri, in Mississippi, in Illinois in order to spend more time trying to save his campaign in Michigan. He announced that he was going to give speeches on specific issues, ended up not giving those speeches. This was a campaign on its heels this week, doing everything it could in real time to try and turn things around, which is such a shift from just a week and a half ago when he was the front-runner in this race.
LIASSON: Scott, hi. How are you doing?
DETROW: Hey, Mara.
LIASSON: It's Mara. I'm have a question for you. What is the message that comes across loudest from Bernie Sanders? Is it the message where he says, I'll be there for Joe, and Joe will be there for me depending on who's the nominee; we're going to be unified? Or is it, the political establishment has done me wrong again?
DETROW: Well, he does make both at the same times.
LIASSON: Yeah. That's why I'm asking. Yeah.
DETROW: But I will say that he does - every time he talks about Biden, especially this week, when there were days when he really ramped up those attacks on Joe Biden's record - he begins that by saying, he will be there for me; I will be there for him. And he ends it on the same way, saying, you know, I am a longtime friend of Joe Biden. I think Sanders and his campaign are very sincere about their efforts to try and unify the party. The question is, what about those people in his audiences who are booing Joe Biden's name, booing Joe Biden's votes for NAFTA, things like that?
LIASSON: Well, can Bernie Sanders - does he have any control over them? Can he convince them to stick with the eventual nominee if it's not him? You know, the question is, is he willing to do that or not capable of doing that?
DETROW: Well, I think that's a good question. I think the campaign has been avoiding questions like that right now because they're still very much trying to win the nomination for themselves. I think Bernie Sanders often points out that he did a lot of campaign events for Hillary Clinton in 2016. And that's true. He was flying all over the country doing events for her. But you just saw a lot of his base just did not have enthusiasm and had deep skepticism for her and either didn't show up to vote or voted for people like Jill Stein instead in 2016.
LIASSON: What's your sense talking to his supporters? Is it just like 2016, or are they more open to Joe Biden than they were to Hillary?
DETROW: I think it's a little bit different. But I think there is a lot of skepticism of Joe Biden as someone who's been part of, as Bernie Sanders calls it, the establishment for decades and having a lot of votes. I mean, walk through the things that Sanders criticizes him for - voting for the Defense of Marriage Act, voting against the Iraq War, voting for trade deals, talking at times in the '90s about trying to scale back Social Security as part of broader restructuring of government spending. These are all things that people who are motivated by Bernie Sanders and the political revolution he talks about view very, very skeptically, if not outright with hostility.
HOBSON: Let's bring in somebody else who's joining us right now. Tom Perez, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, is on the line with us. Tom Perez, first of all, just your reaction to the calls that we've made based on The Associated Press - not just Mississippi, but Missouri for Biden.
TOM PEREZ (CHAIR, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE): Well, I'm following it very carefully. And I was a little surprised that it was called this early as well. But we still have four more states to go, and we will see what happens. I'm very - what I'm really looking at as well is turnout. We've had record turnout starting in, you know, New Hampshire, going to South Carolina - last week on Super Tuesday, places like Virginia, et cetera.
Obviously, the issues with coronavirus, we'll see whether it affects turnout at all. But obviously, a number of states, like Washington, you can vote by mail; you can vote early, et cetera. So I'm excited to see the enthusiasm across the country. And whoever our nominee is, I am confident we're going to come together as Democrats.
HOBSON: Do you think that - we talked about the fact that both Biden and Sanders canceled their rallies tonight as a result of coronavirus. Do you think that they should be having any more rallies going forward in this period? And do you think that the conventions are in question, whether those will happen - the Democratic convention this summer?
PEREZ: I don't think the Democratic convention's in jeopardy. I - we are in contact with both federal, state and local authorities on a daily basis, a regular basis. I've met with some folks today. And I'm confident we can put that on. It'll be up to the candidates to figure out what they're going to do. Out of an abundance of caution, for this weekend in Arizona, we are going to have our debate this Sunday, but we will do it without an audience.
PEREZ: So we're going to revisit John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon from 1960, except we won't do it in black and white.
HOBSON: And Tom Perez, to the point that we were just talking about a moment ago, how concerned are you, if Biden comes out of tonight with a lot of support, a lot of momentum and maybe does the same next week, about Bernie Sanders supporters getting behind him if he's the nominee?
PEREZ: I actually have a lot of confidence that whoever wins this nomination, the other person will come together and be exceedingly enthusiastic. Why do I say that? First of all, I had the privilege as your labor secretary of working closely with both the vice president and Senator Sanders. There's a genuine respect and affection. Do they have disagreements on issues? Absolutely. There is a genuine mutual respect.
And that mutual respect, you can see that when they debate. When they ask questions about votes, that's totally fair game. But it is a spirited debate they have, but it is a above-the-belt debate. And I am very confident. And we worked very closely with Senator Sanders on rules reforms, and his team was at the table. They were incredibly constructive. We reduced dramatically the role of superdelegates so we could return power to the people.
We really went to school on some of the lessons of 2016 and created a very inclusive process and have ensured that everybody has gotten a fair shake. And I know whoever wins, I really think - the other thing that you have to understand is, we have Donald Trump on the ballot, the most serious danger to our democracy in U.S. history. And I think that really makes a difference, as well, moving forward. And so I know that whoever doesn't win is going to be absolutely enthusiastically out there for our standard-bearer.
HOBSON: Mara Liasson wants to ask a question. Here she is.
LIASSON: Yeah. Hi, Chairman Perez. How are you doing?
PEREZ: Good to hear from you, Mara.
LIASSON: OK. Yeah. I'm wondering, if Joe Biden does continue to rack up a big lead, one of the things that all successful nominees do is they really absorb the issues and the energy of the person they defeated. And I'm wondering what you think Joe Biden needs to learn from Bernie Sanders. I mean, he really spoke - Sanders really spoke for people who couldn't afford health care, education, housing, retirement and felt that the government needed to help them a lot more than it is now. What do you think that Biden needs to learn from the Sanders campaign?
PEREZ: Well, I think Senator Sanders has been incredibly consistent and passionate and vigilant about calling out income inequality in our country, making sure that America works for everyone, not just the few at the top. He has been consistent about this. His ability to bring together a coalition of really, really enthusiastic people is really important. I remember '08 when I was out there for then-Senator Obama. The passion around his campaign was great.
You see the passion around both of these candidates. I was in South Carolina the day of the election out there just a couple weeks ago, and I was in North Carolina the next day. There is a lot of energy for both of these candidates. And I think what they could both learn from each other is, we need to expand the electorate, and both of them - and you've been doing a lot of the crosstabs and the real bearing down on the data. You know, they both obviously have certain strengths right now and certain challenges.
And working together, I think there's a synergy there that will enable us to make sure we bring everyone along because again, I know them both. They care deeply about making sure that people who are in the shadows can get a fair shake. They both have a serious commitment to that. They both have a very sincere commitment to civil rights, women's rights, to rights of religious minorities, to make sure we - the union movement can thrive again in the face of these attacks from Republican judges. So I really think that they can come together. They will come together. And we will come together as a party.
HOBSON: That is Tom Perez, the chair of the Democratic National Committee. Thank you so much for joining us.
PEREZ: A pleasure to be with you.
HOBSON: And just want to remind listeners of the breaking news this first hour of our live coverage, which is that The Associated Press has called both Missouri and Mississippi for Joe Biden. There are four more states that we are waiting to hear from tonight. Stay with us. You're listening to live Special Coverage of Big Tuesday from NPR News.
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DAVIS: And we're joined now by Brian Ellison. He's a host at member station KCUR in Kansas City, Mo. Hi, Brian.
BRIAN ELLISON (BYLINE): Hey, Sue.
DAVIS: So four years ago, Bernie Sanders finished in the primary there in about a tie with Hillary Clinton - very different finish for Bernie Sanders tonight.
DAVIS: What's happening on the ground there? What have you seen?
ELLISON: Yeah, you're right. The vote was within 1,500 votes out of 623,000 cast four years ago. But I think what's happening is that Joe Biden is a very different candidate than Hillary Clinton. For one thing, we all know about the extraordinary support he has among African American voters. That's a significant part of the Democratic electorate here in Missouri.
But even among white voters in much of the state, especially the rural parts of the state where the percentages tend to indicate fewer voters with college degrees, more working-class voters, Joe Biden has proven to be a much stronger candidate. It's also an older electorate here in Kansas City, and that demographic seems to be favoring Joe Biden as well.
DAVIS: Yeah. It certainly seems that Biden - the mix of Missouri has worked well for him. I mean, one thing we've seen time and time again in these contests in which he's revived is that African American support has really renewed his candidacy.
ELLISON: Well, that's exactly right. And that - Missouri was a classic case of where that should work in Joe Biden's advantage, and it seems to have in some very substantial ways.
DAVIS: So the last time Missouri voted for a Democrat in a general election was Bill Clinton in 1996. I think it's fair to say the political universe has changed dramatically since then. Do you think that anyone should be looking at Missouri as a state where Democrats can play in 2020 statewide?
ELLISON: Well, in a word, probably not.
ELLISON: The reality is that there was a time when Missouri was a bellwether state. As Missouri goes, so goes the nation, they used to say. But that hasn't been true, as you said, since 1996, when Bill Clinton was the last Democrat to win this state. The reality is that Republicans dominate Missouri politics. They control the governorship, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general. They have a supermajority in the House. And sometimes it's been said that the Missouri Senate Democrats can hold their caucus meetings in a booth at Denny's.
ELLISON: The reality is that Democrats have a serious uphill battle in Missouri no matter what the election year. I will say, though, that Missouri Democrats do have a very good record of choosing the eventual nominee. In every election since 1992, whoever has won Missouri for the Democrats has gone on to become the nominee. The last exception was when Missouri Congressman Dick Gephardt was running. He eventually, of course, lost to Michael Dukakis.
One other thing I would note here, Sue - the reality is that a lot of the support Joe Biden got from significant Democratic leaders in Missouri, including former Governors Jay Nixon and Bob Holden, former U.S. Senator Jean Carnahan - they lined up behind Joe Biden partly because I believe they felt he would become the - he would be the better standard-bearer and be more help to those down-ballot races given the makeup of the Missouri electorate.
DAVIS: Well, that is Brian Ellison. He's a host at member station KCUR in Kansas City. Brian, so much - thanks so much for your time.
ELLISON: Thank you, Sue.
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DAVIS: And you are listening to Special Coverage of Big Tuesday from NPR News. We'll be right back.
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HOBSON: Vice President Joe Biden is projected to win in Missouri and Mississippi. You're listening to live Special Coverage of the Democratic primaries from NPR News. I'm Jeremy Hobson. Polls are also closed in North Dakota, but no call has been made in that state yet. We are just at the beginning of the night. Polls are still open in three more states, including the major battlefield of Michigan.
But Missouri is where we find NPR's Juana Summers. She's in St. Louis. And Don Gonyea is also with us from Detroit, Mich. And Juana, let me just go straight to you since we've already made the call on Missouri. This was early. This was a surprise to call Missouri this early. Your thoughts?
JUANA SUMMERS (BYLINE): This was incredibly early. I am from Missouri. I have covered the state's primary every year since 2008. This was a surprise to a lot of people. I'm actually in St. Louis with Joe Biden supporters. And though we called the race, MSNBC, which is on the TVs here, had not yet done so. They just erupted, chanting, let's go, Joe - a very quick call compared to four years ago, when we were waiting very late in the (ph) night to know what had happened.
Some of your other guests have talked about this. But I agree that one of the things I was watching for in the state's primary was how Bernie Sanders did with those non-college-educated white voters, those disaffected voters that were his strength in 2016 - one of the reasons he kept it so close with Hillary Clinton four years ago - as well as the black voters that make up about a fifth of the electorate here.
So I was watching those numbers closely. Exit polls suggest that Joe Biden has a 40-point lead with black voters - we're looking at those non-college-educated white numbers still - giving you a picture of why this was so quick of a call this year as opposed to four years ago.
HOBSON: Juana, every conversation I've had in the last 24 hours has been mostly about the coronavirus. Do you think that that played into anything today? Have voters been talking to you about that?
SUMMERS: There's been a little talk about it. I flew here from Chicago and had lunch at a local restaurant that I know well. And folks are worried about how it's going to impact their bottom line, whether business will still tick up and whatnot. But events like this across the state are still happening.
I'd like to point out, neither the Bernie Sanders campaign nor the Joe Biden campaign folded smaller events like this, though they did, of course, cancel those rallies thousand-some-odd miles away in Ohio. So it is on people's minds, certainly, but hasn't seemed to have impacted the politics, at least that I've seen so far.
HOBSON: Right. Both of the candidates canceled their rallies for tonight because of the coronavirus. And the Democratic Party says that at the next debate that there won't be an audience as a result of the coronavirus. Don Gonyea in Detroit tonight - now, some of the polls have closed in Michigan but not all of them, right?
DON GONYEA (BYLINE): Right. There are a handful of counties on the far western edge of the Upper Peninsula that are in the Central time zone. So that gives the rest of the state time to count while we're waiting for those to close.
HOBSON: And Michigan is viewed as the big prize tonight. Bernie Sanders won it four years ago against Hillary Clinton. What have you been hearing?
GONYEA: Well, it's - you know, it's 125 delegates. And all the polling says things have been moving quite strongly toward Joe Biden. I camped outside a couple of different polling places today in the western, working-class Detroit suburbs. And at one place over the course of an hour, I talked to a 25-year-old woman who said she voted for Donald Trump four years ago. This year, she's voting in the Democratic primary. She wouldn't tell me which of these two candidates she supported, but she said she will not be voting for Donald Trump this time. Now, moments later, I met a 48-year-old guy who is a hardcore Trump supporter, came to vote in the Republican primary. There's one of those going on here, too. He said he wanted to make sure that Donald Trump got some big numbers even though it's a foregone conclusion what's happening there. But I want you to listen to this mother and daughter I met going into the polls. She is 59-year-old Tamara Allison (ph). Her daughter is Brittney Soulee (ph), 22 years old. The mother is for Biden. The daughter is for Bernie Sanders. Give a listen to my brief conversation with them.
Do you and your mom argue about Bernie and Biden?
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1 (DETROIT DEMOCRATIC VOTER): We debate.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2 (DETROIT DEMOCRATIC VOTER): No, no, no.
GONYEA: Debate (laughter).
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: It's all civil.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: It would be my (unintelligible).
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: We just tell each other, oh, OK, that's nice.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: She researches facts and then throw them in my face.
GONYEA: Ah, OK.
GONYEA: So they came to the polls together. And right there - you know, two African American voters, and you have the generational divide right in their household, you know, the mother for Biden, the daughter for Senator Sanders.
HOBSON: Juana, back to you in St. Louis - you've been looking at Sanders and the youth vote. His campaign has stressed turning them out in big numbers. Are you seeing that there?
SUMMERS: Yeah. That's right. That's one of his big theories of the case is that he can bring in a slew of nonvoters including young folks. But when we've looked at the exit polls across states, including in Missouri, young voters - and I mean, folks under the age of 30 - have not turned out in high of percentages. And as they do turnout, Bernie Sanders is indeed winning them.
The challenge with that, though, is that older voters, who largely have cleaved to Joe Biden now that this is effectively a two-candidate race, turn out in far greater shares of the vote, meaning that though Bernie Sanders is strong with young voters, he's been unable to eclipse Joe Biden in a number of places.
HOBSON: That is NPR's Juana Summers in St. Louis and Don Gonyea in Detroit, Mich.
DAVIS: We're joined now by Congressman James Clyburn of South Carolina, the House majority whip. Congressman Clyburn, how are you?
JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC, REP): I'm fine. How are you?
DAVIS: I'm good. Thank you for calling in. My first question to you would be, when you decided to get off the fence and endorse Joe Biden just a couple of weeks ago, did you anticipate that it would be credited as the catalyst that turned around his campaign?
CLYBURN: No, I did not. To be truthful, I felt that Joe Biden was really not being Joe Biden. I've known him for a long, long time. And for some strange reason, his campaign just was not catching on, and there were things that I knew about him that I thought the public needed to know. And so...
DAVIS: What were those?
CLYBURN: I'm sorry?
DAVIS: What was that?
CLYBURN: Well, Joe has the kind of empathetic way about him, having the kind of experiences he's had. When I wrote my memoirs, I called it "Blessed Experiences." And in that memoir, I said that all of my experiences have not been pleasant, but I've considered all of them to be blessings. And to grow up in a household where your dad loses his job and got to move to another city in search of making a living, that's an experience that sensitizes you to a certain way of life. And then to win an election and subsequently experience your wife and child being killed in a horrific automobile accident, that gave him some experiences that I knew he needed to share with people.
Overcoming stammering as a child - stuttering, I guess, is the better word - is something that I thought he needed to share. So I just sat down with him and told him that I'm going to endorse the morning after debate, but here's what I think you need to look at in making your responses to questions and making your speeches. And I just felt it needed to be done to get through.
DAVIS: Well, if you look at this early results this evening - early calls in Missouri and Mississippi right out of the gate for Joe Biden - do you think that his campaign has turned it around, and do you anticipate that he is on track to be your party's nominee?
CLYBURN: Yes, I do. I really do. I think when the night is over, Joe Biden will be the prohibitive favorite to win the Democratic nomination. And quite frankly, if the night ends the way it has begun, then I think it is time for us to shut this primary down; it's time for us to cancel the rest of these debates because you don't do anything but get yourself in trouble if you continue this contest when it's obvious that the numbers will not shake out for you.
DAVIS: Just to be clear, are you saying that if Bernie Sanders does not win any states tonight, you believe he should exit the race?
CLYBURN: Well, I think if he does not win any contest tonight, I think we will be at a point where Joe Biden will be the prohibitive nominee of the party. And I think the DNC, the Democratic National Committee, should then step in, make an assessment and determine whether or not they'll have any more debates. The contest will still go on.
But I will tell you about these debates - I remember Al Gore running against the caucus. A lot of people think that the caucus lost his election because of the Willie Horton ad, which was perfected by a South Carolinian who was working for the Republicans at the time, Lee Atwater. But if you go back and look at it - and I always studied this stuff - you will see that the Willie Horton ad did not come from Lee Atwater. It came from Al Gore in the primary.
DAVIS: So you're saying a prolonged primary will only hurt the nominee.
CLYBURN: That's exactly (ph) what I think because if you get to the point that it gets contentious, people will say things, things will happen that you might not ever overcome.
DAVIS: One thing I want to ask you about is that one of the things that - or maybe the thing that turned Joe Biden's campaign around was the support of African American voters. And since you're so confident he's going to be the nominee, it raises the question of a running mate. Do you think that Joe Biden has or should or will pick an African American to be on his ticket?
CLYBURN: Female - if you add female to that, then we can agree. I really believe that we have reached a point in this country where African American women need to be rewarded for the loyalty that they've given to this party. So I would really be pushing for an African American female to go on the ticket. And there are a lot of them out here - I mean, Marcia Fudge, Val Demings.
DAVIS: Two of your Democratic colleagues in the House.
CLYBURN: They're two of my colleagues in the House. Karen Bass - just an outstanding legislator, former speaker of the California House - and then there's Kamala Harris, so we've got a deep bench. Stacey Abrams - Keisha Lance Bottoms, the mayor of Atlanta, would be good. There are a lot of African American women who would serve well.
DAVIS: Certainly, women that would be happy to have the James Clyburn seal of endorsement - I want to - before you go, I want to bring in NPR's Ron Elving. He also has a question for you.
ELVING: Congressman Clyburn, I'm sure that the Biden campaign is taking notes carefully as you name those people. But before we get to the point where you could actually end the debates, we would first need to get through tonight, and Michigan is still out there. Do you see the vote in Michigan going so differently tonight from the way it went four years ago when Bernie Sanders won? And what would you attribute that to?
CLYBURN: Well, I spend a lot of my time studying these issues. And FiveThirtyEight has taken a look at the modeling from four years ago and the modeling of this year, and they indicate that the errors that were made four years ago have been corrected in these modelings. And they feel that these polls are much more accurate this year than they were before.
So what I said - that if this evening ends the way it began, then I think it is time for DN - the Democratic National Committee to make an assessment. So that's all I'm saying. It may not end the way it began, but if it does and there's been some kind of a sweep, then it's time for us...
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CLYBURN: ...To ratchet this thing down. But everybody - I'm looking at the surveys. The No. 1 with everybody - even some of them say, health care, or income inequality, but everybody says, No. 1 with me is getting rid of this president that we currently have in the White House.
DAVIS: And Congressman, before we let you go, one more question - NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson.
LIASSON: Yeah. Hi, Congressman Clyburn.
LIASSON: You talked about the danger of the race going on too long and that maybe the candidates come up with attacks that really wound the guy who's the eventual nominee. There's not too many things that Bernie Sanders could come up with that Donald Trump hasn't already thought of to use against Joe Biden. And what I'm wondering is, I hear a lot of Democrats saying that Biden hasn't figured out how to respond to the attacks on his son or his mental acuity. What do you think Biden should be doing better to respond to both of those attacks?
CLYBURN: I don't think there's anything wrong with him mentally. I'm older than both of those guys. And so I know that Biden's big problem in that category has to do with the things he must do in order to overcome his stuttering. And that is a big problem for him.
DAVIS: All right.
CLYBURN: He has now made it public. People now understand it. He now knows that the public knows it.
DAVIS: Got it.
CLYBURN: And so he's not...
DAVIS: Sorry, Congressman James Clyburn, we have to leave it there.
CLYBURN: Very good.
DAVIS: Thank you so much for your time.
CLYBURN: Thank you.
DAVIS: And you are listening to live Special Coverage of Big Tuesday from NPR News.
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HOBSON: Wow. First of all, let me just say wow to what James Clyburn just said there, that, basically, if it's a sweep tonight, that he believes that they should cancel the rest of the debates, Mara.
LIASSON: That - I think that's always a dangerous thing to call for because one of the things that you hear all the candidates say is they're deeply respectful of their opponents and the decision those opponents have to make to stay in or not stay in.
HOBSON: Well, let's see what Debbie Dingell says. She's our next guest here - congresswoman representing Michigan's 12th District. What do you think about that, Debbie Dingell? Because we have called Missouri and Mississippi for Biden. Michigan, still - we're still waiting to hear. But what do you think about what James Clyburn said there, that he thinks that if it's a sweep for Biden, they should cancel the rest of the debates?
DEBBIE DINGELL (D-MI, REP): You know, I think that we've got to get through tonight and that what I remember from four years ago was the strife, the anger, the vitriolicness (ph) after the primary season. And I was one of the people that predicted Bernie would win Michigan four years ago. Nobody believed me. And that sort of anger never tapped (ph) down. I am so focused - I was neutral in this primary.
I am so focused on what matters, which is our win in November, that I think - if you look at the vote today in Michigan, the lines in Ann Arbor in Michigan, the young people - some of the early results are showing that almost 80% of the kids have voted for Bernie Sanders. You don't shut that off. We need everybody engaged. We got to pull ourselves together as a party. And I want to keep moving forward towards winning in November. And that means that you don't tell somebody they got to get out. They've got to reach their own conclusions.
HOBSON: So you made that prediction four years ago. Are you making a prediction tonight? Who do you think's going to take Michigan?
DINGELL: I think Bernie will win my district, but I'm not sure he will win any others. And I think it's Joe Biden's to lose tonight. And from what I'm hearing on the ground, getting some of the results, I see Vice President Biden is running very strong, especially in the African American community. He's winning in Detroit. But, you know, there - by the way, I will say that Ann Arbor's numbers are way up in terms of turnout from four years ago. But I think it is likely. But it's closer than - it's not going to be 40 points, which some people were saying. I think it'll be a closer margin. And he's likely to win, Vice President Biden.
HOBSON: Just finally, just about 30 seconds here - but if Biden does become the nominee, what's going to be the challenge ahead of him to try to get Bernie Sanders' supporters to come on board with him? They feel the economy is fundamentally flawed right now.
DINGELL: So you're - he's got to bring them in. He's got to give young people hope. He's got to show how he's worried about the future generations. They're worried about the environment. They care about health care - all of those issues. He's got to reach out and bring them in. And he can. And Bernie can do it the other way. We got to bring everybody together.
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HOBSON: That is Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, representing Michigan's 12th District. We're still waiting to hear from Michigan, maybe at the top of the hour. Debbie Dingell, thank you.
DINGELL: Thank you.
HOBSON: And you're listening to live Special Coverage of Big Tuesday from NPR News.
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DAVIS: Vice President Joe Biden is projected to win in two contests tonight - Mississippi and Missouri - with four more states still up for grabs. This is live Special Coverage from NPR News. I'm Susan Davis. Polls will close at the top of the hour in the biggest competition of the night, Michigan. We're also keeping an eye on how the spread of coronavirus may be affecting the polls and the candidates. Joining us now in studio is NPR's Pam Fessler, who covers voting and election security. Hey, Pam.
PAM FESSLER (BYLINE): Hi.
DAVIS: So any sign of trouble today at the polls?
FESSLER: Actually, very little. I mean, we saw none of the extremely long lines that we saw last week in the primaries. There weren't a lot of reports about machines breaking down or technology. That said, there were a few cases of poll workers asking people for ID in Missouri where they weren't supposed to. We did hear some long lines in Michigan at the universities. In that state, you are allowed to vote - I mean, to register - same-day registration. So it looked like a lot of students who were actually registering and voting for the first time today.
We also had - in Michigan, a car drove into one polling site. Nobody was injured, and it was an accident. And then in St. Louis, another car drove into a polling site. And in that case, the driver got out and started threatening poll workers. And they had to shut down the precincts and move them. But that was pretty much it.
DAVIS: So on the whole, good news for election security.
DAVIS: One thing, though, that is obviously on voters' minds right now is coronavirus. We saw today already Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders canceled the rallies that they were anticipating they were going to have tonight. What other impacts are we seeing coronavirus having on voting behavior? Or are we seeing any?
FESSLER: Well, we're seeing it on a couple of things - obviously, you know, as you mentioned, the campaigns. The campaigns - they were supposed to be having - both Biden and Sanders were supposed to be having these big rallies tonight in Cleveland. They were canceled. They said they were doing that because of health officials were advising them to - Cuyahoga County, where Cleveland's located, has three confirmed cases of the illness. Also, this evening, Biden announced that he was going to cancel another rally he planned for Thursday in Tampa, and instead, he's going to be giving a speech in Delaware about responding to the emergency. And then we heard that the DNC also announced that there's going to be no live audience in the debate between Sanders and Biden this Sunday in Arizona.
So on the Democratic side, it's definitely having a big impact. So far, President Trump is saying they're going to decide on a case-by-case basis what he's going to be doing as far as holding rallies. And they - the White House has - and I mean, the campaign has announced that he's going to have an event this Thursday in Milwaukee, a "Catholics for Trump" event. It's not clear how many people are going to be there, but he will be in attendance. And then we also - I've seen a lot of preparations as far as polling places for voters...
DAVIS: Right. I think about election security - I mean, they're already dealing with the election security question. But now you're layering this public health question on top of it. I mean, what - how are local officials handling that?
FESSLER: Yeah. So just about everywhere, they are here equipping polling sites with hand sanitizers and disinfectant wipes. They are telling poll workers to make sure that they clean off all the surfaces. In Michigan, voters were told today that if you don't want to be too close to people in line, you know, keep some distance between you. In Washington state, whereas you know that's almost all mail-in ballots, the voters were told to seal their ballots by using a wet sponge or a cloth.
DAVIS: Versus licking them.
FESSLER: Versus lick - don't lick. And then the workers are actually using gloves to open up all of the envelopes. And then on top of that, we have all these preparations that are being made in other states that are going to be having primaries, say, next week and the next coming weeks. So in Ohio, they are going to be moving about 128 voting sites that were supposed to be in senior living centers.
DAVIS: Oh, wow.
FESSLER: And they're going to be going to different places. So that's a lot of disruption.
DAVIS: All right. That's NPR's Pam Fessler. Thanks so much, Pam.
FESSLER: Thank you.
HOBSON: Well, we have a former presidential candidate in the studio with us right now, Marianne Williamson, self-help author and spiritual adviser who is endorsing Bernie Sanders. Welcome to you.
MARIANNE WILLIAMSON (FORMER DEM PRES CAND): Oh, thank you so much for having me.
HOBSON: And you support Bernie Sanders. Does he need to win Michigan tonight to stay in this race?
WILLIAMSON: Well, that will really be up to him, of course. We hope that he will win Michigan. It doesn't look real good right now. That will be a very sad, sad thing for progressives, for those of us who support Bernie. But whether or not he continues, of course, is up to him. We're with him. As long as he's in there, we're in there with him.
HOBSON: Do you think he has a path if he loses Michigan tonight to the nomination?
WILLIAMSON: Well, you know, I like American democracy when we leave those things in the hands of the voters. And that's the problem I have with this entire process starting from the very, very beginning. You know, I spent a year in the belly of that beast, and more and more, it seems to me that's a literal description. This was not a great celebration of American democracy that we've had here for the last year. We have had the process of control and manipulation by the DNC in a way...
HOBSON: In what way? What are you saying that the DNC did?
WILLIAMSON: Well, first of all, that whole reality TV show which is the debates - you know, the voters - you know, Thomas Jefferson - if I may wax romantic about American democracy here for a moment, Thomas Jefferson said that the only safe repository for power in the United States is in the hands of the people. So the primary system was set up so that the voters would decide who narrowed the field. That was the whole point of Iowa, and New Hampshire, and Nevada and South Carolina.
Rather, the DNC which is - you know, political parties aren't even mentioned in the Constitution. Let's remember that George Washington warned us against them in his farewell address, saying that it would form factions of men who put their factions before their country. So instead, you have these debates; you have the polls; you have the numbers; you have the requirements; you have the money, all of those things which were the DNC's way of narrowing the field before we even got to Iowa.
Now, one of the things that I found as a candidate was that the voters themselves are very, very intelligent. I think that's something that is really missed by the political establishment. The American people are not stupid. And what I found with the voters in those early primary states is that they were more than capable of handling all this if it had been truly left to them. Instead, there has been so much manipulation including, I believe, that Monday-night drama before Super Tuesday.
HOBSON: But Super Tuesday was a day when Joe Biden, who hadn't put any money into some states, didn't have any campaigning in some states, still won those states. Those were real voters that turned out and voted for him and decided for themselves that that's who they wanted to support.
WILLIAMSON: Yes, I understand that they decided for themselves. And I certainly have a respect for the American voter, and I have respect on a level of personhood for Joe Biden. But I do not agree with Dana Bash when she said that was just this organic unfolding of the...
HOBSON: You don't think that was organic.
WILLIAMSON: Absolutely not. You tell me. Look at Amy Klobuchar in that last debate. This was not a woman planning to get out of the race that week. Look at Pete Buttigieg at that debate that week. These were not people planning to get into - out of that race. Something happened. And any, I think, intelligent observer realizes it.
HOBSON: So do you - there are a lot of people who will hear you say that and Democrats who really want to beat President Trump, who will hear you say that and say, she is setting the stage for Bernie Sanders supporters to sit back at home or even vote for President Trump if Bernie is not the nominee because they will believe that the process was rigged.
WILLIAMSON: No. First of all, if you want to talk about setting the stage for a loss to Trump, I'll tell you what setting the stage for a loss to Trump - for us to have a second election in which tens of millions of young people - just like Debbie Dingell said in your interview a few minutes ago, you want to set the stage for a loss to Trump, you tell tens of millions of young people, who do not know how they're going to get out from under these college loans, who do not know how they will ever be able to afford health care, who do not know how they'll ever be able to really get in the game and live their dreams, to sit down, shut up and do as they're told. That's not - I think the only chance we have here is to have some real truth telling and to work this out.
Of course, the most important thing is to beat Trump. But look what happened last time. Tens of millions of Bernie supporters just being told to be good didn't work last time. And I think I agree with what Debbie said a few minutes ago. Joe Biden's going to have to work very, very hard. He can't just assume that a bunch of young people who feel that something has happened here to once again shut them down can just be counted on and taken for granted in November.
HOBSON: Mara Liasson.
LIASSON: And, you know, one of the things that Bernie Sanders said all along was - his theory of the case was that he was going to bring out young people in record numbers. And we did have a tiny uptick - 30% more of 18- to 29-year-olds in Iowa. But the turnout among 18- to 29-year-old voters has been down since 2016, when you have Bernie Sanders out there supposedly inspiring them. What happened?
WILLIAMSON: I don't know what happened, and it's a big deal. And you're right. That's what he needed to have happen. And it didn't happen. Listen; don't get me wrong. I'm certainly - we must defeat Donald Trump. I believe Donald Trump is an existential threat to American democracy. So there's no question about that. But the time for us to be duking this out and having this conversation is right now.
LIASSON: But if Bernie Sanders can't bring them out, who will bring them out?
WILLIAMSON: Well, listen; if he didn't bring them out and Joe Biden wins, then the next - listen; I'll be the first person. The pivot will be in about 15 seconds. I did it last time, too. There's no question about that. Then the question turns, if that is what happens, if Joe Biden wins, then it's going to be about talking very loudly, as loud as we can, to Joe Biden.
Joe Biden has two parts of himself. Joe Biden is not stupid. Joe Biden is the one who was articulating four years ago why he felt Bernie was so popular. He said it was because Bernie articulated the fact that so many millions of Americans know that the economy is rigged against them. When you have 1% of Americans controlling more wealth than the bottom 90%, when you have 40% of all Americans unable to cover a $1,000 unexpected expenditure, you have a problem on your hands.
And last time, only two people named the problem, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. That problem still exists. It's even been exacerbated by Donald Trump. But going back to what happened before Donald Trump is not the answer. And that's what we need to be doing if Biden wins this nomination - is to make sure that Joe Biden gets that and not only to listen to his establishment friends.
HOBSON: So what could Joe Biden say to people like you, supporting Bernie Sanders, that would make you believe that he's got the message and that he is speaking to, especially, young people?
WILLIAMSON: You know, I wrote a book that was published in 1997 called "Healing The Soul Of America," so it's been kind of funny for me to hear Joe Biden say that the theme of his candidacy is healing the soul of America. I would ask him to read the book because it's not just about the book title. It's not just what you say; it's what policies you are proposing. If Joe Biden wants to bring this country together, he's going to do more than - have to do more than just say, I understand. He's going to have to do more than just promise to address the pain on the periphery that so many people feel. He needs to be willing to challenge the underlying forces in the American economy, including the undue money that contributes to political campaigns that make all that suffering inevitable. He must address on the level of policy the despair of so many tens of millions of Americans.
HOBSON: That is former 2020 presidential candidate Marianne Williamson, who is now supporting Bernie Sanders. Thank you so much for joining us.
WILLIAMSON: Thank you very much.
HOBSON: And let me just turn to Danielle Kurtzleben, NPR political correspondent, who's been looking at some of the exit polls coming in tonight. What are you seeing?
DANIELLE KURTZLEBEN (BYLINE): Right. So tonight, I'm really looking at a few different areas. One is this question that is being asked of voters, which candidate do you trust most to help in a crisis, which, of course, the coronavirus...
HOBSON: We're in one right now.
KURTZLEBEN: Absolutely. And you can imagine that is at the forefront of voters' minds. Aside from that, gender and racial splits, which tend to be pretty big splits in elections, even among the Democratic primary electorate. And at a time when Bernie Sanders is behind in the delegates, looking at the demographics, as we were just talking about the demographics like young voters, who tend to support Bernie Sanders - are they coming out? So this early in the night, we have results for two states, Mississippi and Missouri. And Mississippi - we can say Joe Biden kind of ran the table amongst most demographics. Missouri is where we have some of these more interesting numbers.
HOBSON: And in Missouri, white voters are the majority. Who's winning there?
KURTZLEBEN: Right. So among white voters, Joe Biden is still winning. Now, Bernie Sanders does better among them than black voters. White voters - about half went for Biden, 38% went for Sanders. Black voters in Missouri - 69% for Joe Biden, 21% for Bernie Sanders, so a much bigger gap there.
HOBSON: What else are you watching tonight?
KURTZLEBEN: Once again, like I said, the gap between men and women, because women - 2-to-1 in Missouri, roughly - are going for Joe Biden. Men are quite a bit closer, nearly - not quite half and half, slightly more for Joe Biden. But one really interesting thing to look at underneath those gender splits is white college and white non-college people because white non-college men tend to be much more for Bernie Sanders. White non-college women tend to be much more for Joe Biden. So I'll be seeing how that drives gender splits tonight.
HOBSON: That is NPR political correspondent Danielle Kurtzleben.
Just to give you an update on where we are right now, we have called Missouri and Mississippi, both for Joe Biden. The polls close in Michigan in about five minutes. Maybe we'll have a call to make at that point. Maybe it'll take a bit longer. But either way, you're listening to live Special Coverage of Big Tuesday from NPR News.
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DAVIS: And we're joined now by Lyda Krewson. She's the mayor of St. Louis, Mo. Mayor, welcome to the program.
LYDA KREWSON (ST LOUIS, MO MAYOR): Thank you so much. So glad to join you on this exciting election night.
DAVIS: Well, we already have a call in your home state, so let's get right to it. You know...
KREWSON: I know.
DAVIS: Joe Biden outspent Bernie Sanders in Missouri, but he didn't outwork him. Biden had no field offices. Bernie Sanders had four offices in major cities there. As I'm sure you well know, Bernie Sanders narrowly lost Missouri to Clinton - Hillary Clinton - by less than 1 percentage point four years ago. Big win for Biden tonight. What does his win tell you about the state of this nomination race?
KREWSON: Well, I think Missourians are going for Joe Biden because they trust Joe Biden. They understand - they've seen Joe Biden in the White House, of course, as the vice president. And I think Democrats in Missouri really do want to replace Donald Trump. Here we are in the midst of a serious health crisis in our country, and this is about science, not about politics. And we need to rely on the steady hand of Joe Biden.
DAVIS: I wonder, because you bring up a public health crisis, obviously, coronavirus is something very much in the news. It's a real-time crisis. Do you think that it played a factor in voters who are making up their mind in the close of this race?
KREWSON: You know, it's interesting. I don't have any evidence that it has. But I think that anytime the country is in a crisis, those of us who want to make sure that our country is on the right track, that our word is good, that we are relying on science, not on fears, I think then you - we've turned to Joe Biden.
DAVIS: You said - and you said - you've endorsed Biden. When you did, you called for unity and civility. If Biden is going to be the nominee, as you would like him to be, how do you think that he brings those Bernie Sanders supporters who are still so supportive of him - he still has a significant number of delegates. How does Joe Biden make sure that those voters feel welcome in the Democratic Party and show up in November?
KREWSON: Well, I think Joe Biden has certainly reached out to all segments of the population - young, old, black, white, gay, straight. And I think that that is a real mark of a leader, and that is to bring people together after you win and for the good of the country and, of course, for the good of winning the presidency.
DAVIS: I want to ask you specifically about - I'd be curious if you have a take on it - is the idea of young voters. One, Bernie Sanders thought he would bring more of them into the party. But also looking forward to the general election, no matter who the nominee is, Democrats need young voters to show up. And one of the trends we are seeing throughout these early primaries is that young voters are showing up at smaller numbers than they did four years ago. And is that a warning sign for Democrats to the bigger picture here?
KREWSON: You know, it could be. But we also know that in primaries, young voters do not tend to show up as much. I mean, we are always - every campaign is trying to be sure that we can attract those young voters. But young voters do show up later.
DAVIS: Mayor, we'll have to leave it there. But, Mayor Lyda Krewson, thank you so much for your time.
KREWSON: Thank you.
DAVIS: This is live Special Coverage of Big Tuesday from NPR News. We'll be right back.
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HOBSON: Vice President Joe Biden is projected to win in two states so far tonight. Four more states are up for grabs. From NPR News, this is live Special Coverage of Democratic primaries in six states. It's Big Tuesday. I'm Jeremy Hobson.
DAVIS: And I'm Susan Davis. Both Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders canceled events today because of coronavirus concerns.
HOBSON: Still, Michigan is the biggest prize of the night, a symbol of what Democrats need to win in 2020. One hundred and twenty-five delegates are at stake there, where all polls have now closed. Sanders won the state in 2016 against Hillary Clinton. His supporters hope he can pull off another win tonight.
DAVIS: We'll have more on all of that and the results as they come in. Stay with us.
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HOBSON: Let's go first to NPR senior Washington editor and correspondent Ron Elving. Ron, the polls just closed in Michigan. And unlike an hour ago when we were able to immediately call Missouri, which indicates that it was maybe a big win for Joe Biden there, we're not able to make a projection yet with Michigan.
ELVING: That's right. The Associated Press has not projected a winner in Michigan, although we do have now something along the lines of a fifth of the precincts reporting. And in some media, you are seeing projections of how much of the vote has been counted in that one-fifth of the precincts. And that gives an indication that a 10 or 11 percentage point lead for Joe Biden is a pretty healthy lead for this stage of the evening.
Back in 2016, when Bernie Sanders wound up winning by about 1 1/2 percentage points over Hillary Clinton, he was in the lead from early in the evening on, and it was a question of whether or not she could catch him.
At this point, Joe Biden is up by 10 or 11 points, and we are watching to see how the rest of the state comes in and counts in terms of counties where one or the other is leading. Joe Biden has 37 counties where he's ahead, and Bernie Sanders has five. And so we're waiting and thinking that there may be a call fairly soon in Michigan, but we're waiting for that AP projection.
HOBSON: And remind us why Michigan is so important. It is just one of the 50 states. It's the biggest prize tonight, but it doesn't compare to some of the states that we've seen and will see in the course of the primaries.
ELVING: That's right. It's 125 delegates, which is a big chunk of tonight's 352. But more significantly, perhaps, looking down the road, it's one of the 10 most populous states in the country. And it was one of the three states that Democrats were counting on as their firewall in 2016 that all went for Donald Trump in the end by extremely narrow margins. In Michigan, it was only about 11,000 votes, and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin as well. None of them had voted for a Republican for president since the 1980s, and it was a great shock to see them all go for Donald Trump in 2016. So that's why people are watching Michigan tonight. It's the first of those three to vote this year.
HOBSON: Mara Liasson.
LIASSON: Democrats are really interested to see if turnout is way up because that's the one thing that could give them an indication of what might happen in Michigan in November. I mean, it's one thing for the Democratic primary to play out there, but Michigan is a state they absolutely have to win. As a matter of fact, they have to win back all three blue wall states - Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania - to win the White House, assuming no other state flips. Donald Trump only needs to hang on to one of them to win. He can lose Michigan and Pennsylvania if he hangs on to Wisconsin.
HOBSON: Let's go to NPR's Scott Detrow, political correspondent covering the Bernie Sanders campaign. Scott, you're in Vermont now because the rally was canceled in Ohio and Bernie Sanders flew back to his home state of Vermont. I have to say that in the last hour, as we've been watching the results, we haven't really heard much that's encouraging for Bernie Sanders tonight.
DETROW: Yeah. And I think that the most discouraging news for the Sanders camp are these poll results out of Michigan so far. I mean, for everything that Ron said about Michigan's symbolic importance, I would emphasize Michigan as one of the three states that has psychically hung over this entire primary for more than a year, with candidates arguing they're the candidate who can best beat Donald Trump in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania.
But beyond that for Bernie Sanders, Michigan was the site of his biggest upset victory in 2016 over Hillary Clinton. The polls all had her up big by a - had her up big. He won. Nobody expected it. And that really was the wind that fueled his campaign to go all the way to just before the convention and see out every state. This time around, that does not look like it's happening so far. Bernie Sanders really bet everything about this week on Michigan, campaigning there more than any other state, canceling events in Missouri and Mississippi, in Illinois to spend more time in Michigan.
He spoke to reporters at a polling site today. He was asked, is this a do-or-die state? Is this a must-win? And in the moment, he tried to downplay it a little bit. Let's listen to that.
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BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT, SEN/DEM PRES CAND): Let's not say what you have to win. We have to win them all. And, you know, we are - I don't know - 80 or 90 delegates behind. We've got a whole lot of delegates to go.
DETROW: And he's right. You know, Biden and he are neck and neck in delegates right now. It looks like Biden, at the moment, will probably come out of tonight with more delegates. But still, this was the - this is the biggest state on the map tonight. And beyond that, next week's states do not look particularly strong for Bernie Sanders, especially looking at the results of the past two weeks.
HOBSON: Scott, Mara Liasson has a question. But before we get to that, I just want to ask, do you expect to hear from Senator Sanders tonight in Vermont?
DETROW: We're not sure yet. We're still waiting to hear from the campaign and what the plans are. Things were really scrambled. He had expected to hold a rally in Cleveland tonight. He canceled it just before everyone was about to board the plane to fly to Cleveland. So he's here in Burlington, Vt., where he lives, where he was mayor. And the campaign seems to be figuring out what the plan is. And, of course, as state after state is being called for Joe Biden right now, I'm sure that complicates the plans a little bit more. But it's mostly not expecting to be in this state at all this evening.
LIASSON: Scott, I'm wondering when you talked to Sanders' people, what is their answer to the big mystery of the Sanders campaign this year, is, No. 1, why he's not bringing out as many young people as last time, but, No. 2, why he's not doing better than he did in 2016. Do you - do they think it's because of...
HOBSON: Mara, I've just got to interrupt...
HOBSON: ...You there because we have a call to make, which is The Associated Press has just called Michigan for Joe Biden. So that's three states for Joe Biden and the biggest prize of all tonight...
HOBSON: ...Michigan, going to Biden.
LIASSON: So do they - I'm wondering if they think one of the reasons that he's not doing as well against Joe Biden as he did against Hillary is that a lot of his vote in 2016 was an anti-Hillary vote, not a pro-Sanders vote. What do they think?
DETROW: Well, I think if you...
DETROW: If you look at the state-by-state analysis of how Biden is doing compared to Clinton, I think that's certainly a big part of it. Sanders was betting he could grow his coalition. And when it was clear on Super Tuesday that he had not and that the consolidated field really underscored that fact, his campaign seemed at a bit of a loss. And it's been hard to tell.
I think one thing that I really noticed this week was that Bernie Sanders shifted from confidently predicting record turnout young voters showing up to almost begging his crowds to get their friends to vote. He was in Ann Arbor in front of a huge crowd, and he spent a lot of time saying, you need to vote. You need to get your friends to vote. And it was a real shift in tone.
And just to underscore this projection, it makes it really, really, really hard for Bernie Sanders to get back in this race at this point in time, having lost Michigan to Joe Biden, according to The Associated Press. I mean, statistically, there's still a way if there's a drastic shift in the race. But this is a major blow to a campaign that coming out of Nevada seemed to be in the driver's seat.
LIASSON: Does he have a lot of rallies scheduled in the next week or two?
DETROW: He does not at the moment. I think the campaign was waiting to see what was going to happen with the results of this week and, also, of course, these coronavirus concerns. Both Sanders and Biden are really up in the air at the moment about what they're planning next. And there's also the debate coming up as well. Usually, there's some prep time before those events.
HOBSON: That's NPR's Scott Detrow joining us from where Bernie Sanders is tonight in Vermont.
DAVIS: And we're joined now by Guy Cecil. He's chairman of Priorities USA, one of the top Democratic superPACs in this election. Guy, welcome.
GUY CECIL (CHAIRMAN, PRIORITIES USA): Thanks for having me.
DAVIS: We have, obviously, some breaking news out of Michigan. Joe Biden is projected to win that state. Your superPAC has remained neutral in this primary so far, but it looks like that's about to change.
CECIL: Yeah. Well, I think what tonight has made clear is that the delegate math is now a straight line to Joe Biden's nomination - that between the big wins and - what we expect to be big wins, anyway - in Missouri and Mississippi, with a solid win in Michigan, I expect he will, if not win outright, accrue a significant number of delegates in the remaining contests - that Joe Biden's going to be the nominee. And so we're going to do everything we can to help him in the effort looking forward to November.
DAVIS: What does everything you can look like?
CECIL: Well, so far, we have been advertising on television and online in several states. We have been up in Arizona and Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Florida online. We start television ads, actually, in Michigan tomorrow. So a lot of this is just making sure that while we lead up to the convention and while the primary continues to move forward, we're staying focused on Donald Trump, one, in talking about the harm he's doing to the economy, and, two, making sure that we don't allow Donald Trump and his allies to attack Joe Biden without a response.
And so we're going to be there to provide response, to point out what Trump is doing to the country and to make sure that the resources are there leading up to the Democratic convention and then beyond.
DAVIS: Earlier tonight, we had House Majority Whip James Clyburn on the program. And he said if Joe Biden swept tonight, he wanted some changes. This is what he had to say.
CLYBURN: If tonight ends the way it has begun, then I think it is time for us to shift this primary now. It's time for us to cancel the rest of these debates because you don't do anything but get stuff in trouble if you continue this contest when it's obvious that the numbers will not stick out for you.
DAVIS: What do you think about that? Do you think Democrats are ill-served by continuing to have, specifically, debates going forward if you think the math is impossible for Bernie Sanders?
CECIL: Well, I think it's safe to say that the next debate will probably go forward. I don't know what the DNC has planning - planned beyond that. But I also think it's important that we honor the campaign that Senator Sanders has put together, that we respect the voters and caucusgoers that have voted for him and that plan on voting for him next week. And I think it's important that we do that because we need to make sure we have a unified Democratic Party going forward.
So I'm not ready to make predictions or suggestions about, quote-unquote, "shutting down the primary." But certainly, I think it's really critical that Democrats move quickly to unify behind the likely nominee because we're going to need everybody working together to really take on Donald Trump and his conservative allies.
DAVIS: As someone who is committed to spending - I believe it's about $150 million your group has committed to spending...
CECIL: That's right.
DAVIS: ...Before the convention - I want to ask you about another potential money factor in this race, Michael Bloomberg. He obviously got out of the race but is still saying that he is committed to spending any untold sums of money to help Democrats get elected. What do you think of Bloomberg's commitment? Have sort of the money apparatus of the Democratic Party been reaching out to him to see how you can work together?
CECIL: Well, you know, we worked very closely with Mayor Bloomberg's operation in 2018 in the work that we did to support Senate and House candidates around the country. My expectation is that we will - we'll do that again as they begin building their operation. I think one of the things that you'll find on the Democratic and progressive side is that we understand that the only way we're going to be successful is if we work together, and if we make sure that all of our firepower is focused on the general election and that we're organized not just on the ground but on the airwaves. And so I'm optimistic that we will not only build a great relationship with Mayor Bloomberg's operation but with all of the organizations who have been on the ground for really the last 3 1/2 years leading up into - until November.
DAVIS: So you think he's good for his commitment to spend that money.
CECIL: Well, I certainly hope so.
DAVIS: All right. That is Guy Cecil, chairman of Priorities USA. Thanks so much, Guy.
CECIL: Thanks for having me.
DAVIS: Mara Liasson, NPR's Mara Liasson, I want to come out of that and talk to you. Guy Cecil says he believes this is over and that Joe Biden will be the nominee. Is it that clear-cut?
LIASSON: Well, I don't know if it's clear-cut. We'll know a little bit more after tonight is over. I think it's really interesting, though, how he pushed back against Clyburn's idea that we should just, you know, close the whole thing down after tonight. And what he said - this respect for the campaign of the guy who is probably not going to win - that's really important. That's a prerequisite to unifying the party. You can't just say, hey, you lost; get out of here.
DAVIS: Get out.
LIASSON: You know, you have to - it's a courtship. It's a long process of making the people who lost not only feel like they matter but that their issues are going to be absorbed into the winning candidate's campaign. I mean, that's what winners do. They take the energy and the issues and the passion of the person they just beat, and they absorb it into their own campaign.
And that's what many Democrats are waiting for - to see if Joe Biden does because Bernie Sanders did speak for a whole generation of people who find as they become adults that they can't afford health care, education, retirement or housing. I mean, those are basic, big things the economy is failing for them. It's not providing broadly shared prosperity or economic mobility. That's what Bernie spoke to.
HOBSON: And he's the only one who...
LIASSON: And Joe Biden...
HOBSON: He's the only one who has spoken to those concerns like that.
LIASSON: As directly - I mean, Joe Biden will tell you that he has an answer for every one of those. To make health care more affordable, he's for a public option. You know, he has a cancel - some kind of a cancellation of student debt. But he hasn't spoken to them with the directness and passion of Bernie Sanders. The thing I was going to ask Guy Cecil is, as an independent expenditure group, big superPAC, who he said - he's supposed to respond to Trump's attacks on Biden, how does he respond? How does Joe Biden respond to the concerted attacks from the Republicans on Biden's mental state - they say he's senile - and the issues with his son?
DAVIS: All right. That's NPR's Mara Liasson. And as we close out, Joe - the segment, Joe Biden has won in Michigan, Mississippi and Missouri this evening - three more states still to come. And you are listening to live Special Coverage of Big Tuesday from NPR News.
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HOBSON: And let's go to Abigail Censky, who's a reporter with WKAR in Lansing, Mich. Obviously, as we said there, Abigail, we have called Michigan, based on The Associated Press, for Joe Biden. Where are you right now, and what are you seeing?
ABIGAIL CENSKY (BYLINE): I am at a small gathering of Bernie Sanders supporters in Mount Pleasant, Mich., which is in Isabella County. It's one of those two - one of 12 counties in Michigan that went twice for President Obama and then for President Trump. And people here - really, a hush fell over the room when they saw the projection that Biden would win Michigan.
HOBSON: And big lines we've been hearing about in Michigan - have you been seeing that today?
CENSKY: Absolutely, in our college towns, especially Kalamazoo, East Lansing and Ann Arbor.
HOBSON: Both Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders' campaigns saw Michigan as the biggest prize of the night. What were you seeing in the final week of campaigning around the state?
CENSKY: Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders absolutely blitzed the state, making appearances in five cities in Michigan, going to Detroit, Grand Rapids, Dearborn, Ann Arbor and Flint. He held Sunday rallies that Scott mentioned. He had 7,000 Sunday morning in Grand Rapids and 10,000 in Ann Arbor that evening. Joe Biden had surrogates across the state all weekend, but he only came just yesterday to Michigan, coming to Grand Rapids, Flint and Detroit. And he ended in Detroit with a rally with 2,000 people.
HOBSON: Are you seeing indications of campaigns, including the Trump campaign, coming into Michigan already getting ready for the general election? It was obviously a crucial state that went for Trump in 2016.
CENSKY: Absolutely. People are stepping up. The campaign, actually, that had the largest presence here ahead of our primary was actually the Bloomberg campaign. He had a hundred paid staffers on the ground and 10 offices. By that - but that was certainly more the size of his checkbook than necessarily enthusiasm for the candidate across the state. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has some offices here. And the Biden campaign presence here in Michigan is pretty skeletal.
HOBSON: That is Abigail Censky, a reporter with WKAR in Lansing, Mich. Abigail, thank you.
And let me just go to Ron Elving briefly here before we take a quick break. Where are we tonight? Biden has won in Missouri, in Mississippi - probably really big in Mississippi - and in Michigan, the biggest prize of the night.
ELVING: That's right. And he's not going to get all of the delegates from all three of those states, but he'll get the lion's share in Mississippi. He'll get more than a majority in Missouri. And the important thing in Michigan is not so much the number of delegates as the change that could have happened in the narrative of Joe Biden's comeback had he fallen short in Michigan. But because he's been able to do what Hillary Clinton could not do four years ago and squelch Bernie Sanders in a state where he was surprisingly strong because he has been able to do that with this fallback-default-candidate magic that he has suddenly devised in the last several weeks. Because of that, he is clearly the front-runner today.
HOBSON: We are still waiting on North Dakota. We are still waiting on Idaho. And we are still waiting on Washington state. Stay with us. This is live Special Coverage of Big Tuesday from NPR News. We'll be right back.
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DAVIS: Big wins for Vice President Joe Biden so far on a major primary night - this is live Special Coverage from NPR News. I'm Susan Davis. Biden has already won in three states, including the biggest victory of the night, the state of Michigan. It's a state Senator Bernie Sanders won against Hillary Clinton in 2016, and his supporters were hoping for a repeat victory this time around. The Vermont senator still has an opportunity in three other states where we're still awaiting results - but clearly, a good night for Joe Biden so far. And joining us is NPR political correspondent Asma Khalid.
KHALID: Hi, Sue.
DAVIS: So the last time we spoke to you - since the last time we spoke to you, The Associated Press has projected that Joe Biden will win Michigan. What do you make of his trio of early victories this evening?
KHALID: I mean, I think that Michigan is really the sort of - you know, it is the most important state of the night. And, you know, Scott was saying earlier, there were really high expectations that Sanders needed to do well in that state in order to mount any sort of a comeback. And to me, what's really remarkable is Joe Biden has not had the campaign infrastructure, he hasn't had the money for so much of this primary season that Sanders has certainly had.
So a lot of what he's been able to do has been around, you know, the momentum that he has built since Super Tuesday and just sort of the endorsements, the recognition, the earned media. And what we're seeing also in Michigan - you know, I think for so much of the recent coverage, we have focused on Joe Biden's strength with African American voters...
KHALID: ...Which is certainly real and important. But Michigan also, according to the early exit polls, shows that Biden won white voters. And that is important. And it also is important to look at how and what Sanders' path ahead is if he's losing both white and black voters to Joe Biden.
DAVIS: Well, Michigan seems so symbolic in this race because in 2016, as you know because you covered that too, Bernie Sanders' win there was sort of a signal that we knew this race would go on. And tonight, the question is, is his loss there a signal that this race could be over?
KHALID: The primary race, you're thinking. Yeah, I mean...
DAVIS: The primary, correct, (unintelligible).
KHALID: Sure. Yeah, I mean, I think it's really hard to assess. I mean, I think at this point, as Scott has reported - my colleague Scott Detrow's reported a lot that, you know, we hear Bernie Sanders often praising Joe Biden, recognizing the fact that they are friends. I think all of the Democratic presidential candidates are very aware that they want to have a united front come November.
And so it will be, to us, really interesting to see how long this primary cycle goes on for that very reason. I mean, certainly, there are folks within the progressive community who would make the argument that a tested Joe Biden is a better candidate come November and that the longer and more rigorously he is tested, the better candidate he will be against Donald Trump.
DAVIS: We'll hear from candidates where - I know we're supposed to hear from Joe Biden later this evening, maybe Bernie Sanders as well. But I'm curious what you hear from the voters you've been speaking to. You know, in 2016, there was an animating sort of pulse in the Democratic Party. Many people wanted a contested convention. Do you get the sense that a prolonged nomination fight is something that the Democratic voters are looking for this time around?
KHALID: I have not heard that from very many voters at all. What I hear more often than not from every voter of frankly any candidate who has run this cycle, is, I want somebody who is electable. I hear that even from folks when I talk to them within the Bernie Sanders community - I mean, Elizabeth Warren, whoever it was. They want somebody who will win this cycle.
And so, you know, I'm working on a piece right now around young voters. And certainly, Bernie Sanders has a lot of strength with voters under the age of 29. But I have met people who are young who are at Biden events. And one of the main reasons I hear that they are supporting the former vice president is they feel that they just want somebody who will take on Donald Trump whether or not Joe Biden necessarily meshes with their vision of where the country should be.
DAVIS: You know, normally, on these primary nights, when we talk, there's - you're at a big rally, and it's very noisy in the background.
DAVIS: And we must note that it's rather silent where you are because both Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders have canceled their usual planned rallies tonight over fears of the coronavirus.
DAVIS: How is this impacting the campaigns going forward? Or do you have a sense that the campaigns have a strategy yet to deal with what could be a growing public health crisis?
KHALID: So Sue, this is such a fast-moving story. I mean, you mentioned - so I'm in a hotel room in Cleveland with our wonderful producers, who are here with me. But we are here in part because I decided to, you know, not travel with the - you know, campaign often has these press charters. We flew commercial here, and then we we're sort of stuck in Cleveland. Biden is going to have a speech that he's delivering in just a bit in Philadelphia there.
I am - I was supposed to travel with him to Florida on Thursday. The campaign has already announced that they are canceling that event. And in lieu of it, Biden is planning a speech on the coronavirus. So, I mean, I think things are shifting very quickly, in part because, you know, they are paying attention to what local health officials are saying, and the virus itself - I mean, as you know, as we know here in the newsroom, news around the virus seems to be moving very quickly.
DAVIS: Yeah. And you also make a good point about the calendar. The next primary - next big primary next week includes Florida, another state...
DAVIS: ...That Joe Biden is projected to do quite well. The math doesn't seem to be getting easier for Sanders.
KHALID: It doesn't. And so there's two things, right? There there's the math, and there's the momentum. Well - so it is certainly, like, mathematically plausible...
KHALID: ...For Sanders to turn this race around. I think that if we look at the map for next Tuesday, it's tough. You have a state like Ohio, a state like Illinois. And I would make the argument that the demographics of both Ohio and Illinois share more in common with a state like Michigan, where we saw, you know, Biden do well tonight in, than it does with a lot of other places.
And then we've got Florida. And Florida is a state where Joe Biden seems to do pretty well in, you know, according to both polls and then some concerns that we've heard anecdotally from some voters, particularly Cuban voters, around, you know, Bernie Sanders' connections with - I shouldn't say connections, but more sort of his praise for the Communist regime there in Cuba over the years.
And so I do think there are questions about even if Sanders can mathematically change the course of the way things are going right now, how long does he feel that he can stay in while actually, you know, sort of changing the momentum? And right now things look really up and up for Joe Biden. I mean, his campaign staff feels that. They told me that, that they're feeling things are going well.
LIASSON: Asma, I have a question about this notion that Jim Clyburn raised on our show tonight, which is the idea...
LIASSON: ...Of, it should be shut down - no more fighting. Like, let's call the whole thing off once Joe Biden gets to an insurmountable lead. Are you hearing from the Biden camp that that's what they'd like? Because what I'm remembering is, in 2008, when the campaign went on and on and on, Obama and Clinton kept fighting each other, it turned out to be a great thing for the Democratic Party because in every state that they went to - states that normally wouldn't see any primary candidates 'cause they were so late in the season - they registered more Democrats; they built excitement, and they laid down a predicate for Obama's eventual win in the fall. So what does the Biden campaign think about the primaries going on and on? Is that something they think is good or bad?
KHALID: I don't know yet, Mara. But I - that is a question I'm posing to them because, I mean, I think it's a really interesting theory of the case. You know, we certainly heard, you know, Clyburn himself make the argument that shutting things down earlier, he feels, would be advantageous. But I remember very well what you're describing in 2008. You know, I'm from the state of Indiana. Indiana is notoriously a very Republican state, but in 2008, it voted for Barack Obama. And folks there will tell you it is largely because there was actually a contested primary that year in 2008.
KHALID: And they had an infrastructure. And Biden, you know, at this point has struggled in the primaries to build a grassroots campaign infrastructure. Even in places where he is winning tonight, he did not visit those states very much. He did not have much of a campaign infrastructure. And so largely, why we are seeing him do well is because of this momentum he has built up. It's not because there's actually a very active campaign infrastructure in those places.
DAVIS: All right. That's NPR political correspondent Asma Khalid. Thanks, Asma.
KHALID: You're welcome.
HOBSON: And let's turn to Jonathan Chait, a writer for New York Magazine. Jonathan, your reaction to where we are tonight - we've already been able to make a call for Biden in Missouri, Mississippi and the biggest prize, Michigan.
JONATHAN CHAIT (WRITER, NEW YORK MAGAZINE): Yeah. It's pretty obvious that the primary's over unless there's a dramatic turn in the race because look; there are two very well-known commodities in this race. People have a settled view of the candidates. The people in the Democratic Party know who they want to support, and the solid majority wants to support Biden over Sanders.
So I guess Bernie will have to decide how long they want (inaudible) in there, basically in the hope that something happens to change the race. And I think that's something - is it going to be a gaffe, a more bitter debate? I mean, it sounds - you know, unless they're hoping for some kind of medical event harming Biden, I don't really see what's going to rescue them at this point.
HOBSON: Well, they have been using a hashtag that the Trump campaign has also been using, which is #BidensCognitiveDecline. Are you worried about that going forward into the general election, that people are commenting on the way he speaks and that they believe he's lost a step?
CHAIT: Well, look. I think he has lost a step. I think he's very capable of doing the job. He's capable of campaigning. He's capable of giving coherent answers - certainly more coherent than Donald Trump can - on almost anything. But look; any time you have a competitive race going on, you have a risk of an intraparty rival giving credence to attacks on your nominee that the other party is going to seize upon. And that's why, when races are no longer in doubt, the party tends to put a lot of pressure on the candidates who aren't going to win to get out of the race. So, you know, we'll see if Sanders follows those cues.
LIASSON: But Jonathan - it's Mara Liasson here. I mean, regardless of whether Bernie Sanders pushes this line that Joe Biden is somehow over the hill or lost a step, the Trump campaign is firing on all cylinders with that attack. I mean, it's relentless right now. And I'm wondering...
LIASSON: ...What you think is the way that the Biden campaign or all of the i.e., (ph) groups that are out there trying to defend him should be responding to this.
CHAIT: Yeah. I - so Jim Clyburn had some really solid advice provided leading up to South Carolina, which he followed, which was just to tighten it up; stop rambling; stop going out on a stump (ph) and going into all these little discursive thoughts about whatever pops into your brain at that minute, which is basically how Biden has always handled himself in public life.
You know, when he was a young man, it was just kind of annoying. Now that he's an old man, it's a little bit scary. But he actually is delivering a tight, you know, seven-to-10-minute stump speech that works and, I think, avoids a lot of those pitfalls. So I think Clyburn gave Biden the solution.
LIASSON: So you're saying he is willing - he is able to be disciplined. It's just that he wasn't willing before.
CHAIT: He seems to be. I mean, and you know, he's a senator. He's a very senator senator. You know, senators love the sound of their own voice. They think they're - they have brilliant thoughts on everything. And Biden is really in that mold in a lot of ways. So, you know, his political campaigns always had him just spouting off on everything, assuming people just wanted to hear him go on. But I think he's kind of realizing that they don't.
HOBSON: That is Jonathan Chait, writer with New York Magazine. Jonathan, thank you.
CHAIT: Thank you.
HOBSON: Let's bring in Danielle Kurtzleben, NPR political correspondent, who's been looking at the exit polls that have been coming out of the states where the polls have closed. Danielle, first of all, in Michigan, what are you seeing in terms of the issues that are at top of mind for voters?
KURTZLEBEN: Sure. So in Michigan, as in many other states this year, a plurality of people are saying that health care is their No. 1 issue - no surprise. In Michigan, it's 43% of people said that that is their top issue. Forty-eight percent of people in Missouri also - another big state tonight - said that.
And in both states, 56% of people - last time the exit polls were updated, 56% of people said - who said they - that health care is their No. 1 issue, they voted for Biden, not Bernie Sanders. So that may suggest that they trust Biden a little more on the issue of health care.
HOBSON: Michigan - obviously, a big state when it comes to unions - what are you seeing in the exit polls about the role of union households?
KURTZLEBEN: Right. So roughly one-third of voters said they are in union households, and those people once again went for Biden. Now, this is a difference from 2016. In 2016, you saw Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders roughly equally matched among union households. Maybe Bernie Sanders had a slight edge that year. This year, you're seeing Joe Biden ahead by 12 points among union households - so once again, really big strength from Joe Biden there.
HOBSON: Well, and you could connect those two things - unions and health care - because these unions have spent a lot of time negotiating their health care plans, and we've been hearing that, you know, they are skeptical of Bernie Sanders' idea of going to universal health care because then they don't have all these benefits that they've worked hard for.
KURTZLEBEN: Right. That is an excellent point. We saw this in Nevada this year, very notably. And right. Bernie Sanders, as if our listeners need to be reminded, wants to change to single-payer health care, whereas Joe Biden wants a more modest but still - historically, in terms of the Democratic Party, still a pretty big change in terms of, he wants a public option.
HOBSON: What about the youth vote? What are you seeing there?
KURTZLEBEN: This is really fascinating, and it is a thing we're really watching closely this year. This year - let's stick to Michigan - 15% of the Democratic electorate is voters under the age of 30. That is slightly down from 2016, when it was 19%, so from 19 then to 15 now. And this mirrors a broader trend among primary and caucus states thus far, where only in Iowa have we seen an uptick in the youth as the share of the total electorate. All the other states, we've seen it either go flat or downwards - certainly not the explosion that Bernie Sanders would need to really show that his movement is growing and to show some really renewed strength.
HOBSON: That is NPR political correspondent Danielle Kurtzleben looking at some of the exit polls. Just a reminder - so far, we have called Michigan, Missouri and Mississippi tonight for Joe Biden. No states tonight for Bernie Sanders yet, but there are still three states to come. Stay with us. You're listening to live Special Coverage of Big Tuesday from NPR News.
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DAVIS: And we're joined now by Stephen Nuno-Perez. He's director of communications and a senior analyst at Latino Decisions. It's a nonpartisan polling firm focused on Latino voters. Stephen, welcome to the program.
STEPHEN NUNO-PEREZ (DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS/SENIOR ANALYST, LATINO DECISIONS): Hi. Thanks for having me - appreciate it.
DAVIS: First, I would just ask for your take on the early results this evening, with Biden winning in Missouri, Mississippi and Michigan pretty much called as soon as the polls closed.
NUNO-PEREZ: Yeah. Well, I mean, you know, Biden has been taking on a lot - you know, there's - a lot of steam is (ph) behind him now with Super Tuesday. And so I think a lot of people see him as a strong horse. And so a lot of people see him as an inevitability. And props to him for having that.
DAVIS: You've said - well, you've talked a lot about Bernie Sanders and his enduring support...
NUNO-PEREZ: Mmm hmm.
DAVIS: ...From Latino voters.
DAVIS: But is that Latino support - it doesn't seem to be enough of a coalition to put Sanders ahead in this race.
NUNO-PEREZ: Yeah. Well, I mean, you know, Washington and Michigan is not enough to do that like in Nevada or either in Texas or California. But, you know, Latinos are a pretty young group. And I think, you know, the lesson for Biden is that, you know, Sanders can resonate with a message that gives especially the young folks some hope for, you know, like, universal health care, secure jobs, opportunities for college education. You know, so there's a lot there for Biden, should he - you know, moving forward.
DAVIS: You've said that younger Latino voters distrust Biden partly because of the deportation policies of the Obama administration. How much of a problem do you see this being for Joe Biden if he is ultimately the nominee for the Democratic Party in getting Latinos, especially younger Latinos, to turn out and vote?
NUNO-PEREZ: Yeah. I mean, I think a lot of the folks that Bernie has tapped into - right? - is a lot of the civil kind of rights and civic organizations that really kind of blossomed during the Obama years because of the deportation, you know, regime that the Obama administration had, right? I mean, 3 million people were deported or separated from their, you know, families internally in, you know, in the United States.
You know, that said, you know, our polling also shows that Latinos care more about future policies than past policies, right? And so, you know, I think, moving forward, if Biden becomes the nominee, I don't think - you know, I totally don't think they are shut out from, you know, a Biden, you know, candidacy.
But I think, you know, also keep in mind that back in 2016, you know, Hillary Clinton was the person that had been propelled by Latino voters. So you know what I mean? I think, moving forward, I think, you know, Sanders has tapped into some of that, you know, some of that energy from the young folks...
DAVIS: All right.
NUNO-PEREZ: ...That developed over the last years. But moving forward, I think Biden can definitely capture that as well.
DAVIS: OK. That's Stephen Nuno-Perez of Latino Decisions, a nonpartisan polling firm. Thank you, Stephen.
NUNO-PEREZ: My pleasure.
DAVIS: And this is live Special Coverage of Big Tuesday from NPR News.
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HOBSON: Three contests have been called so far tonight, and Vice President Biden is the projected winner in all of them. This is live Special Coverage of Big Tuesday from NPR News. I'm Jeremy Hobson.
Michigan was the biggest competition of the night and the most important one for Senator Bernie Sanders, but it has gone to Joe Biden, who currently has more than a 10-point lead there. Let's go to NPR's Don Gonyea, who's in Detroit with Bernie Sanders supporters. Don, it's not an official campaign event, but what are you hearing from supporters of Sanders tonight?
GONYEA: You know, there are probably 65, 75 at peak Sanders supporters just from around the metro Detroit area here. We're in the back banquet room of a classic, old Detroit bar.
And even before the projection went up on the big, you know, cable TV news screen that's mounted on the wall of this room - even before the projection that Joe Biden is the winner in Michigan, the campaign coordinator for Bernie Sanders in Michigan, Michael Fasullo, was here - kind of gave a thank-you to the crowd. But his remarks felt kind of like a valedictory, like they knew tonight would be bad news but that the values that they have been fighting for, the things that this campaign stands for are very important, and everybody here needs to know that they mattered. So that was kind of the first thing.
Other than that, though, when you work the crowd, you get everything from, I'm not going to concede anything until I see every last vote counted in Wayne County and Kent County and every other county in Michigan. So there's some people who just are not buying the fact that there are at least projections - the projections that Biden has won.
And then you get folks who, while not conceding anything as far as the rest of the campaign goes, I heard over and over tonight that, you know, we're not even half done, that there's still a long ways to go. And as the last few weeks have told us, anything can still happen.
So people are certainly holding on in that regard, but they will also say in almost the same breath that whatever happens going forward, the things that Senator Sanders talked about need to be a part of any successful Democratic campaign going forward.
HOBSON: But they do not believe - it sounds like from what you're saying they do not believe that if Sanders does, indeed, lose Michigan tonight, and maybe even lose by a lot in Michigan tonight, that the campaign is over, that the race is over.
GONYEA: No. I mean, some people are ready to acknowledge that Michigan is not going well for him and that a loss is likely. You get some of that based on the projections. But I didn't talk to anybody who thinks this campaign is over by any stretch of the imagination.
HOBSON: And what about Joe Biden? How did these Sanders voters that you're with feel about Joe Biden and feel about the idea that he could well be the Democratic nominee?
GONYEA: Yeah. Pressing people on that point, two major things that you hear. One is that there's a lot of bitterness, and there is a lot that's going to have to be overcome before people will support Joe Biden. I heard that from several people tonight.
But then others will just as quickly tell you, I'm with the nominee because it's so important to beat Trump. They still hope Bernie Sanders will be the nominee. If it's Biden, they'll be there. You know, they may not be volunteering. They may not be knocking on doors. But they will support him. I heard that tonight here from several people as well.
HOBSON: Don, let me ask you one more thing. You're in a very key state, a state that President Obama won twice and then President Trump won just barely back in 2016, but along with Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, it delivered him the presidency. Why is Michigan so important for the Democrats? And what does tonight tell us about what the state's going to be like in the fall?
GONYEA: Democrats have always just counted on Michigan being in their column. 1988 is the last time a Republican carried the state until Trump barely - barely, by something like 10,000 votes - beat Hillary Clinton here. So Democrats know that to remove Donald Trump from the White House, they need to put this state back in the blue column. And they saw today as - even though it's competition between Democrats, they saw today as kind of a dry run for that. They wanted to show that there's enthusiasm, that people are ready to turn out and that that will ultimately help defeat Donald Trump.
HOBSON: Ron Elving.
ELVING: Just wanted to add, Don, to what you were saying some of the people there at that Sanders event are saying - that we haven't really reached the halfway point yet in choosing delegates, so why are people wrapping this thing up? Why are they hanging black crepe?
This is true. We haven't reached the halfway point quite, even with all 352 allocated after tonight. And there are some big events coming up next week on the St. Patrick's Primary, if you will. We've got Florida, Illinois and Ohio, in addition to Arizona - that's three of the top 10 populous states - and 577 delegates - far more than tonight - and still more on April 28, when we see New York and Pennsylvania and several other states vote.
So there are some other really big nights, even bigger than tonight. The problem that you have to explain to people is once you get a lead in delegates, the proportional distribution of delegates from state to state makes it very hard to catch up again.
LIASSON: So hard to get a lead...
GONYEA: That's right.
LIASSON: ...Hard to relinquish a lead.
GONYEA: But again, they look at the past three weeks and that fast, remarkable turnaround that we saw from Joe Biden on - in South Carolina and on Super Tuesday. They feel like that sort of a turn in this sort of a climate could happen again. It could happen for their guy.
DAVIS: Hey, Don. It's Sue. My question for you is, as you talked to Bernie Sanders supporters, in 2016, so many voters felt that the process wasn't fair or that it was, quote, "rigged against him." But the Democrats rewrote the rules for 2020. They specifically did it to make it more fair for a Bernie Sanders-type candidate. Do you get the sense that voters still feel aggrieved about the process, or do they think that Bernie is losing fair and square?
GONYEA: For more than a year now, I have been asking Bernie Sanders supporters if they feel like their candidate is getting a fairer shake from the DNC this time. And consistently, while they don't think it's perfect, they have been more satisfied. They've had less to complain about along those lines for the whole year until about two weeks ago. And then, when the, you know, the field thinned as it did, with Pete Buttigieg dropping out and then Amy Klobuchar dropping out and both of them endorsing Joe Biden, they suddenly felt it's like, oh, oh. The fix is in. I heard people say that. It's the establishment again figuring out a way to beat Bernie Sanders. That is the perception that a lot of people have, so that sense of grievance is back as it was in 2016. It's just that it's only come back, you know, in the past few weeks. We'll see if it's as long-lasting as it was four years ago.
LIASSON: Don, this is Mara here. Do they think that there's something nefarious going on or just that the voters have rejected them? I mean, that's what I don't understand. If they think the establishment is doing this, are black women, female voters in South Carolina the establishment?
GONYEA: The votes are the votes. But when so much is made of candidates dropping out and then immediately endorsing Joe Biden, that's what they don't like. And that's what they see as everybody in the, you know, in the party ganging up on...
GONYEA: ...Their guy.
LIASSON: Although, that's what always happens (laughter).
DAVIS: That's just politics.
LIASSON: People drop out and endorse the other guy, yeah.
HOBSON: Well, and speaking of which, listen to this, which just happened...
LIASSON: Yeah, Andrew Yang (laughter).
HOBSON: ...Moments ago. Andrew Yang, who's now a CNN contributor but was, of course, a candidate in the race, is endorsing Biden. Listen.
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ANDREW YANG (FORMER DEM PRES CAND): I believe that Joe Biden will be the Democratic nominee. And I've always said I'm going to support whoever the nominee is. So I hereby am endorsing Joe Biden to be not just the nominee for the Democratic Party but the next president of the United States.
HOBSON: So another one for Biden. Marianne Williamson, who was with us earlier, did not shift her support to Joe Biden. Just want to give people an idea of where we are right now, though. Mississippi we've called for Biden. And right now, with 41% of the vote in, it's 81% for Joe Biden. Huge black population there, obviously, of Democratic voters - 81% to 14.9% for Sanders. In Missouri, with 32% of the vote, and we have called that for Joe Biden. It's 58% for Biden, 33% for Bernie Sanders. And Michigan, the big prize of the night, the one that Sanders won four years ago, with 43% of the vote in, it's 53% for Biden, 40% for Bernie Sanders.
Ron, this is looking like a really big night for Joe Biden.
ELVING: Super Tuesday continues. This is very much like what we saw in 10 of the 14 states on Super Tuesday. We didn't expect to see it. We thought it would be quite a good night for Joe Biden if he could win half the states. If he could win more than six, that would be great. Out of 14, he wound up with 10.
ELVING: He won all - in all regions of the country, won in - except for the far West, where Bernie Sanders really was dominant. But Joe Biden won in Minnesota and Maine. He won in Massachusetts. He dominated in the southeast.
HOBSON: Elizabeth Warren's state - Massachusetts - and Biden won.
ELVING: He won, and she finished third.
ELVING: And that was a heartbreaker for her. And he won in Texas. Joe Biden won in Texas. Not that many people had foreseen that. So again tonight, we see Joe Biden not only winning in states we wouldn't be sure he would win but winning big in those states.
HOBSON: It sounds like we have Pramila Jayapal with us, who is a supporter of Senator Sanders from Washington state, a member of Congress. Pramila Jayapal, welcome. And just before we get to your reaction to this, I do want to ask you quickly because you are in the epicenter - your state is the epicenter so far of the coronavirus - what you can tell us about the situation there.
PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA, REP): Well, thank you. I'm pleased to be with you. And it is a very difficult time for us in Washington state. We have 267 confirmed cases. That's a significant increase from just a couple of days ago. And we expect to see that continue to increase exponentially as we continue the testing. And we have had 24 deaths.
And so this is a hard time. We have already started a number of social distancing moves that are designed to try to, you know, mitigate the spread of the virus. And I think we'll probably see some more of those. We've had most of our conventions canceled, big gatherings canceled. Hotels, I've heard, are at 28% fill rate right now, which is extremely unusual in Seattle.
So it's a difficult time. And my heart just goes out to all the people that are dealing with a lot of anxiety, a lot of worry and very difficult situations, in some cases, with family members who are in that particularly vulnerable category. So we're doing everything we can to make sure we get support to the state and to other states that are experiencing this here in Congress, but also to do what we can. And I just am grateful to our excellent public health system in Washington state and our front-line workers who are dealing with the response every single minute of every single day.
DAVIS: Congresswoman, this is Susan Davis. I want to ask you about coronavirus and its implications in the primaries because, obviously - and exit polls are showing us this - that voters have this issue on their minds as they're going to vote. And voters who are undecided have broken fairly heavily for Joe Biden, especially when asked who they would trust in a time of crisis. Obviously, many Americans right now believe we are in a time of crisis. Do you believe that that has been a factor towards propelling Joe Biden to these early victories this evening in these important states?
JAYAPAL: I do. And I know that in Washington state, I saw a number that was something like 82% of voters were either very concerned or concerned about coronavirus. And I do think that in those moments, people look to see, you know, who has experience that they can directly relate. And, obviously, Joe Biden, as vice president, did have that experience. And I think that that might be playing in. I also think that - you know, in Washington state, we did not have either of the candidates come out and do big rallies or generate the kind of excitement and momentum that you would normally see. All of those activities were canceled. And so we are lucky to vote by mail.
JAYAPAL: But the reality is that that enthusiasm between the candidates and sort of taking a look at the candidates one last time - voters really didn't get to do that. So they were voting based on perhaps momentum from Super Tuesday, whatever they might know about the candidates, but they didn't have that direct interaction which normally you have in the lead-up to the race.
DAVIS: Congresswoman, we'd like you to stay with us. This is Pramila Jayapal. She's a congresswoman for Washington's 7th Congressional District. That includes most of Seattle, which is confronting the coronavirus head-on right now. She's also a supporter of Bernie Sanders, and we'd like to talk to you more about that. But you are listening to live Special Coverage of Big Tuesday from NPR News.
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DAVIS: Now, Congresswoman, to the explicit results this evening, we've had people on the program, including Democrats - like Guy Cecil, who's running one of the top Democratic superPACs - who have essentially declared this race over. He said they are - believe Joe Biden will be the nominee and are putting all their resources behind him starting now. As a Bernie Sanders supporter, do you believe this race is over?
JAYAPAL: Well, I don't. I mean, first of all, my state hasn't even voted yet. The polls haven't closed. That is still tonight. I'm still hopeful for that. But I also think that, you know, we need to let this play out a little bit. There's no question that Joe Biden has had a very good couple of weeks since Super Tuesday - or a good week since Super Tuesday. And I think that that's going to be a tough thing for Senator Sanders to confront as we come out of tonight.
But I do want to say a couple things - one, that it's interesting - you know, progressive ideas, I would say, are winning. If you look at the support for "Medicare for All," it is in - 65% in many of the states that have already voted, including ones that went for Joe Biden - at least 50, 55% even on its low end, but always over 50%. And I think that that is an important thing to keep in mind, that the ideas that voters are drawn to are still those big ideas that take on some of the deep changes that people feel need to be made.
The second is the generational divide here. I don't think we can gloss over the generational divide. And I think that if Joe Biden is the candidate at the end of the day - the nominee - of course, we're all going to get behind him. But we should not make the same mistake as 2016 in assuming that we will get turnout and enthusiasm.
I really do think the progressive movement, the young voters, Latino voters that Senator Sanders has been winning need to be brought in. Their ideas need to be embraced, and we need to build an enthusiasm so people vote not only from fear but also from hope - not only for what we can't do but also for what we can do.
DAVIS: Congresswoman, NPR's Mara Liasson has a question for you.
LIASSON: Yeah. Hi, Congresswoman. What I'm wondering is, what do you want to hear from Joe Biden on some of those progressive ideas? I mean, does it have to be mandatory Medicare for All, end of private health insurance? Or is a kind of Medicare for All who want it enough to get the kind of enthusiasm and excitement you want to see among young people? How specifically can Joe Biden address some of the concerns that Bernie Sanders has raised?
JAYAPAL: Well, I think - you know, first of all, obviously, the race isn't over, and so we don't want to assume anything here. I am still a Senator Sanders supporter.
LIASSON: Right. And I guess I'd ask you the same thing - what Bernie Sanders has to do to get some Joe Biden supporters, too.
JAYAPAL: Yes. Right. And what I would say, Mara, is it's on-ramps for both of them, right? Whoever wins, they need on-ramps to the group that they did not win. And so for Joe Biden, I would say those on-ramps can take many different forms. It can be in the - in terms of who he puts forward as a vice presidential candidate. If that were a true progressive candidate, that would be very helpful.
JAYAPAL: It would be...
DAVIS: Congresswoman, I'm sorry to have to cut you off, but we do have to leave it there. That is Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal from Washington. Thank you so much for your time.
JAYAPAL: Thank you.
DAVIS: And this is live Special Coverage of Big Tuesday from NPR News. We'll be right back.
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DAVIS: Vice President Joe Biden continues to notch victories on another major primary night. He's defeated Senator Bernie Sanders in Mississippi, Missouri and the biggest competition of the night, Michigan. From NPR News, this is live Special Coverage of Democratic primaries in six states. I'm Susan Davis.
HOBSON: And I'm Jeremy Hobson. There were high expectations for Sanders in the state of Michigan, where 125 delegates were on the line. He had won the state in 2016 against Hillary Clinton, but he was not able to pull off a repeat victory tonight. There are still three states left to call, where Sanders is hoping to score a win.
DAVIS: We're also keeping an eye on the effect of coronavirus on the contest tonight and on the 2020 campaign going forward. Both candidates canceled events today because of coronavirus concerns. More on all of that and the results as they come in.
HOBSON: Stay with us.
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HOBSON: Let's bring in NPR's Ron Elving. Ron, the situation right now - where are we at this moment? We've got three states we've called for Joe Biden, some of them pretty big wins.
ELVING: Michigan - big win. This is so important to Joe Biden, and it was going to be so important to Bernie Sanders. This was the state that gave him his comeback in 2016 after a bruising Super Tuesday and a series of losses to Hillary Clinton. He came back in Michigan, shocked a lot of people, won by about a point and a half at that time and really resuscitated his campaign and went all the way to the convention in Philadelphia. So that was the great hope of the Sanders campaign again this year. And tonight, it looks like it's been frustrated. The state has been projected for Joe Biden by Associated Press, and he'll get most of that 125 delegates.
Almost as big, though, was the size of his victories in Missouri and Mississippi. While there are not nearly as many delegates from those two states, Joe Biden won big, and he won big enough to get more than just a majority - to get the lion's share of the delegates from those two states.
Now, North Dakota - the primary there is actually technically a caucus because it's run by the Democratic Party rather than by the state, but they were mailing in ballots, and they were stuffing ballots today in boxes at firehouses - literally, in some cases. They call it a firehouse caucus and/or a firehouse primary. And in that particular state, not a huge cache of Democratic delegates - only 14. But we still don't have...
HOBSON: Any results coming out of North Dakota.
ELVING: ...Results in North Dakota. They'll give us something later on tonight. It isn't going to be terribly consequential, but it is a state where Bernie Sanders did well in 2016 and where we'd expect him to do decently well again. If he doesn't win there, that's another discouragement for his campaign.
HOBSON: Sue Davis, by the way, we're waiting to hear from Vice President Biden tonight. He had to cancel, just as Bernie Sanders did, a big rally in Ohio. They both went to different places - Biden in Philadelphia, Bernie Sanders in Vermont. But Biden is expected to speak, and I assume he's going to be pretty happy about what he's seeing tonight.
DAVIS: I mean, we've talked about this before, but think about the political turnaround this has been - and not just for Joe Biden, but in politics. I mean, Mara and Ron could also speak to this as well, but have you - Mara, have you ever seen a turnaround on a presidential level of a candidacy this fast?
LIASSON: Never. Never. And especially one where there was no foundation to use the momentum to build anything. In other words, usually, when someone gets momentum, they've got a whole organization waiting to take advantage of it. Joe Biden didn't have that. He didn't have a ground game.
DAVIS: He had name ID.
LIASSON: He didn't have any money. He had name ID. Didn't have any money to run ads. But he won big in South Carolina. And, you know, maybe voters, especially white voters all around the country, were waiting to see if black voters would vote for him. And when they did, they said, OK.
HOBSON: You know...
LIASSON: It's really interesting that this has happened because it was pure momentum. It wasn't based on any kind of solid foundation.
HOBSON: Two weeks ago, by the way, none of this had happened. Biden had not won a single state.
ELVING: That is correct.
LIASSON: He was being left for dead.
ELVING: He had never won a state in any of his three campaigns...
LIASSON: Yeah, ever.
ELVING: ...For president in the '80s or...
LIASSON: Or 2008...
ELVING: ...Years ago...
LIASSON: He has been running...
ELVING: ...Or today.
LIASSON: ...For 37 years.
ELVING: He was without - two weeks ago...
ELVING: ...He was without a single win. And now he is on such a roll that it does not seem that he can lose anywhere. Now, of course, he could still lose tonight in North Dakota. He could still lose in Idaho. Those are small events. But Washington state is a medium-sized event now, and it's a 10-congressional-district state. It's a 12-electoral-college-vote state. And it matters a good deal. And Bernie Sanders did well there, and he has a strong base of support there, so that will be interesting. And we may not get that result tonight because they do allow people to mail their ballots in as late as today.
LIASSON: And, you know, the big question for me as we wait to hear what Joe Biden is going to have to say is not so much as whether he's happy or feeling great. I think he should be both. But is he going to turn in the kind of speech that he did the night of South Carolina, which was his best performance on the campaign to date? Then he turned around on Super Tuesday and went back to his usual rambling...
HOBSON: What did he say...
LIASSON: ...Slightly incoherent self.
HOBSON: ...In South Carolina? What was so great about that speech, Mara...
LIASSON: He had a...
HOBSON: ...In South Carolina?
LIASSON: He had a succinct message. He said, I'm a real Democrat. The choice is clear between - you know, I can win. I can produce results. People don't want a revolution. They want results. He laid out the case very clearly - something that he doesn't usually do. And it was - he - the performative aspects of politics sometimes elude him. And tonight, we'll see if he's going to be crisp and coherent or if he's going to give one of his Biden-esque orations.
ELVING: You know, that message that you mentioned that he delivered so well after South Carolina was largely, uncharacteristically a populist message.
ELVING: He talked about having been left behind, having been left for dead...
ELVING: ...And how his campaign had been run down and forgotten.
LIASSON: He says...
ELVING: And then...
LIASSON: If you've ever been left for dead...
ELVING: If you've ever felt that way...
LIASSON: ...This campaign is for you.
ELVING: ...This is for your campaign. That was the most populous thing I'd ever heard from Joe Biden.
LIASSON: Yeah, but he's been using that line a lot, and that's about his empathy for people who've lost, like him.
DAVIS: I also want to bring in Juana Summers, NPR's political correspondent. She is in Missouri. She's been talking to Biden surrogates there. Hey, Juana.
SUMMERS: Hey there, guys.
DAVIS: What is the message that the Biden campaign is saying about their trio of early victories tonight?
SUMMERS: Well, they are feeling really good. One thing we've heard powerfully from his surrogates here in St. Louis is the fact that now is the time to coalesce, to come together. You actually heard his state director come out and thank all the people who have poured hours of work into this state. But he also name-checked the Team Pete - the Pete Buttigieg supporters, the Amy Klobuchar supporters, the other campaigns that have come together and supported this candidate.
They also called back to the words that Mara Liasson and Ron Elving were just talking - and you all were just talking about - kind of a call and repeat, talking about that if you've ever been knocked down, if you've ever been counted out. They were energized and they see that it's time to keep working and continue to push this over the edge and make Joe Biden the nominee.
DAVIS: Let's talk about some of the voters that have been in the Sanders coalition that haven't come around to Joe Biden yet - a lot of young voters, Latino voters we heard from earlier in this evening. Those voters haven't been Biden voters. Can he get them? And I know you spent a lot of time talking to young voters in particular. Is there fears of an enthusiasm gap for Joe Biden?
SUMMERS: Yes. I have talked to a lot of folks who have worked in Democratic politics and pollsters specifically about the issue of young voters. And the concern that they raise is the fact that throughout the course of this primary so far - and I realize it is not yet over - he has not moved them in significant ways.
One person told me that this made them think of Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign, in which they did not start building a large apparatus to win over young voters, millennial voters in 2016 until the general election. They say that's a warning sign because if you don't start to work with those voters now, they do not turn out in as large of a share as their older counterparts, then they can be lost for the general election. That's a powerful voting bloc to have sitting on the sidelines not engaging, obviously, many of them supporting Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. If Joe Biden is, indeed, the nominee, I think he will need those people in the general.
DAVIS: Is there any fear among Democrats - one of the trends we've seen play out in all but Iowa, I believe, is that young voters have not shown up in the Democratic primary in the same strength in 2020 as they did in 2016. Is that a red flag for Democrats?
SUMMERS: I think that many people are incredibly worried about that. I think that the results of the 2018 midterms in which young people came out in a higher share of the voting electorate gave people a lot of hope young people were energized.
But the one thing that I took away from my conversations with Democratic strategists and those within the campaign is the fact that President Trump being on the ballot could and will be a motivator, they believe. They believe that may get these young people to turn out. But they said that the campaigns cannot take them for granted.
And the fact of the matter is that there is often an overgeneralization of all these young folks that they are progressive, that they are Democrats, that they're going to turn out for a future Democratic nominee. And that's not necessarily a given is the one big takeaway that I have.
LIASSON: Juana, what do you think Joe Biden has to do to energize young voters and Latinos?
SUMMERS: Well, I think that one of the things I will be looking to if he does, indeed...
LIASSON: If he wins, if he wins. We keep on having to say if he wins.
SUMMERS: ...Become the - if he wins is to see who he picks as his running mate and who comes out on the campaign trail for him. I know you guys talked about earlier the fact that Andrew Yang has now endorsed him. That is a candidate who, while he didn't have a huge share of support, he really energized and mobilized young voters. So seeing folks who can come out and have authentic support among young voters and be out there as validators for Joe Biden, I think, could be a big deal.
DAVIS: You know, Juana, I have to ask you before we let you go. Another candidate that you spent a lot of time covering, Andrew Yang - earlier this evening on CNN, he announced that he was endorsing Joe Biden. What's your reaction to that?
SUMMERS: Yeah. I think that it could have a lot of potential to move some of these young voters. I did spend a lot of time on the campaign trail with Andrew Yang. And a lot of the folks that I talked to who were supporting him - they told me, almost to a person, that in 2016, they had either supported Bernie Sanders or President Trump. So if he is able to move the Yang Gang, as they are called, into the Joe Biden fold, I think that could be something that works to Joe Biden's benefit if he's looking to get a stronger foothold among younger voters, which is one of the groups we have not seen him be able to move in as great of numbers as Bernie Sanders thus far.
DAVIS: All right. That's NPR political correspondent Juana Summers.
Juana, thank you.
SUMMERS: Thanks so much.
DAVIS: And we also have NPR political correspondents Scott Detrow and Asma Khalid back on the line. Hey there.
KHALID: Hey there.
DETROW: Hey there.
DAVIS: Scott, I'll start with you because you've been with the Bernie Sanders campaign. And, obviously, not a strong night for Bernie Sanders - many guests on air tonight saying that they think this race is over. What does the Sanders campaign think?
DETROW: Well, you've covered a lot of political campaigns, and you probably would not be surprised to hear that at the particular moment this evening, my phone calls are not being returned by the Sanders advisers...
DETROW: ...I am reaching out to. In fact, this is pretty remarkable. I mean, it's partially understandable because the campaign didn't plan to be in Vermont. But it's 10 p.m., and we have not gotten any guidance on whether Bernie Sanders will be speaking tonight, when he would be speaking, where he would be speaking. I think the campaign is trying to figure out a game plan forward.
And, really, they've been scrambling for a week now because all along, ever since Sanders started to rise in the polls in October and consolidate progressive support, this is a campaign that was confident that on March 3, Super Tuesday, last week, they would establish a delegate lead and never give it up. They never got that delegate lead, and that really took a lot of their planning out of commission. So they're not sure what to do next. And if you look at the states voting next week - Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Ohio - it's terrain that looks like the states that Joe Biden has been doing really well. So it's tough to see this getting any better for Sanders. On the other hand, there is a two-person debate scheduled for this weekend, even though there's not going to be an audience now. I think the Sanders campaign would really have a hard time getting out of this race before that opportunity to make their case one last time.
DAVIS: The thing I would ask you though, Scott, is one thing that Bernie Sanders had promised to do for the Democratic Party in 2020 was change the coalition, bring new people into the party. And I think we've had enough contests now that we can say there isn't much evidence that that's actually happening.
DETROW: Yeah, and not at all. And this has been a central premise of Sanders' argument of why he would be the best Democratic nominee. He can build a coalition of first-time voters, of young voters. They have not shown up. And last week, you started to hear them change their message a little bit and say, well, they'll show up in November in the general election. They're not primary voters. And that's kind of a hard sell. And you can see it's not quite working for him. And, again, the symbolic nature of losing a state like Michigan, his signature win of the 2016 primary, cannot be overstated. This is a crushing loss for Bernie Sanders tonight.
DAVIS: Asma, you've been traveling with the Biden campaign, covering him for some time. You know, we were speaking earlier about how quite a rapid turnaround for the Biden campaign fortunes. Does the campaign see themselves as the clear nominee at this point, or are they still acting like this is a race?
KHALID: I mean, Sue, by all accounts, you know, they are running a campaign in which they see this as a race. You know, they told me that they certainly see this to be a fantastic night. But I did ask them earlier about the comments that Congressman Clyburn made on our air, where he said that, essentially, it's time to shut this primary down - you know, meaning that the DNC should cancel future debates. And I was told that they have no comment.
DAVIS: Interesting. One thing, though, when we talk about why this is a strong night for Biden, we should be clear. He doesn't have the delegates he needs yet. This is still a race. But the math and the path matter. And that this next group of states coming up just a week from now don't look particularly good for Bernie Sanders. They seem to be aligned more with Joe Biden.
KHALID: That's right. I mean, if we look at a state like Michigan, I think that that was the big test for Bernie Sanders. And when you look at Ohio and Illinois, those are states that demographically have some similarities to Michigan. And, really, you know, you look at the early exit polls there, and it wasn't just the storyline that we've been hearing where Biden, you know, does well with African American voters. He won over white voters in a place like Michigan.
And so, you know, I think there's two storylines going on simultaneously. One is that Bernie Sanders seems to be underperforming his own, you know, arc in the 2016 race. But the other is that at this point, Joe Biden, who, you know, yes, by all accounts had not won a primary at all compared to two weeks ago, now seems to be doing better with a certain bloc of the Democratic primary electorate than even Hillary Clinton did.
DAVIS: That is Asma Khalid and Scott Detrow, NPR political correspondents not at political rallies, as scheduled this evening, because they were canceled due to concerns over the coronavirus. Thank you both so much.
KHALID: You're welcome.
DETROW: Sure thing.
DAVIS: And you are listening to live Special Coverage of Big Tuesday from NPR News.
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HOBSON: Let's bring in another voice now - Steve Phillips, founder of Democracy in Color. That's a political organization focused on race and politics. Steve, your thoughts on what we're seeing so far tonight? Looks like a big night for Joe Biden. He's already won in Mississippi - a big win in Mississippi there - a win in Missouri, and he will win Michigan.
STEVE PHILLIPS (FOUNDER, DEMOCRACY IN COLOR): Yeah. No, clearly there's a coalescing that appears to be happening around Biden. And the sentiment - I heard one of your other guests talking about how little infrastructure he actually had, which is true, except that he has the, you know, infrastructure of having been the vice president. And there clearly has been a deep hunger for - to find the vehicle to go against Trump. And the message has been sent - really sent by the black voters in South Carolina - that Biden's the one to go with. And so everyone is really pretty much falling in line. And that's what's enabling him to get these large margins with such enthusiasm or such scale without very much infrastructure.
HOBSON: Why is that, by the way? Why do you think that black voters in such huge numbers chose Joe Biden a couple of weeks ago in South Carolina and then on Super Tuesday and in all the Southern states that we've seen so far? In huge numbers, they trust Joe Biden.
PHILLIPS: Well, they trust Barack Obama, and Barack Obama chose Joe Biden. And so the power of that endorsement cannot be overstated. And then on top of that, there is a sense of familiarity, comfort, knowledge that he was a loyal vice president to the first black president. And so obviously, that counts for a tremendous amount. And so that is, I think, the fundamental underpinnings of his support.
And then you have someone like Congressman Clyburn in South Carolina. Putting the additional and heartfelt endorsement behind that candidacy really brought it back from the dead, revived it, sent the message. Everyone got the memo, and black folks are voting in great numbers to propel him to all these wins.
HOBSON: Listen to this. This is Marianne Williamson, former presidential candidate, who spoke to us tonight.
WILLIAMSON: Joe Biden's going to have to work very, very hard. He can't just assume that a bunch of young people who feel that something has happened here to once again shut them down can just be counted on and taken for granted.
HOBSON: What is the thing that Joe Biden needs to do now if he goes on this path tonight and moves closer to being the nominee?
PHILLIPS: Yeah. And that absolutely is one of the underappreciated aspects of this is absolutely how poorly he's doing with young voters. In the Michigan exit polls, he's getting, like, 16% of young people, so the vice presidential pick is going to be key. People have talked about a woman, a woman of color. But it also needs to be a woman of color who appeals to young people and who appeals to the Sanders sector of those young people.
HOBSON: Got to hit all the bases there. Steve Phillips, founder of Democracy in Color. That's a political organization focused on race and politics. Thank you.
PHILLIPS: Thanks for having me on.
HOBSON: And again, here's where we are tonight. Mississippi goes for Joe Biden - 80% for Biden right now, 15% for Sanders, with 67% of the vote in. Missouri for Biden as well. Michigan for Biden as well.
You're listening to live Special Coverage of Big Tuesday from NPR News.
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DAVIS: We have calls in three of tonight's primary contests, and Vice President Joe Biden has won all of them. This is live Special Coverage from NPR News. I'm Susan Davis.
Senator Bernie Sanders still has a chance to win in three states where results haven't yet been announced. Neither candidate is near to the delegate count they would need to secure the Democratic nomination to go up against President Donald Trump in the general election.
And joining us to talk about the view from the opposing party is Corey Lewandowski, who served as Donald Trump's campaign manager in 2016.
COREY LEWANDOWSKI (FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER): Hi. How are you tonight?
DAVIS: I'm good. First, I just ask you for your reaction to tonight's results. I imagine the Trump campaign just a few weeks ago was preparing for a Bernie Sanders general election and might be recalibrating after these results.
LEWANDOWSKI: Well, I think, you know, the state of South Carolina really gave former Vice President Biden a shot to reenergize his campaign. We've seen that now. He went on and had a very good evening a week ago tonight, and it looks like tonight's going to be another good evening for former Vice President Biden, which means it's going to be a regurgitation of the swamp versus the outsider.
You've got a candidate now in Joe Biden who served 36 years in the United States Senate, eight years as a former vice president. And so he is the Washington, D.C., establishment, and he's going to have to run on his record that he produced while in Washington, D.C.
DAVIS: But do you look at things like Biden's strength in Michigan tonight, called the second that polls closed there or shortly after - that in the places that really will decide the general election, Joe Biden is a formidable candidate against Donald Trump?
LEWANDOWSKI: Well, he may be. It's yet to be known. Look; don't forget this is the third time that Joe Biden has run for president. The first time he ever won a state was just a few short weeks ago when he won in South Carolina. And what we've seen Joe Biden's strength has become in the Democratic field is the African American vote. And the exit polls are indicating that in certain states, he's receiving somewhere between 75% and 85% of that African American vote, which is clearly propelling him to victory in some of those key states right now.
DAVIS: Do you think - you know, Republicans on the presidential level that I know, certainly up on Capitol Hill, too, were planning to run in 2020 on this broader idea against socialism, which was a lot easier to do if Bernie Sanders is the nominee. Is it harder to make that case against the Democratic Party if Joe Biden, who's a familiar face to most Americans, is ultimately the nominee?
LEWANDOWSKI: Well, I think it's clearly harder. You know, Senator Sanders is a self-avowed socialist. He honeymooned in the former Soviet Union. He's very proud of those positions. Joe Biden had been seen much more of as a moderate. And what we have not looked at yet, and what has not been examined by most of the mainstream media, is his voting record while United States senator and those policies that he's had when he served as the vice president of the United States. And so that is going to be our opportunity to define him.
And, look; we have seen now former Vice President Biden exceptionally gaffe-prone on the campaign trail, not the least of which transpired today when he got into a shouting match with a union worker in Michigan, and he said people would be coming to take away his AR-14s. The proper term for that's an AR-15.
And, look; maybe it's a minor component of the campaign, but people are going to have to determine if they want to elect a 73-year-old or, at that point, a 78-year-old, which it seems to be is what this election's going to be about.
DAVIS: (Laughter) Is that a generational difference?
LIASSON: Yeah, that's only five years.
LEWANDOWSKI: Well, what we do know - what we know for sure - and your previous caller - your previous guest just said this - is Joe Biden is not doing well with the younger demographic. We know that for sure. That's a demographic that has, particularly in the Democratic field, tended to be more in line with the Bernie Sanders voters. And so we'll see what happens if this goes to the convention and Bernie Sanders loses this nomination where his voters and where his supporters actually go. Do they go and support Joe Biden, or do they sit out this election? Because if they sit out, it will ensure a victory to Donald Trump.
LIASSON: Yeah. And what is it that - hi, Corey. It's Mara Liasson here. What is it that the Donald Trump campaign can do to make sure the Bernie Sanders supporters sit out? It sounds...
LEWANDOWSKI: Well, look; that's not our goal. Our goal is to bring as many people to the ticket and to the Trump campaign as possible. And we have had three years of trying to demonstrate this president's abilities in the economy. And I understand there's been a downturn in the last two weeks. That's without question. That being said, we're still at 3.5% unemployment, the lowest unemployment levels ever in the African American community, the Asian community, the Hispanic community. We believe that that's going to pay dividends long-term.
When you look at criminal justice reform and empowerment zones and you see that the African American community, which has historically voted at a disproportionate rate for the Democrats, is now tending to support Donald Trump at a higher percentage than previously known, that's very important to us. This president, Donald Trump, received 8% of the black vote in 2016. And if we increase that number somewhere to 15%, the numbers become very difficult for a Democratic nominee to win a state that Hillary Clinton lost in 2016.
DAVIS: But, Corey, if the economy is the president's best argument to make for reelection, doesn't the threat posed by the coronavirus present maybe the biggest threat to his reelection not only if it undermines those economic successes but also raises this question of his ability to manage a crisis?
LEWANDOWSKI: Well, look; of course. Look; when you have a potential worldwide pandemic, you look to the leaders of your respective countries for the way that they're handling those issues. I believe the president acted swiftly when he started to limit people's travel from areas that were infected into this country. And we have seen him put together a first-rate team led by Vice President Pence to deal with this pandemic. And I think it's going to be very important of how the markets react. We saw the market jump today on the notion that this president's trying to recommend additional tax cuts to middle-class families - specifically the payroll tax cut where they're looking to suspend that - so that if people aren't going to work, they're not penalized for that. And the hourly wage worker will have an opportunity to benefit from this as well.
So, look; we're still very early in this. I think it's going to get worse before it gets better. But this is, of course, a big test for the president and his team.
DAVIS: Corey, we should note before we let you go that Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders both canceled political rallies tonight over the fears of the coronavirus. Do you think that the president should continue to have rallies in his own reelection campaign, considering those risks?
LEWANDOWSKI: Well, look; I think that's a question that the president and his team are going to have to answer. We know that this president is a very forward-facing president. We know that he has just scheduled a Catholics for Trump rally that's going to transpire next week. And we know that this president was at that same CPAC event where a number of other individuals were potentially in contact with an individual who has contracted the coronavirus. Now we have heard from the self-quarantined members of Congress, particularly Congressman Matt Gaetz, who said that he has been tested and tested negative. But they're self-quarantined until Thursday.
And so, look; I think everybody should proceed with caution and specifically use their best hygiene - washing hands and making sure that we're not in contact with people who we don't know, whether it's close quarters or shaking hands with these individuals, until we make sure that we have this pandemic under control.
DAVIS: So that sounds like you would advise the president to hold back on rallies until we know more.
LEWANDOWSKI: Well, look; I can tell you one thing - that I've known the president for a long time, and you know this. Sometimes my advice is taken. Sometimes it isn't.
LEWANDOWSKI: And so, you know, I've learned to be very selective in when I give advice.
DAVIS: All right. Well, that is Corey Lewandowski, former campaign manager for President Donald Trump. Corey, thanks for your time.
LEWANDOWSKI: Thank you.
HOBSON: And we're joined now by Robby Mook, who was Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign manager and now runs the House Majority PAC. That's the largest superPAC backing House Democratic candidates. Robby, welcome. And your thoughts, first of all, on where we are tonight with Joe Biden taking Michigan - the biggest prize of the night - Missouri and Mississippi so far?
ROBBY MOOK (FORMER CAMPAIGN MANAGER FOR HILLARY CLINTON): Yeah. Well, first of all, thanks for having me. I have to say I was quite surprised, as I think most everybody was on Super Tuesday, when Biden swept so many states and performed so well, particularly in states that Senator Sanders had won in 2016. I have to say, given those results, what we're seeing tonight is in keeping with what we saw there.
You know, and there's been a lot of focus on Michigan. It's important for us to remind ourselves Senator Sanders only won Michigan by a point in 2016. So he, you know, he had to at least perform as well as he did that time, or, you know, even better, perform significantly above. So I actually - you know, I have to say over the past week, I felt like expectations were set quite high for him. And again, I just see Biden performing at the same level.
And I think Sanders faces an even tougher week next week, where I think it's very likely that Biden is going to win all those states. I think Sanders has a shot at Idaho and North Dakota tonight. But, gosh, if he's not winning states next week, I think it's time to really think about how far he wants his campaign to go.
HOBSON: OK. So if that's the case, I want to ask you because many people look back to 2016 and say that one of the reasons that Donald Trump won was because people who supported Bernie Sanders did not get behind Hillary Clinton, your candidate, in 2016. What does Joe Biden need to do tonight and going forward to offer an olive branch to Sanders supporters and make them believe - many of them do not believe right now - that he is going to stand up for their ideas and really change things in Washington in favor of the working class?
MOOK: Well, I think there are two things to keep in mind here. First of all, the primary and the general - apples and oranges. I think far too much was read into the primary in 2016. The reason Bernie Sanders won the Michigan primary is because it was an open primary. Anybody can participate. And a lot of the moderates in that primary peeled off, went to vote for Kasich and alternatives to Trump. I think you're seeing now those moderates are all in the Democratic primary. There is no Republican contest.
For example, Hillary Clinton won the primary in Ohio. By a very comfortable margin, she won Missouri. Wisconsin, again, Bernie won. It was an open primary, and those independent voters are much more ideological, frankly. And, again, a lot peeled off to go try to stop Trump in the Republican primary.
HOBSON: But what does Biden need to say to Sanders supporters to get them on his side?
MOOK: Well, look; I actually - I want to be fair to all the candidates here. You know, I haven't had a single person ask me, what are we doing to get the Warren folks? What are we doing to get the Buttigieg folks? What are we doing to get the Bloomberg folks? I think the fact is Biden needs to reach out to all (laughter) voters in the Democratic primary. And I think Democratic voters are desperate to defeat Donald Trump. And so I don't think we should have a stereotype of Sanders supporters that they somehow don't understand what's at stake with Donald Trump, that they are completely different than other voters who would stand up to Donald Trump. I think they understand as well as anybody what's at stake. And I think Joe Biden needs to say to them what he's going to say to everybody else and what I'm hearing him say on the stump, which is we can do a heck of a lot better than this president. And, by the way, he's been terrible for working-class people in this country. His tax cuts were a giveaway to the biggest corporations. Wages have not gone up. Biden has a completely different approach. And so if you support Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren or Pete Buttigieg or any of the Democratic candidates, this isn't even a tough choice.
LIASSON: Robby, this is Mara Liasson here. I have a question for you. You talk about how everyone should come out just to vote against Donald Trump, but we know that large numbers of Bernie Sanders supporters - larger than the supporters of the other candidates - say that they're not sure if they're going to vote for the Democratic nominee if it's not Sanders.
And it sounds like you're saying if you just make it a referendum on Donald Trump, all the Democrats will come together. I thought one of the lessons from 2016 was that that's not enough - that you have to have policies and ideas that excite Democratic voters, especially young voters - that Donald Trump is not - Donald Trump alone is not enough for the Democrats.
MOOK: Well, keep in mind in 2016, Donald Trump hadn't been president for four years (laughter). And we're living through, right now, the coronavirus, and I think we've seen the administration has been entirely incompetent in handling it. The president - you can't even trust a word he's saying.
I guess, again - you know, I look at it this way. If you are sick and tired of Donald Trump's leadership, then there are two people in this race. And if we make a choice that we need to defeat Donald Trump, then all other choices we make from there are about helping Joe Biden get elected.
And, look; if someone out there really believes that Bernie Sanders was the only answer, then I, frankly, don't understand what argument can possibly be made for them to support a Democrat other (laughter) than, you know, what Donald Trump has done. And, frankly, look; I was there in 2010, helping House Democrats when we tried to pass a public option. We couldn't get it done with a 40-seat majority and 60 Republicans in the Senate. I'm incredibly excited about having a public option. I'm incredibly excited about Joe Biden's plan to tackle climate change. You know...
HOBSON: We've got to leave it there, Robby, although, I will just correct - you said 60 Republicans. I think you meant 60 Democrats in the Senate is what you had.
MOOK: Oh, 60 Democrats, yes.
HOBSON: But thank you for joining us. You are listening to live Special Coverage of Big Tuesday from NPR News.
And we are joined now by Amy Radil, who is at member station KUOW in Seattle, Wash. The polls close in Washington in about 25 minutes, but they're mail-in ballots there, Amy.
AMY RADIL (BYLINE): That's right. We've been vote-by-mail for several years. And so you'll probably see some votes tonight for candidates that already have withdrawn from the race because people have had their ballots for a couple weeks, and this election has changed so much in that time.
HOBSON: Do you think that we are going to get some information right at the top of the hour?
RADIL: They're promising by about 8:15, so very soon.
HOBSON: 8:15 Pacific time, 11:15 on the East Coast.
HOBSON: Now, it has been an intense couple of weeks in Washington state with the coronavirus outbreak there. Were the candidates even campaigning there in these past few weeks?
RADIL: We did not see the candidates in the past couple weeks. You know, and people here are kind of subdued and anxious and distracted.
The campaigns took kind of different approaches. The Sanders campaign kept up the canvassing. They were doing - knocking on doors as recently as Sunday, but saying, hey, step back even a little farther after you knock because, you know, you don't want to make people nervous. They did cancel their primary night gathering. They said that they were listening to the public health cautions. The Biden campaign wasn't really present here anyway, so they said, given these circumstances, they would be contacting voters more remotely. We saw some endorsements from local elected officials and things like that.
HOBSON: And I understand that people were being told not to lick the envelopes that they put their ballots in because of coronavirus?
RADIL: Yeah, that kind of - that made the rounds. But when I visited King County Elections, the county that includes Seattle, a couple days ago, they said that public health officials had told them that's really not a concern. You know, so we're lucky we don't have polling places. We don't have lines where we have to worry about virus transmission.
The one concern is, you know, King County has this big open office with, like, 150 temporary employees, including a lot of seniors, who help process the ballots. And so they are wearing gloves, which they said is, you know, just kind of an abundance of caution. And they're trying to clean their workspaces and stuff. But so far, they haven't had people calling out sick and things like that.
HOBSON: How much is the virus weighing on voters' minds as they consider who to vote for?
RADIL: I think people are factoring it in, but we didn't really hear of people saying it changed their mind. It's more like it augmented their desire to support the candidate that they were already gravitating toward. So, you know, Biden voters said that they really want this. The virus heightens the need to support him to beat Donald Trump. And Sanders voters said it heightens the need for Medicare for All. So it seems to be, you know, just one more factor in favor of their candidate.
HOBSON: That is Amy Radil at KUOW in Seattle. And in Washington state, the polls close in just a little over 20 minutes. Amy, thank you.
RADIL: Yeah, you're welcome.
HOBSON: And just an update on where we are right now, Mississippi we have called for Joe Biden. Missouri we have called for Joe Biden. Michigan we have called for Joe Biden. Still waiting on Washington state and Idaho and North Dakota for a call. However, with 10% of the vote in in North Dakota, Sanders at 39% and Biden at 26%. Stay tuned. We will find out what happens there. This is live Special Coverage of Big Tuesday from NPR News. We'll be right back.
(SOUNDBITE OF BRASS SUMMIT'S "SYMPHONY IN BRASS: ALLEGRO VIVACE")
DAVIS: Senator Bernie Sanders is still waiting for a victory in tonight's Big Tuesday primary contests. One sign he's not feeling confident - his campaign says he will not speak tonight. This is live Special Coverage from NPR News. I'm Susan Davis.
Former Vice President Joe Biden has won all three of the states with projected winners tonight so far - Mississippi, Missouri and, the biggest contest of the night, Michigan. The only thing we know for certain so far is that the eventual nominee will face President Donald Trump in the general election. And joining us now is White House correspondent Tamara Keith. Hey, Tam.
TAMARA KEITH (BYLINE): Hi.
DAVIS: So you were listening earlier where President Trump's former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski spoke. He said that the White House still feels confident about the president's reelection chances. No surprises there. But a Joe Biden race versus a Bernie Sanders race are two very different calculations.
KEITH: Those are two very different calculations, but the Trump campaign is insisting that it is not different. Tim Murtaugh, who is communications director for the campaign, over the weekend said these two guys are two sides of the same coin. There is no question about it.
So what the Trump campaign and the Republican Party are going to try to do is to sort of paint Biden with the policy proposals that Sanders pushed, saying that Sanders has really driven the conversation and driven the debate over the course of the primary. Of course, don't tell that to Sanders supporters. You know, Sanders supporters don't think Joe Biden's the same thing as Bernie Sanders, certainly.
But, you know, what really stood out to me in talking with the campaign is how they, at this point, are insisting - and, you know, Corey Lewandowski did the same. They're insisting that the economy is going to be the centerpiece of President Trump's pitch and that coronavirus isn't going to change anything. Meanwhile, you have top officials in the Trump White House today saying that he wants what would amount to a trillion-dollar tax cut to run through the end of the year, past the election, to sort of shore up the U.S. economy against the potential effects of social distancing and other things related to the coronavirus.
DAVIS: I wonder if you have some thoughts on the impeachment politics, right?
DAVIS: It seems like not so long ago, we were consumed by the impeachment coverage. And that's kind of drifted away.
DAVIS: But if Joe Biden's the nominee, it's clear - and Corey Lewandowski said this as well - they're going to run against Joe Biden as the swamp, as a longtime Washington figure. But it will also serve to bring back to the forefront that the president was impeached and the activities that he took place in. I mean, how does the race shape differently with that impeachment question if it is ultimately a Joe Biden-Donald Trump race?
KEITH: Well, for Trump's supporters, Trump's campaign really believes that impeachment really fires up the base, that it really made Trump's supporters mad, and that's the kind of thing that could drive them to the polls. And when it comes to Biden, they are very much looking forward to bringing up all of the baggage and reminding everyone of the case that they were trying to make during impeachment. And, you know, Senate Republicans are seemingly willing to go along with that and are potentially going to continue to be investigating the Biden family's connections to Ukraine.
You know, there has not been anything found to say that there was corruption or any of the allegations there other than Hunter Biden did make some money from a Ukrainian gas company. That's not in dispute. But certainly, that is something that, in some ways, Ukraine, for Biden - if the Trump campaign can get its way, Ukraine, for Biden, would be like emails for Hillary Clinton.
DAVIS: In that it'll be the message that the president hammers over and over again.
KEITH: They'll just keep hammering it. And you also have heard the president and his allies talk about, you know, whether Biden is too old, whether 75 - or 78 is too old, given that there's a 73-year-old president as it is. You know, that's something that they're going to try to push. It's also something that in sort of the misinformation world of the Internet, it's also flaring up.
DAVIS: Do you get the sense - you know, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders tonight both canceled political rallies over public health concerns over the coronavirus. The president has scheduled an event in Milwaukee for next week. Do you get a sense that they are debating whether or not to not only continue with that one, but rallies in general, especially as the coronavirus outbreak continues?
KEITH: Well, if they are debating it, they are pretending that they're not. But given the recommendations of President Trump's own coronavirus task force, holding a large event is something that organizers are being encouraged to reconsider or cancel. So, you know, in some ways, President Trump has been trying to balance this idea of taking it very seriously and, we're going to get coronavirus under control, and then also not having it under control.
And he is trying to pretend or say that he's continuing as normal. You know, he has a swing out West later this week that is not yet canceled. And he is continuing to shake hands - very publicly going out and shaking hands, not doing the elbow bump, as some other public officials have started doing.
DAVIS: The president also made a little bit of news in a separate race this evening. He announced an endorsement in the Alabama Senate race.
KEITH: He did. And in some ways, this isn't a surprise at all. And in some ways, you know, this is the president weighing in on a Senate primary. There's a runoff in the Alabama Senate race coming up. And Jeff Sessions, the former attorney general, is one candidate. Tommy Tuberville, the former Auburn University football coach, is the other candidate. Well, President Trump, with two tweets, has put his finger on the scales for Tuberville. President Trump has never forgiven Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation.
DAVIS: All right. That is White House correspondent Tamara Keith. Tam, thanks so much.
KEITH: You're welcome.
HOBSON: And we're joined now by Aracely Jimenez, who's the national spokesperson with the Sunrise Movement. That's a youth-led political organization aiming to tackle climate change. The organization endorsed Sanders in January. Aracely, thank you for joining us. And when you look at what's happening tonight - Sanders getting just 15% support in Mississippi, 34% in Missouri and 38% in the all-important state of Michigan - how are you feeling about the Sanders campaign?
ARACELY JIMENEZ (DEPUTY COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, SUNRISE MOVEMENT): Yeah. Thank you so much for having me. My take is that, really, you know, we're entering a new political moment right now. And it's - you know, that moment is being defined more and more by the coronavirus. And when I look at the results that are coming in tonight, I think it's clear that this country is operating and voting out of a state of fear, operating out of a politics of fear. And the idea that Joe Biden is somehow a safe option in this moment, you know, couldn't be more wrong. You know, the reality is that Joe Biden is probably the most dangerous option for the Democratic Party in this moment because...
HOBSON: So why do you think so many Democrats are choosing Joe Biden? Because a lot of them are doing so thinking that he is going to be the most electable, the person who's best equipped to beat President Trump.
JIMENEZ: I think he's gotten a lot of - millions and millions of dollars' worth of earned media attention. It's clear that the Democratic establishment has coalesced around Biden as their pick. But, you know, Bernie Sanders is still building a strong movement that, you know, can step into this whirlwind of public health, climate and economic crisis and cut through this narrative of panic and fear with an incredibly sharp level of moral clarity. And, you know, right now, Bernie Sanders is still the only candidate that we can trust to hold the people responsible for the crisis at hand, you know, accountable.
HOBSON: Just note that we are about to hear from Joe Biden. But Mara Liasson here wants to ask a quick question.
LIASSON: Yeah. I have a question. What - how do you explain the fact that Bernie Sanders has not been able to get large numbers of young people to turn out? I think only in one state, Iowa, did voters under 30 jump up by about 30%. But the turnout among young voters have gone down in every other state. Why aren't they turning out for Bernie Sanders?
JIMENEZ: Yeah. That's a great question. You know, I think that earned media coverage is a huge part of it. And I think at some point, you know, when you get to this level of politics at this national level, earned media coverage is going to play a huge role.
HOBSON: Sorry. Aracely, I'm sorry. I have to cut you off because...
JIMENEZ: Go ahead.
HOBSON: ...We're going to go live to Joe Biden speaking in Philadelphia, Pa.
(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)
HOBSON: We seem to have lost the feed of Joe Biden there, but he's speaking in Philadelphia after finding out that he won in Michigan - the big prize of the night - Missouri, as well as Mississippi. We're still waiting on three other states, including Washington state, which closes its polls in just a couple of minutes.
Ron Elving, it was a different kind of setting than we were expecting because Biden was going to have a rally, which was canceled because of coronavirus - a little more muted. But also, an interesting tonal difference from him because now it looks more like he's going to be the nominee.
ELVING: And he was already reaching out, in quite obvious ways, to the supporters of Bernie Sanders, to Bernie Sanders himself, to others who might have the power to move this just a little closer to Joe Biden's grasp in the days and weeks ahead. He did not mention Andrew Yang, who just endorsed him tonight on CNN, but he ran through a long litany of other candidates who have been onstage in the debates week after week, month after month, who have now come to his side. Clearly, he's opening the door.
HOBSON: We got our feed back. Let's listen to more of Biden.
(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)
HOBSON: Joe Biden speaking in Philadelphia. You're listening to live Special Coverage of Big Tuesday from NPR News. I'm Jeremy Hobson, along with Sue Davis. And, Sue, he definitely was appealing there to Sanders supporters, talking about health care for all, talking about climate change.
DAVIS: And also, the line that stuck out - we share a common goal - was an overture to Bernie Sanders supporters. We should also note the optics of what this looks like tonight. Joe Biden did not plan to be giving this speech in Philadelphia. Both he and Bernie Sanders canceled their planned political rallies over fears of the coronavirus. So a very different setting than Joe Biden, but clearly, I think, presented a quieter tone, seemed to be setting a calm tone, which seems the tone that you hit when a country feels like it might be in a time of crisis. NPR political correspondent Mara Liasson.
LIASSON: Yeah. I mean, I thought the tone was striking. Yes, he reached out to Sanders. He talked about how we have the same goals. He talked about a bold, progressive vision. He listed some of the things that Sanders supporters would presumably want - terms of universal health care that's a right, not a privilege.
But I thought the tone was really interesting. It was very calm. I think he made an effort to be presidential. We're in a crisis. He wanted to say, look at me; I'm a leader who's not chaotic, who knows what he's doing, who's going to heal the nation, who's competent. And we've heard Joe Biden give many different kinds of speeches. Sometimes he shouts. Sometimes he rambles. This was pretty steady. And I think that was the message - I'm a steady hand, and I can handle the problems of the country, and I'm the antidote to the chaotic president we have now.
DAVIS: One thing that we've heard from guests all throughout the evening is that Joe Biden still has some fundamental weaknesses, particularly among Latino voters and young voters. NPR political correspondent Danielle Kurtzleben has been looking at the exit poll data of what it tells us this evening about who voted. What sticks out to you, Danielle?
KURTZLEBEN: Right. Well, a thing I don't think I need to go in depth very much here on is young voters because we've heard this over and over again tonight - right? - that young people, voters under the age of 30, are simply, in most states that have voted thus far, including the states tonight, either the same share of the electorate as they were in 2016 or a lower share of the electorate, which basically means that Bernie Sanders has not really juiced their turnout, because those young people so overwhelmingly tend to vote for him, while the older voters so overwhelmingly tend to vote for Joe Biden. And there's - in many states, there's just more of those older voters. So that's one big thing.
Another thing is, you know, there are just some persistent divides here that show up in state after state after state. Sanders tends to do better among young people than old people, better among whites than he does among black voters, better among men than women - the reverse for Joe Biden. And one notable divide that I spotted tonight in Michigan, which we had been watching closely, Sanders - men voted roughly equally for Sanders and Biden. Women were 23 points more likely to vote for Joe Biden than Bernie Sanders. So in the state of Michigan, one way to look at is that women really boosted Joe Biden over the edge.
DAVIS: And probably African American women in particular.
KURTZLEBEN: Most definitely, yes. And one final thing - really big picture is that if you - these exit polls ask people, which is more important, someone who can defeat Donald Trump or someone you agree with? Sanders tends to do better among the people who say, someone who agrees with my issues. Biden tends to do better among people that say, I value someone who can defeat Donald Trump. In both Michigan and Missouri, 60% of people, give or take, said that they value someone who can defeat Donald Trump. It's that persistent electability issue. Most people say, yes, we want electability. And most of those people say Biden. So that's a big-picture thing that's going on here.
DAVIS: NPR's Ron Elving, one thing we talk about - Joe Biden, we should make clear, even after all the votes have been counted tonight, still doesn't have the votes necessary for the nomination. This could still very much be a prolonged nomination fight. But when you look at those turnout numbers and then you look at the next steps in this race, the contests next week, the fundamentals of this race are bending towards Joe Biden.
ELVING: In a way that one could not have foreseen just a couple of weeks ago. But if you do look at the states that are coming up in the next couple of weeks, we're going to see more and more of the most populous states. We're going to see Florida. We're going to see Ohio and Illinois. We're going to eventually get to New York and Pennsylvania in April. But just before we get out of March, we'll also see Georgia.
And when all of those states have weighed in, it's hard to see which of those states would fit the pattern of states that Bernie Sanders has won. It's hard to see - unless that under-30 voting populace suddenly turns out in a surge that we haven't seen up to now, it's hard to see how the demographics of those states don't continue exactly the kind of pattern that we saw on Super Tuesday and that we're seeing tonight.
HOBSON: I want to say two things about timing. One, you said a couple weeks ago. Somebody earlier said a few weeks ago. It was actually 10 days ago that Joe Biden won his first primary in his entire life...
HOBSON: ...In a presidential campaign of South Carolina. That was 10 days ago. The other thing is it's now 11:05 on the East Coast, and we have not made a call yet on Washington state. And we remember that when Missouri closed, we immediately made a call. Now, this was a state that, of all of them tonight, was looking like it was going to be the best for Bernie Sanders - right? - Washington state - or among the best for Bernie Sanders. Does the fact that we haven't made a call, Ron, tell you anything?
ELVING: It tells you, first of all, that it's not another Biden blowout, because we made a call the moment that the polls closed in Mississippi and Missouri. And Missouri was especially a shock. And while we didn't make an immediate call in Michigan, it wasn't terribly long after...
ELVING: ...The last polls had closed before we did make that call. So this state may be turning into the cliffhanger of the night. And because of the way they vote out there - you can actually mail your ballot in on election day and have it postmarked that day - there may be a call that comes quite late because we - if it's close. If it's close, we may not know. But I am seeing exit polls that are suggesting that Biden has a plurality of the vote among white college graduates and a plurality of the vote among white voters who don't have a college degree.
HOBSON: In Washington state.
ELVING: In Washington state. Now, if you have both of those pluralities, you're in pretty good shape because Biden, generally speaking, does well with the nonwhite vote, whether it's people of color who are Latino, whether it's people of color who are African American. So that's - generally, his strongest area is the African Americans.
KURTZLEBEN: One thing I want to add. We're starting to see exit polls coming in in Washington. And because you have all of those people mailing in their ballots, some of those people mailed in their ballots before a bunch of candidates dropped out. So you're seeing Elizabeth Warren still showing up with a substantial portion of the vote. Now, she does have supporters that have said that their second choice was either Biden or Sanders. There is a split there. But either way - so we don't exactly know which candidate this hurts, but it's, at the very least, really going to complicate the results coming out of Washington.
DAVIS: Also one of the few former rivals on the Democratic stage who has not yet endorsed in this race between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders.
KURTZLEBEN: Very true.
DAVIS: Let's bring in NPR political correspondents Scott Detrow and Asma Khalid. Hey there.
DETROW: Hey. Good evening.
KHALID: Hey there.
DAVIS: Scott, I want to start with you. You have been with the Bernie Sanders campaign, but they've made the decision tonight not to say anything. What do you make of that?
DETROW: Well, I think I'm not quite sure what Bernie Sanders would say tonight. He's had a crushing loss in Michigan, a state that he won in 2016 in probably his most high-profile victory against Hillary Clinton. This is a state that he really spent a lot of time in over the past week, doing event after event in Michigan, canceling events in other states in order to spend more time there. I was following him around this morning when he was doing stops at polling locations in the Detroit area trying to get that one last boost.
And it looks like Joe Biden has had a pretty smooth victory in Michigan, as well as wins in Missouri and Mississippi. The polls have just closed in three Western states that Bernie Sanders also won in 2016 - Washington state, Idaho and North Dakota. And if Joe Biden has it close or is ahead in those states as well, I think that's going to be yet another sign that Bernie Sanders just is not having anywhere near as strong of a primary as he did in 2016. And I think tonight, there are a lot of questions about what comes next for the Bernie Sanders campaign.
HOBSON: Well, and by the way, there's now more than 50% of the vote in in Washington state - 54% of the vote in - Joe Biden, 33.2%; Bernie Sanders, 33.1%. They are tied with more than half of the vote in. Mara, your thoughts?
LIASSON: I mean, you have to wonder if the difference between 2016 and 2020 is about gender. I mean, why...
HOBSON: 'Cause Hillary Clinton was in '16.
LIASSON: Hillary Clinton. How much of the Bernie Sanders vote in 2016, where he did a lot better than he's doing this time, was an anti-Hillary vote? I mean, the fact that he's doing so much worse with white working-class voters, who were considered to be, in addition to young voters, part of Bernie Sanders' core base, you know, why has that changed?
HOBSON: Asma Khalid, you're with us as well, right?
DETROW: I think that's a really important point.
KHALID: Yes, I am there.
HOBSON: What are your thoughts on that? Do you think that gender is what's making the difference for Biden?
KHALID: You know, it's hard to assess that - right? - because I don't know that it's something that we can really, actually prove out until we kind of have a neutral case to look at. What I will say is that Hillary Clinton elicited a lot of strong opinions from many Democratic voters. And I heard that across the board. And many young voters in particular just did not jive with her candidacy.
And this cycle, I will say that Joe Biden - many folks I talked to within the Democratic primary base had concerns about whether he had the sort of the stamina, whether he was the right fit to defeat Donald Trump. Some of them liked, you know, other candidates earlier on in this cycle. But I did not hear the sort of - I guess I didn't hear the sort of instinctual anger from some Democratic primary voters about Biden that I heard about Hillary Clinton.
DAVIS: Asma, this is Sue. How much work do you think that the Biden campaign feels like they need to do if they believe they're going to be the nominee to bring those Bernie Sanders supporters into the party? They must be uniquely aware that Hillary Clinton was not able to do it in 2016. And gender aside, he does seem to have some of the same fundamental weaknesses among young and Latino voters.
KHALID: I mean, young voters, I think, in particular are really an important part of this equation because we all recall in 2016 that some young people just sat the election out. They decided they weren't going to vote for either Trump or Hillary Clinton. You know, the line that caught my ear tonight, Sue - and I know you all were just mentioning this - was the line in which Biden sounded like a man who was very confident of his status as the potential nominee.
We should point out Bernie Sanders is in this race. He has given no sign yet of conceding anything. But we heard Biden say that he wanted to thank Bernie Sanders and his supporters for their tireless energy. It was a very unusual line to be made from the only candidate who is speaking tonight. Sanders has not yet spoken.
LIASSON: Did you hear anything tonight, Asma, in his speech where he was offering something to young voters or Latino voters - something specific in the speech other than just praising Bernie Sanders and his supporters?
KHALID: I have not, really. And, Mara, this is actually a storyline that we've been looking at. Who are the young voters that are supporting Joe Biden? Why are they supporting him? And what we've often heard from them is - the few sort of, we should say, young folks that we do meet at his events point to his electability. And then the sort of one issue line that I've heard from them is Biden's strong stance on gun reform. This is a generation who feels very strongly about guns. I do think that if Biden is able to tap more into his support for gun reform, that's an issue that could potentially translate well. I mean, many of these people feel very strongly - the young voters - about the need for gun reform. And the fact is that they have grown up under sort of a system where they've been doing, you know, shooter drill safety in their schools for years at this point. And that is something I have heard from some young voters.
LIASSON: Right. And Biden didn't talk about that tonight. Actually, it was one of the few images that he...
KHALID: He did not, no.
LIASSON: No, no. He did. He talked about running, how you have to zigzag down the halls.
KHALID: About that running - yes, yes.
LIASSON: Yeah. So that was actually an incredible image...
KHALID: And that's something - yeah.
LIASSON: ...That he painted, which he usually doesn't do. Yeah.
DAVIS: Another sign of how much politics has shifted...
KHALID: But he has been doing - I was going to say he was at a gun...
DAVIS: Go ahead, Asma.
KHALID: And he was at - you know, he held a rally today, actually, with supporters of, you know, Everytown for Gun Safety and folks within the Moms Demand Action movement. It is an issue that he has been trying to tap into more. And I think, you know, sort of my instincts is that it could be potentially an avenue into garnering more support from young voters.
But what I will say is there are people who are strong Bernie Sanders supporters who will need to take a lot of convincing. This is not something that can be done, you know, two months before the general election. It is something that whoever the nominee is will need to really invest time and resources in.
DAVIS: Scott, I want to ask you because - about Bernie Sanders and his effect on this race, because he clearly has not performed as well as he believed he would or as his supporters believed he would. But so much of this Democratic primary fight have been set on terms made by Bernie Sanders. I mean, his impact on this race in the Democratic Party can't really be understated at this point in time.
DETROW: Absolutely. And it's even more remarkable when you pause to point out the fact that he has still never joined the Democratic Party. But going back to that 2016 primary where he fought Hillary Clinton to the wire even though she clearly had a lead she wasn't going to relinquish, he has really dragged the party to the direction of a big chunk of his platform. Medicare for All, his signature campaign issue - having an entire health care system turned into a government-run health care system, banning private insurance - dominated the conversation of this primary for more than a year.
Several other candidates who ran for president made a point to endorse that platform. And even those who didn't, like Joe Biden, still used that as the starting point, saying that they would have a massive government health care program as part of their plan. You can go issue after issue. A $15 minimum wage, a whole bunch of other things - things that Bernie Sanders ran on in 2016 and a lot of Democrats said, I don't know about that - really, the whole party has embraced at this point of time.
That being said, during that, you know, quaint time two-plus weeks ago where it looked like it was Bernie Sanders and not Joe Biden who had the clearest path to the nomination, there was still a lot of discomfort about the fact that he is a democratic socialist, the fact that he had praise for parts of, you know, Fidel Castro's governance and didn't back down from them when the spotlight was on him. There was certainly some discomfort with a democratic socialist at the top of the party, and that was one of the factors that led to this consolidation behind Biden. But Bernie Sanders has left a permanent mark of the Democratic Party, and I think that's going to continue to be the case, you know, whether or not he gets out of the race in the next few weeks.
HOBSON: OK. Let's just bring in one more guest here, Kate Bedingfield, who's deputy campaign manager for Joe Biden. Your thoughts, Kate Bedingfield, on what's going on tonight? And do you think that this primary should continue? We already heard James Clyburn say today he thinks all the debates should be called off after this.
KATE BEDINGFIELD (DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER, BIDEN CAMPAIGN): Well, I'll - first of all, thanks for having me. I appreciate it. And, look; you know, I'll obviously let Senator Sanders and their campaign make a decision about how they want to proceed.
But, you know, what I would say about tonight is I think you saw, you know, Joe Biden building the coalition of voters that we have to turn out in order to beat Donald Trump in November. You know, he obviously, you know, won going away the African American vote. But you saw him building on his coalition tonight, you know? He won with suburban voters in Michigan. He won with college-educated voters in Missouri. So, you know, I think you saw turnout tonight at record levels in Michigan and, you know, incredibly high in other places that were voting today. So there's clearly a lot of enthusiasm for Biden. And I think, you know, Democrats have decided that Joe Biden is the guy that they want in the White House and that they believe can beat Donald Trump.
HOBSON: OK. And just briefly, what is your message to supporters of Senator Sanders tonight?
BEDINGFIELD: We would absolutely welcome them to our movement. We are building a movement to beat Donald Trump. We, you know, we share a belief that the economy should work for working people, that it should reward work over wealth, that health care should be affordable, that it's a human right. I think there is more commonality between us than there are divisions. And we'd absolutely welcome them to our movement. Anybody who wants to beat Donald Trump, come on over to the Biden campaign. We would love to have you.
HOBSON: That is Kate Bedingfield, deputy campaign manager for Joe Biden. Thank you for joining us.
BEDINGFIELD: Thank you for having me. I really appreciate it.
HOBSON: By the way, with 66% of the vote in in Washington state, Sue, it is 32.7% Sanders, 32.6% for Joe Biden.
DAVIS: We might not have a call in that race...
DAVIS: ...Anytime soon.
HOBSON: We will leave it there for our Special Coverage tonight. It was a very good showing for former Vice President Joe Biden. He won in the biggest state of the night, Michigan, as well as Mississippi and Missouri. Three states still have not been called - Idaho, Washington and North Dakota.
DAVIS: Biden now leads Senator Bernie Sanders by over 150 delegates. We'll have more analysis of the results tomorrow on Morning Edition and Up First. And you can follow online at npr.org.
I'm Susan Davis.
HOBSON: And I'm Jeremy Hobson. This has been Special Coverage of Big Tuesday from NPR News.
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