| AspenTimes.com

John Hickenlooper claims decisive win in Democratic primary for U.S. Senate

DENVER — Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper won the Democratic nomination Tuesday to face Republican Sen. Cory Gardner in November, overcoming a series of stumbles and beating back a challenge from his left.

Hickenlooper’s defeat of former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff was the second win by a centrist Democrat in a Senate primary Tuesday, after a late vote count from last week’s Kentucky Senate primary gave Amy McGrath the win over State Rep. Charles Booker. Romanoff is a former moderate who turned himself into a populist, running against the moderate favorite of the Democratic establishment and promising a Green New Deal and single-payer health care.

But he could not overcome both Hickenlooper’s immense financial edge — the former governor out-raised Romanoff by about 7-to-1 — and his deep name ID and reservoir of goodwill among voters stemming from two terms in the governor’s mansion.

That’s why Senate Democrats recruited Hickenlooper, 68, to take on Gardner, widely seen as the most vulnerable Republican in the Senate. Democrats need to net three seats in November to win control of the chamber if they win the White House, and they see Colorado as their most promising opportunity. Senate Democrats convinced Hickenlooper to run as his ill-fated bid for the Democratic presidential nomination fizzled last summer.

Hickenlooper’s relatively easy win against Romanoff, Democrats argue, showed his resilience as a candidate whom Coloradans trust as a gaffe-prone, but authentic, leader.

“I’ve never lost an election in this state and I don’t intend to lose this one,” Hickenlooper said Tuesday night as he previewed his line of attack against Gardner: “We know what Donald Trump told us himself: Cory Gardner is with him 100% of the time.”

In an interview, Gardner previewed how he intends to fight back. In contrast to Hickenlooper’s attempt to link the election to national issues like Trump, the coronavirus pandemic and collapsing economy, Gardner rattled off some of his recent accomplishments — luring the headquarters of U.S. Space Command and the Bureau of Land Management to Colorado and passing a sweeping public lands bill.

“I’m with the people of Colorado 100% of the time,” Gardner, 45, said.

The Republican Senator also called Hickenlooper “the most corrupt governor in the history of Colorado.” It was a reference to the state ethics commission finding in early June that Hickenlooper violated the state’s ethics law by failing to reimburse for a private plane flight and limousine ride while he was governor. Hickenlooper had refused to testify during a virtual hearing, insisting on an in-person one, earning a contempt citation from the nonpartisan commission.

The ethics case was part of a miserable final stretch for Hickenlooper in June. Amid the protests over police violence against Black people, Hickenlooper garbled the meaning of the slogan “Black Lives Matter.” The following week, an African American Romanoff supporter tweeted a 6-year-old video of Hickenlooper jokingly comparing politicians to slaves being whipped to row “an ancient slave ship.”

The combination of the gaffes and setbacks was enough to lure Republicans to launch millions of dollars in ads attacking Hickenlooper. Democrats responded with defensive ads, and Romanoff then jumped in and added his own attack ad versus the former governor.

Colorado’s Democratic establishment, from Gov. Jared Polis to Sen. Michael Bennet, condemned Romanoff for the move. Then, days later, a big-money group that will not disclose its donors launched a $1 million ad campaign slamming Romanoff for spearheading an anti-illegal immigrant bill in 2006. Romanoff has since apologized for the bill.

Republicans always expected Hickenlooper to win the primary, though many rooted for Romanoff and the GOP hopes that Hickenlooper has been banged up enough to give Gardner a chance in the November election.

But Colorado Democrats are eager to oust Gardner. Romanoff quickly called Hickenlooper to congratulate him on the victory after polls closed Tuesday evening. “For all the differences that we had, and there were many in this race, I am equally committed to making sure Cory Gardner is a one-term senator,” Romanoff told supporters during a virtual victory party on Zoom.

No Republican has won a statewide election in Colorado since 2014, when Gardner won by less than 2 percentage points in a strong year for Republicans. Hickenlooper was reelected as governor that year by a wider margin.

Political newcomer Lauren Boebert beats incumbent Scott Tipton in CD3 Republican primary

Rifle restaurant owner and staunch gun rights advocate Lauren Boebert pulled off the upset of the night in Tuesday’s Colorado Primary elections, defeating five-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton for the party’s nomination in the 3rd Congressional District.

“Our freedom and our Constitutional rights are on the ballot this November and Republicans just sent a loud and clear message that they want me there to fight for them,” Boebert said in a statement, issued from her campaign watch party in Grand Junction.

As of 11 p.m. Tuesday, Boebert had earned 54.5% of the vote among Republican voters throughout the sprawling 3rd Congressional District, which includes the population centers of Grand Junction, Pueblo, Montrose and Durango.

Tipton held a slight advantage over Boebert in her home county of Garfield, but it was a virtual dead heat with Tipton carrying 50.1% to Boebert’s 49.9%. Tipton held the lead among Pitkin County voters with 544 votes to Boebert’s 279 votes, as of the 9:15 p.m. update from Pitkin County Clerk Janice Vos Caudill.

Boebert is the owner of Shooters Grill in Rifle, which has become widely known for allowing its wait staff to open carry.

“I joined this race because thousands of ordinary Americans just like me are fed-up with politics as usual,” she said. “Colorado deserves a fighter who will stand up for freedom, who believes in America and who is willing to take on all the left-wing lunatics who are trying so hard to ruin our country.” 

Shortly after 9 p.m. Tuesday, Tipton’s campaign conceded the race.

“3rd District Republicans have decided who they want to run against the Democrats this November,” Tipton said in a statement. “I want to congratulate Lauren Boebert and wish her and her supporters well.”

Boebert will face Diane Mitsch Bush in the Nov. 3 election. Mitsch Bush, a former Routt County commissioner and state representative from Steamboat Springs who lost to Tipton in the 2018 general election, was the winner of the Democratic primary Tuesday over businessman James Iacino of Ridgway.

“It surprises me a little, but I thought she might get a lot of traction in this race because of her base,” Mitsch Bush said of Boebert’s upset win. “I was on a panel with her once, and she really stays on message and her beliefs are very strong and she is very articulate … I look forward to discussing issues with her and facing her in the general election.”

Mitsch Bush said she will run on her record as a state legislator who was able to work across party lines.

“I run on telling the truth, and I’m always transparent,” Mitsch Bush said.

Boebert called her run for Congress “a battle for the heart and soul of our country. I’m going to win this November because freedom is a great motivator,” she said.

Boebert is also a staunch supporter of President Donald Trump, who tweeted Tuesday night upon learning of her upset over Tipton, “Congratulation on a really great win.”

Last fall, Boebert traveled to Denver to confront then-Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke regarding his stance on gun control, saying, “Hell no, you won’t take our guns.”

Recently, during the COVID-19 shutdown in Garfield County, Boebert defied Governor Jared Polis’ public health order and re-opened Shooters Grill to in-restaurant dining under CDC safety guidelines. 

Boebert noted in her statement that she was raised in a Democrat household and became a “self-taught Republican conservative.” She has never held public office.

Covering over 52,000 square miles, Colorado’s 3rd District is one of the largest in the country, stretching from Grand Junction to Pueblo and Cortez to Steamboat Springs.

Tipton won the U.S. House seat in 2010, beating incumbent John Salazar (50.1% to 45.8%). He’s won re-election in 2012 (beating Sal Pace), 2014 (versus Abel Tapia), 2016 (beating former state Sen. Gail Schwartz) and in 2018 against Diane Mitsch Bush (51.5% to 43.6%).

Tipton becomes the fifth House incumbent to lose renomination in 2020.

jstroud@postindependent.com

Diane Mitsch Bush wins CD3 Democratic primary over newcomer James Iacino

In her second effort to win Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District seat, Diane Mitsch Bush beat political newcomer James Iacino in Tuesday’s Democratic primary.

As of 11 p.m., Mitsch Bush held 61.2% (61,395) of the 100,208 votes counted, according to the Secretary of State’s results.

She won Pitkin County with 1,921 (57.1%) to Iacino’s 1,444 votes (42.9%) as of the 9:15 p.m. update, according to the Pitkin County Clerk Janice Vos Caudill.

She said Iacino called her at about 8 p.m. to concede and congratulate her on the win.

“He very kindly called and conceded very graciously and gave me his strong support, ” Mitsch Bush said Tuesday night. “He was clear that we are going to work together to win this seat for the people. … I’m honored and humbled so many people voted for me.”

Mitsch Bush, 70, lost to Rep. Scott Tipton in 2018 by a 51.5% to 43.6% margin.

However, Tipton lost the Republican primary to political newcomer Lauren Boebert of Rifle. Boebert had 54.5% of the votes counted to Tipton’s 45.5% overall as of 11 p.m.; Tipton was ahead in Pitkin County with 544 votes to Boebert’s 279. He conceded the race to Boebert just after 9 p.m.

“It surprises me a little but I thought she might get a lot of traction in this race because of her base,” Mitsch Bush said of Boebert leading Tipton. “I was on a panel with her once, and she really stays on message and her beliefs are very strong and she is very articulate.”

Mitsch Bush, who moved to Routt County in 1976, was a two-term Routt County Commissioner, then represented Routt County and Eagle County in the State House of Representatives for three terms (2013-2017). While in the House she was chair of the Transportation and Energy Committee and vice chair of Agriculture and Natural Resources. She also served on the Joint House-Senate Water Committee for five years.

She was a tenured professor at Colorado State University and she also worked on the faculty at Colorado Mountain College, where she taught and did research for 11 years. 

Iacino, 37, entered the race in October 2019 and stepped down as the CEO of Seattle Fish Co., which is his family’s business based in Denver and has an office in Montrose. He was running for his first office and now lives in Ridgway with his wife and two children.

“Last October when we launched this campaign, we had one goal in mind: to beat Scott Tipton and bring real representation back to western and southern Colorado,” Iacino said in a statement released Tuesday evening. “Our economy is in shambles, our environment is under extreme stress, and the ACA remains in a constant state of danger. I’m proud to stand with Diane Mitsch Bush because my priorities are the same as they were then, and I know she will fight for what is right and bring a real voice back to the 3rd District.”

He won the Democratic Party’s CD3 Assembly in April with 49 percent of the vote, just ahead of Mitsch Bush at 47 percent. Iacino had the endorsement of state Democrats including former Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar, Attorney General Phil Weiser, former CD3 Congressman John Salazar and former State Senator Gail Schwartz.

Tipton won the U.S. House seat in 2010, beating incumbent John Salazar (50.1% to 45.8%). He’s won re-election in 2012 (beating Sal Pace), 2014 (versus Abel Tapia), 2016 (beating Schwartz) and in 2018 against Mitsch Bush (51.5% to 43.6%).

Covering 29 counties over 52,000 square miles, Colorado’s 3rd District is one of the largest in the country. It stretches from Grand Junction to Pueblo and Cortez to Steamboat Springs.

This is a developing story that will be updated.

Sanders drops 2020 presidential bid, leaving Biden as likely nominee

WASHINGTON — Sen. Bernie Sanders, who saw his once strong lead in the Democratic primary evaporate as the party’s establishment lined swiftly up behind rival Joe Biden, ended his presidential bid on Wednesday, an acknowledgment that the former vice president is too far ahead for him to have any reasonable hope of catching up.

The Vermont senator’s announcement makes Biden the presumptive Democratic nominee to challenge President Donald Trump in November.

Sanders plans to talk to his supporters later Wednesday.

Sanders initially exceeded sky-high expectations about his ability to recreate the magic of his 2016 presidential bid, and even overcame a heart attack last October on the campaign trail. But he found himself unable to convert unwavering support from progressives into a viable path to the nomination amid “electability” fears fueled by questions about whether his democratic socialist ideology would be palatable to general election voters.

The 78-year-old senator began his latest White House bid facing questions about whether he could win back the supporters who chose him four years ago as an insurgent alternative to the party establishment’s choice, Hillary Clinton. Despite winning 22 states in 2016, there were no guarantees he’d be a major presidential contender this cycle, especially as the race’s oldest candidate.

Sanders, though, used strong polling and solid fundraising — collected almost entirely from small donations made online — to more than quiet early doubters. Like the first time, he attracted widespread support from young voters and was able to make new inroads within the Hispanic community, even as his appeal with African Americans remained small.

Sanders amassed the most votes in Iowa and New Hampshire, which opened primary voting, and cruised to an easy victory in Nevada — seemingly leaving him well positioned to sprint to the Democratic nomination while a deeply crowded and divided field of alternatives sunk around him.

But a crucial endorsement of Biden by influential South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, and a subsequent, larger-than-expected victory in South Carolina, propelled the former vice president into Super Tuesday, when he won 10 of 14 states.

In a matter of days, his top former Democratic rivals lined up and announced their endorsement of Biden. The former vice president’s campaign had appeared on the brink of collapse after New Hampshire but found new life as the rest of the party’s more moderate establishment coalesced around him as an alternative to Sanders.

Things only got worse the following week when Sanders lost Michigan, where he had campaigned hard and upset Clinton in 2016. He was also beaten in Missouri, Mississippi and Idaho the same night and the results were so decisive that Sanders headed to Vermont without speaking to the media.

Sanders had scheduled a rally in Ohio but canceled it amid fears about the spread of coronavirus — and the outbreak kept him home as his campaign appeared unsure of its next move. The senator addressed reporters the following day, but also sounded like a candidate who already knew he’d been beaten.

“While our campaign has won the ideological debate, we are losing the debate over electability,” Sanders said then.

Elizabeth Warren ends 2020 presidential bid after poor Super Tuesday performance

WASHINGTON — Elizabeth Warren, who electrified progressives with her “plan for everything” and strong message of economic populism, dropped out of the Democratic presidential race on Thursday, according to a person familiar with her plans. The exit came days after the onetime front-runner couldn’t win a single Super Tuesday state, not even her own.

The person wasn’t authorized to speak about Warren’s intentions and talked to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.

Warren’s exit extinguished hopes that Democrats would get another try at putting a woman up against President Donald Trump.

For much of the past year, the Massachusetts senator’s campaign had all the markers of success, robust poll numbers, impressive fundraising and a sprawling political infrastructure that featured staffers on the ground across the country. She was squeezed out, though, by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who had an immovable base of voters she needed to advance.

Warren never finished higher than third in the first four states and was routed on Super Tuesday, failing to win any of the 14 states voting and placing an embarrassing third in Massachusetts, behind former Vice President Joe Biden and Sanders.

Her exit from the race following Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s departure leaves the Democratic field with just one female candidate: Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who has collected only one delegate toward the nomination. It was an unexpected twist for a party that had used the votes and energy of women to retake control of the House, primarily with female candidates, just two years ago.

Warren’s campaign began with enormous promise that she could carry that momentum into the presidential race. Last summer, she drew tens of thousands of supporters to Manhattan’s Washington Square Park, a scene that was repeated in places like Washington state and Minnesota.

She had a compelling message, calling for “structural change” to the American political system to reorder the nation’s economy in the name of fairness. She had a signature populist proposal for a 2% wealth tax she wanted to impose on households worth more than $50 million that prompted chants of “Two cents! Two cents!” at rallies across the country.

Warren, 70, began her White House bid polling near the back of an impossibly crowded field, used wonky policy prowess to rocket to front-runner status by the fall, then saw her support evaporate almost as quickly.

Her candidacy appeared seriously damaged almost before it started after she released a DNA test in response to goading by Trump to prove she had Native American ancestry. Instead of quieting critics who had questioned her claims, however, the test offended many tribal leaders who rejected undergoing the genetic test as culturally insensitive, and it didn’t stop Trump and other Republicans from gleefully deriding her as “Pocahontas.”

Warren also lost her finance director over her refusal to attend large fundraisers, long considered the financial life blood of national campaigns. Still, she distinguished herself by releasing dozens of detailed proposals on all sorts of policies from cancelling college debt to protecting oceans to containing the coronavirus. Warren also was able to build an impressive campaign war chest relying on mostly small donations that poured in from across the country — erasing the deficit created by refusing to court big, traditional donors.

As her polling began improving through the summer. Warren appeared to further hit her stride as she hammered the idea that more moderate Democratic candidates, including Biden, weren’t ambitious enough to roll back Trump’s policies and were too reliant on political consultants and fickle polling. And she drew strength in the #MeToo era, especially after a wave of female candidates helped Democrats take control of the U.S. House in 2018.

But Warren couldn’t consolidate the support of the Democratic Party’s most liberal wing against the race’s other top progressive, Sanders. Both supported universal, government-sponsored health care under a “Medicare for All” program, tuition-free public college and aggressive climate change fighting measures as part of the “Green New Deal” while forgoing big fundraisers in favor of small donations fueled by the internet.

Warren’s poll numbers began to slip after a series of debates when she repeatedly refused to answer direct questions about if she’d have to raise taxes on the middle class to pay for Medicare for All. Her top advisers were slow to catch on that not providing more details looked to voters like a major oversight for a candidate who proudly had so many other policy plans.

When Warren finally moved to correct the problem, her support eroded further. She moved away from a full endorsement of Medicare for All, announcing that she’d work with Congress to transition the country to the program over three years. In the meantime, she said, many Americans could “choose” to remain with their current, private health insurance plans, which most people have through their employers. Biden and other rivals pounced, calling Warren a flip-flopper, and her standing with progressives sagged.

Sanders, meanwhile, wasted little time capitalizing on the contrast by boasting that he would ship a full Medicare for All program for congressional approval during his first week in the White House. After long avoiding direct conflict, Warren and Sanders clashed in January after she said Sanders had suggested during a private meeting in 2018 that a woman couldn’t win the White House. Sanders denied that, and Warren refused to shake his outstretched hand after a debate in Iowa.

Leaning hard into the gender issue only saw Warren’s support sink further heading into Iowa’s leadoff caucus, however. But even as her momentum was slipping away, Warren still boasted impressive campaign infrastructure in that state and well beyond. Her army of volunteers and staffers looked so formidable that even other presidential candidates were envious.

Just before Iowa, her campaign released a memo detailing its 1,000-plus staffers nationwide and pledging a long-haul strategy that would lead to victories in the primary and the general election. Bracing for a poor finish in New Hampshire, her campaign issued another memo again urging supporters to stay focus on the long game — but also expressly spelling out the weaknesses of Sanders, Biden and Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, in ways the senator herself rarely did.

Warren got a foil for all of her opposition to powerful billionaires when former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg entered the race. During a debate in Las Vegas just before Nevada’s caucus, Warren hammered Bloomberg and the mayor’s lackluster response touched off events that ended with him leaving the race on Wednesday.

For Warren, That led to a sharp rise in fundraising, but didn’t translate to electoral success. She tried to stress her ability to unite the fractured Democratic party, but that message fell flat.

By South Carolina, an outside political group began pouring more than $11 million into TV advertising on Warren’s behalf, forcing her to say that, although she rejected super PACs, she’d accept their help as long as other candidates did. Her campaign shifted strategy again, saying it was betting on a contested convention.

Still the longer Warren stayed in the race, the more questions she faced about why she was doing so with little hope of winning — and she started to sound like a candidate who was slowly coming to terms with that.

“I’m not somebody who has been looking at myself in the mirror since I was 12 years old saying, ‘You should run for president,’” Warren said aboard her campaign bus on the eve of the New Hampshire primary, previewing a ceasing of campaigning that wasn’t yet official. “I started running for office later than anyone who is in this, so it was never about the office — it was about what we could do to repair our economy, what we could do to mend a democracy that’s being pulled apart. That’s what I want to see happen, and I just want to see it happen.”

She vowed to fight on saying, “I cannot say, for all those little girls, this got hard and I quit. My job is to persist.”

But even that seemed impossible after a Super Tuesday drubbing that included her home state.

Bloomberg quits the 2020 presidential race, endorses Biden

NEW YORK (AP) — Billionaire Mike Bloomberg ended his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination on Wednesday and endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden. It was a stunning collapse for the former New York City mayor, who had his 2020 hopes on the Super Tuesday states and pumped more than $500 million of his own fortune into the campaign.

Bloomberg announced his departure from the race after a disappointing finish on Super Tuesday in the slate of states that account for almost one-third of the total delegates available in the Democratic nominating contest. He won only the territory of American Samoa and picked up several dozen delegates elsewhere. Biden, meanwhile, won big in Southern states where Bloomberg had poured tens of millions of dollars and even cautiously hoped for a victory.

“I entered the race for President to defeat Donald Trump,” Bloomberg said in a statement. “Today, I am leaving the race for the same reason: to defeat Donald Trump -– because it is clear to me that staying in would make achieving that goal more difficult.”

Two of Bloomberg’s former Democratic rivals, Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg, dropped out of the race and endorsed Biden as the moderate alternative to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders just the day before Super Tuesday.

Bloomberg said he has known Biden for a long time and knows Biden’s commitment to issues including gun safety, health care, climate change and good jobs.

“I’ve had the chance to work with Joe on those issues over the years, and Joe has fought for working people his whole life,” Bloomberg said. “Today I am glad to endorse him –- and I will work to make him the next President of the United States.”

Bloomberg ran an unprecedented campaign from the start. His late entrance into the race in November prompted him to skip campaigning in the first four voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. He hung his success on Super Tuesday, spending at least $180 million on advertising in those states, but had planned to continue deep into the primary calendar, already spending millions on advertising in states like Florida, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Before results poured in on Tuesday, he projected confidence while campaigning in Florida, only to have his aides say the campaign would reassess the next day.

Voters ultimately rejected Bloomberg’s argument that he was the candidate best poised to take on Republican President Donald Trump. The president, for his part, had paid close attention to the Democratic nominating contest and had been especially fixated on Bloomberg. Trump regularly railed against his fellow New Yorker on Twitter, mocking his short stature by calling him “Mini Mike” and claiming Bloomberg was the candidate he wanted to run against. On Tuesday, he called the results a “complete destruction” of Bloomberg’s reputation.

Bloomberg, 78, is one of the world’s richest men, worth an estimated $61 billion. His fortune flows from the financial data and media company that bears his name, which he started in the 1980s. In addition to serving 12 years as New York mayor, he endeared himself to progressive groups by pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into fighting climate change and curbing gun violence.

In the early weeks of his campaign, he used his vast fortune to introduce himself to voters outside New York on his own terms, and his rivals accused him of trying to buy the party’s nomination and the White House. As voting drew closer, the former Republican was forced to confront his Democratic rivals head on by appearing alongside them on a debate stage. His first performance was shaky and uneven and caused voters to view him with a more critical eye.

He proved unable to overcome consistent criticism of New York’s use of the stop-and-frisk police practice under his tenure as mayor, which disproportionately targeted young black and Latino men for searches aimed at finding weapons. The practice ended after a federal judge declared it unconstitutional, and Bloomberg apologized for using it weeks before announcing his presidential run.

He similarly faced pointed criticism — primarily from rival Elizabeth Warren — about the treatment of women at his company, Bloomberg LP. Under pressure from Warren, he said in mid-February he would release three women who sued him for harassment or discrimination complaints from confidentiality agreements. Women who worked for Bloomberg were featured in a commercial praising Bloomberg’s and the company’s treatment of women, and his longtime partner Diana Taylor defended him as a champion of women.

Bloomberg was dogged by accusations he was trying to buy the Democratic presidential nomination. His vast fortune proved a perfect foil for Sanders, who has said billionaires should not exist at all. Indeed, Bloomberg had a vast circle of influence from his spending on key causes like gun control as well as his philanthropic efforts to boost American cities and provide leadership training for mayors. Dozens of prominent mayors rallied behind his candidacy.

That, combined with Biden’s resurgence in South Carolina and the rallying of the party’s moderate wing behind him, doomed Bloomberg’s case that he was the best candidate to take on both Sanders and Trump.

What’s next for Bloomberg is unclear. He’d pledged to keep campaign offices open in key general election battleground states to help the Democrats defeat Trump even if he lost the party’s nomination. But Sanders’ campaign has said they do not want the help.

Takeaways from Super Tuesday: Biden’s big bounce, Democratic field narrows

DENVER (AP) — Super Tuesday is the biggest day on the primary calendar, and the results seem very likely to reshape the Democratic presidential race in ways few could have predicted a couple weeks ago.

Here are some takeaways from the results:

BIDEN BOUNCES BACK BIG

It is hard to overstate the speed and depth of the comeback of former Vice President Joe Biden. He was embarrassed in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, and left many Democrats looking for an alternative.

A decisive victory in South Carolina left him buoyant but also highly vulnerable heading into Super Tuesday, with 14 primaries spread from Maine to California. He had little money and only limited organization in place.

Mike Bloomberg had placed a $500 million bet that Biden would falter. Sen. Bernie Sanders had built his own kind of firewall — not in a small state like South Carolina, but in the biggest of them all, California.

But Sanders’ perceived strength and Bloomberg’s weakness drove many Democrats into Biden’s arms. In a remarkable 24 hours, he secured the endorsement of three former competitors who appeared at a show-of-force rally in Dallas and he harnessed the elusive power of momentum.

Biden’s night started with an emphatic, 30-point victory in Virginia, a state where the profile of the electorate includes many of the college-educated suburban voters who powered Democratic victories in the 2018 midterm elections. Bloomberg spent more than $12 million in television ads in Virginia and millions more on field organization. Biden spent less than $200,000.

He built on that throughout the night, in North Carolina, Alabama and states across the map. His success fundamentally reset the race, with the contest almost certainly now between him and Sanders, who ran strong in the two largest states, Texas and California.

They seem destined for a long, state-by-state fight defined by their starkly different visions of what Democrats need to defeat President Donald Trump.

SANDERS UNBOWED

Sanders claimed the night’s largest trophy, California, a state where he had committed substantial time and effort, while Biden had only a minimalist campaign. It was a measure of how strategic the Sanders campaign has been, and why he remains so formidable.

It was also a place where he successfully assembled a coalition that included young voters and Latinos, something he was able to do in Texas, the second biggest delegate prize of the night, as well.

Winning California was critical for Sanders, who had long held a strong lead in the polls there.

But he lost in a number of states his campaign had been banking on, from Minnesota to Massachusetts. The Sanders campaign has gambled that, with a divided electorate, he could use his unshakable base to power him to plurality victories across the country. That theory showed flaws on Super Tuesday.

And there were warning signs beyond his big losses in the south, a region where Sanders has always struggled. He lost Minnesota and Oklahoma, two mostly-white states that he won during his 2016 insurgent run against Hillary Clinton. That suggests Sanders is seeing erosion in his white support from his prior races. Even in his home state of Vermont, Sanders didn’t perform as well as he did in 2016.

Now Sanders finds himself in much the same place as four years ago, a defiant insurgent with passionate support facing off against the favorite of the party establishment.

His national footprint, loyal following and strong fundraising mean he’s still in a solid position despite the Super Tuesday bruising. But Sanders may need a different approach going forward other than railing against the leaders of the party whose voters will determine whether he’s their nominee.

BLOOMBERG’S CHECKS BOUNCE

Bloomberg has often described himself as a data-driven manager. By any measure, the numbers look very bad for the billionaire former mayor of New York.

He is highly unlikely to win a state and is not on track to accumulate a serious number of delegates.

According to AP VoteCast, a majority of Democrats in several states would be disappointed if Bloomberg were the nominee. Even in Virginia, where he helped fund gun control efforts and elect women to state legislative and congressional seats, he dramatically underperformed.

He has no clear path ahead, and given that his reason for running was predicated on a Biden failure, the rationale for continuing is not readily apparent. He is competing with Biden for anti-Sanders votes, while the Biden campaign worries that Bloomberg’s unorthodox strategy is depriving him of delegates he would need to overtake Sanders.

In Florida on Tuesday Bloomberg insisted he’s staying in, but it will get harder for him to make that argument if he starts approaching the status of John Connally, another big-spending party switcher who flopped in the 1980 GOP primary and only netted a single delegate.

WARREN PLAN FOR WINNING YIELDS LOSING

Sen. Elizabeth Warren did not win a single state Tuesday and finished an embarrassing third in her home state, Massachusetts.

Her once ascendant campaign has been on a consistent downward trajectory, languishing at the bottom of the field in many states — sometimes even below Bloomberg, the object of her repeated scorn.

She was in Michigan Tuesday night, delivering her standard stump speech as if nothing had changed.

Her supporters hope she accumulates enough delegates to be a player and possible consensus nominee at a brokered convention. But candidates run for president, not convention broker.

THE DEVIL IS IN THE DELEGATE COUNT

Candidates don’t become the nominee by winning states, they do it by winning delegates. And it may be days — or weeks — before we know exactly where everyone stands in that ranking.

Much of that is because California, with its whopping 415 delegates, counts extremely slowly. The state has a permissive voting system that requires ballots mailed in on election day to be counted, and the tallying could stretch into April.

Many in California voted early, before Biden’s resurgence, so he may gain as the count drags. But Sanders’ backers are usually a late-voting cohort — on election night in 2016 he was losing the state to Clinton by double digits but was only down by about 7% in the final results released weeks later. So it’s hard to know how to parcel out the state’s bounteous rewards.

Other states like Colorado and Texas may take multiple days to finish their count and reward delegates. It’s likely this hurts Sanders long-term — the western states where he was strongest take the longest time, while the eastern ones where Biden romped reported results quickly, helping solidify the image of the former vice president’s comeback.

VOTERS GET OFF THE FENCE

The Democratic electorate has spent 15 months in paralysis as voters agonized over which of a sprawling, diverse field was most likely to beat Trump. On Tuesday, about one-third of Democrats had to make a decision. Many of those who waited until the last minute picked Biden.

From about a quarter of voters in Texas to just over half in Minnesota, much of the Super Tuesday electorate hadn’t made up their mind until the final days, according to AP VoteCast. In North Carolina and Minnesota, about half went to Biden. In Virginia, two-thirds did. Biden won all three states.

In many states, these late deciders were somewhat older, slightly more likely to have graduated college and more likely to identify as moderate or conservative. They were helped by strong signals from the Democratic establishment. Biden’s centrist rivals, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, dropped out and endorsed him, and the former vice president racked up nods from dozens of Democratic luminaries in the 72 hours after his commanding win in South Carolina Saturday night.

For much of the cycle, Democrats indicated they hadn’t made up their minds on whom to support. If they continue to lock in on Biden in the states that vote after Super Tuesday, it could provide a critical advantage.

Biden, Bernie’s Super Tuesday brawl to shape Democratic race

LOS ANGELES — Millions of voters from Maine to California headed to the polls on Super Tuesday, the delegate-rich prize in the fight for the Democratic presidential nomination that’s shaping up as a contest between two starkly different visions for the party’s future as it hurtles toward a November rematch with President Donald Trump.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has energized liberals and young voters, sought to pull away from the rest of the field, while former vice president Joe Biden hoped to ride a wave of momentum and endorsements to cement himself as the standard-bearer for the party’s moderate wing.

The two men, riding atop a rapidly shrinking Democratic field, have assembled coalitions of disparate demographics and political beliefs, and the day could help shape whether the nomination fight will stretch until the party’s convention this summer in Milwaukee.

But the 14 coast-to-coast contests seemed certain to provide several other twists and turns, including the first test of billionaire Mike Bloomberg’s massive spending in the Democratic race.

In this Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020, file photo, Democratic presidential candidate and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg waves to the crowd at the conclusion of his speech at the Greenwood Cultural Center in Tulsa, Okla. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)
Michael Bloomberg

Bloomberg skipped the first four states, banking on more than half a billion dollars in advertising and ground operations in an unorthodox and untested method of securing support from moderates who may have bailed on Biden before the vice president revived his flagging campaign. The former New York City mayor and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren loomed as spoilers as the candidates jockeyed to cross the voting threshold to secure delegates that could prolong the nominating battle.

The Democratic race has shifted dramatically over the past three days as Biden capitalized on his commanding South Carolina victory to persuade anxious establishment allies to rally behind his campaign. Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg abruptly ended their campaigns and endorsed Biden. Another former competitor, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, publicly backed Biden while a new wave of mayors, lawmakers and donors said they would support the former vice president.

Biden’s new supporters fanned out on morning television to praise him — Klobuchar on NBC’s “Today” show. O’Rourke on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” — but another, perhaps more powerful voice was also deployed to support his candidacy: that of former President Barack Obama.

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks after former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke endorsed him at a campaign rally Monday, March 2, 2020 in Dallas. (AP Photo/Richard W. Rodriguez)
Election 2020 Joe Biden

Obama has steadfastly declined to offer any endorsement during the primary process, but a super PAC supporting Biden organized calls featuring audio from a past speech in which Obama calls his former vice president “a statesman, leader who sees clearly the challenges facing America in a changing world.”

Amanda Loveday of Unite the Country PAC says the call is running through Tuesday in Alabama, Arkansas, North Carolina, Texas and Virginia. Several candidates in the race have run television ads featuring positive sentiments from Obama, although he has endorsed none.

A spokeswoman for Obama said the robocall from Biden’s super PAC did not amount to an endorsement and the former president’s office was not aware that the group planned to use the old audio.

Sanders and his closest advisers pushed back against the shift of party establishment and donor class toward Biden. Campaigning in Minnesota, Sanders sought to beat back Biden’s momentum with a welcoming message to Klobuchar and Buttigieg supporters.

“To all of Amy and Pete’s millions of supporters, the door is open. Come on in,” Sanders said. “We all share the understanding that together we are going to beat Donald Trump.”

And Trump himself, reveling in his role as pundit-in-chief, weighed in on the contest to choose his general election opponent, declaring at a coronavirus briefing that the eventual identity of his general election opponent did not matter: “Whoever it is it is, we’ll take them all.”

“Biden has come up a little bit and I don’t know what’s happened with Bernie. I think they’re trying to take it away from him,” said Trump, again trying to stoke division in the Democratic field. “I think it’s going to be a very interesting evening of television and I will be watching.”

Bloomberg’s stock is at risk of fading as Biden gains ground. But the billionaire will still be a major factor on Tuesday.

He spent much of last week campaigning in a handful of Southern and Western states where his aides say they believe he could notch a win, largely because he’s the only candidate who’s visited multiple times and pounded the local airwaves with ads. He focused on Alabama, Arkansas, North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee and Texas.

He began Tuesday in Florida, which does not vote until March 17, acknowledging that he may not win any of the 14 contests and that he would need to capture the nomination at a brokered convention because “I don’t think I can win any other way.”

“You don’t have to win states, you have to win delegates,” Bloomberg said. He suggested that no one will get a majority of delegates and “then you go to a convention, and we’ll see what happens.”

But one of Biden’s presidential campaign co-chairs Bloomberg will owe voters an explanation if he doesn’t do well Tuesday.

“If your thesis is Joe Biden’s not viable and he suddenly becomes viable, I think you have to explain to people what’s your new working theory,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti told The Associated Press. “Or, God bless you, help us win the Senate, keep the House and defeat Donald Trump.”

Tuesday is the most anticipated of crossroads in the Democrats’ turbulent primary season as the party struggles to unify behind a clear message or messenger in its urgent quest to defeat the president.

On one side stands Sanders, a 78-year-old democratic socialist who has scored four consecutive first- or second-place finishes relying on an energized coalition drawn to his promise to transform the nation’s political and economic systems. On the other, Biden, a 77-year-old lifelong politician who was relishing his newfound momentum in a campaign that has struggled at times to excite voters with a message emphasizing a pragmatic approach to governing and modest change.

For the former vice president, the wave of new support could not have come at a better time.

Just two days earlier, a loss in South Carolina would have effectively killed his candidacy. But 48 hours after a blowout victory, the former vice president stood on stage in Dallas, in the heart of one of Super Tuesday’s crown jewels backed by three former rivals and a growing collection of donors, activists and elected officials.

Biden, though not as well-staffed or well-funded as his rivals, entered Super Tuesday confident in his ability to win states that resemble South Carolina’s demographic makeup: those with large African-American and white moderate populations. That makes Alabama, North Carolina, Arkansas, Tennessee and Virginia potential Biden victories, even in a splintered field.

Yet some of Super Tuesday’s more valuable terrain is less forgiving.

Sanders has predicted victory in California, the day’s largest delegate prize. The state, like delegate-rich Texas, plays to his strengths given their significant factions of liberal whites, large urban areas with younger voters and strong Latino populations. Sanders also enjoys obvious advantages in his home state of Vermont, and in neighboring Massachusetts, where he’s eyeing a knockout blow against progressive rival Warren in her home state.

While Tuesday’s outcome is uncertain, Biden’s team was confident that the fast-moving trajectory of the race was moving their way. One complication: A significant number of votes were cast in the days and weeks leading up to Tuesday’s elections when Buttigieg, Klobuchar and Tom Steyer were still in the race.

At least 1.4 million people have already voted in California’s Democratic primary, for example, according to data collected by The Associated Press. In Texas, more than 1 million early Democratic votes have been cast. And in Virginia, nearly 28,000 people voted early, twice as many as in 2016.

Through four primary contests, the AP allocated 60 delegates to Sanders, 54 to Biden and eight to Warren.

The first four states were always more about momentum than math. Super Tuesday states offer a trove of 1,344 new delegates based on how candidates finish. Just 155 delegates have been awarded so far.

Black voters seek to flex political power on Super Tuesday

HOUSTON (AP) — Martha Whiting-Goddard believes there’s power in voting — she’s seen it firsthand.

Her great-grandfather, the Rev. John Henry “Jack” Yates, was one of a handful of freed slaves who founded Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in 1866, Houston’s oldest African American Baptist church. The church has historically helped shape the city’s political discourse, ushering powerful African American political leaders through its doors such as Booker T. Washington and women’s suffrage movement organizers.

Parishioners here are planning to band together again Tuesday to shape the course of American history. They are heading to the polls to decide which Democrat should take on President Donald Trump in the fall in what many black voters say is the most important election of their lifetimes.

The Super Tuesday contest in Texas and a swath of other states with substantial black populations are the biggest opportunity yet for minority voters from coast to coast to weigh in on the tumultuous Democratic primary. And for people like Whiting-Goddard, it’s a reminder of their power.

“For black people, we have someone in power that’s kind of put us back in time and so we need to look to the future,” the 70-year-old said. “Voting was the one right that we recognized long ago that we had that was important.”

Black voters have already helped transform the Democratic race. Nearly two thirds of non-white voters in South Carolina backed Joe Biden on Saturday, according to AP VoteCast, a wide-ranging survey of more than 1,400 voters in the state’s Democratic primary. They revived what had been a lagging campaign into one that has quickly emerged as the leading moderate alternative to progressive Bernie Sanders.

Biden is looking to Houston to help keep the momentum going.

“The decision Democrats make tomorrow and the next few weeks will determine what we stand for, what we believe, and where we’re going to go,” he said Monday at the historically black Texas Southern University.

But activists caution against assuming that black voters in Texas or elsewhere will follow South Carolina’s lead.

Cliff Albright, the co-founder of the Black Voters Matter Fund, said he believes African American voters nationally are split into three groups: Those who are concerned about electability, voters who want progressive policies and individuals who are agnostic and prepared to vote regardless of who advances to November.

“It’s going to be interesting to see some of the other states that have a different culture than South Carolina that might separate out black voters in some of these Super Tuesday states,” Albright said.

Houston resident Linda Nwoke said she’s most familiar with Biden, who spent eight years as Barack Obama’s vice president. But she has yet to decide who to throw her support behind among the crowded field.

“We’re trying to see who can we trust with our vote and not let it be wasted again,” Nwoke, a 72-year-old retired history teacher, said. “A lot of them don’t have a history with us yet they always come after our vote.”

Five presidential hopefuls remain after three candidates, Amy Klobuchar, Tom Steyer and Pete Buttigieg, dropped out of the race before Super Tuesday.

Black Lives Matter Houston founder Ashton Woods, a 35-year-old millennial who is running for the Texas House District 146 seat, said the organization decided in February to officially endorse Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

“Her and Bernie have been the two people who have talked about issues that affect black people but affect everyone else with a special recognition that we are marginalized and that it hits us a little harder without pandering,” Woods said.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks to supporters during a town hall Thursday, Feb. 29, 2020, at Discovery Green in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)
Election 2020 Elizabeth Warren

Voters like Houston resident Natasha Turner, 45, said candidates must realize that African American voters are not monolithic and are concerned about a myriad of issues.

“We are looking for a candidate who will center African American concerns for once,” Turner said. “We want our just due. This nation was built on the backs of African Americans and yet we have not seen any of the benefits of that. As a matter of fact, at every turn, we are seeing ourselves being deterred from making any strides economically.”

Texas resident Josie James-Hamilton has identified as a Republican her entire life until she cast a vote for President Barack Obama in 2008. James-Hamilton, 62, said that changed when Trump was elected.

“Until recently, I did have a lot of conservative views that I agreed with because many black voters are a lot more conservative than you think,” she said. “The problem I’m having right now is that I don’t see a Democratic candidate that I feel has the ability to unseat Trump.”

Michael Adams, Texas Southern University’s political science department chair, said he believes older black women will show up as expected to the polls but he believes younger voters could shake up the election.

“In both Texas and in California right now, there’s a progressive element and African Americans of course have been a very loyal constituency and part of the Democratic Party base, both nationally and here in Texas,” Adams said.

The 2020 election will be the first one that University of Houston junior Kenneth Davis III will cast his vote in. The 20-year-old said he plans to vote for Sanders.

“The laws that are being passed affect real people and we have to have a seat at the table, especially millennials, Gen Z and the generation behind us,” Davis said.

Veteran Tashandra Poullard, a Texas Southern University senior who served 10 years in the U.S. Navy, said Democrats are potentially alienating younger black voters who are frustrated that the field went from the most diverse to an all-white slate, with the exception of U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who is polling near or at zero among black voters.

“A lot of them are saying they wanted Cory Booker and they were even willing to back Kamala Harris but they said there’s no one that looks like us up there now,” Poullard, 42, said. “They don’t have that warm and fuzzy feeling that they did when Barack Obama was running for office because they feel there’s no representation for us as a people.”

Here’s what happens to the votes for candidates who drop out

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The abrupt departures of Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar from the Democratic presidential race on the eve of Super Tuesday primaries could be frustrating for the millions of people who have already voted in those 14 states and might have cast ballots for them.

As voters stream to precincts across the country Tuesday, here’s a look at what happens to ballots already submitted for the candidates no longer in the race.

THE PUSH TO GET OUT EARLY

Early voting began in January in many of the Super Tuesday states. As candidates sprinted through Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, those with the resources also expanded into the delegate-rich California, Texas, North Carolina and Virginia, leading early-voting events.

It’s not known how many of those early votes may have gone to Buttigieg, Klobuchar or Tom Steyer, all of whom have announced departures from the race in the days following Saturday’s South Carolina primary, and whose names will still be on state ballots. Klobuchar and Buttigieg endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden on Monday.

FROZEN IN TIME

In large part, once a vote is cast, it is final, according to state election officials. Residents in Michigan — which votes Mar. 10 — do get another shot, with the option to “spoil” their ballot and make a second choice if their candidate drops out. Some states allow voters to pull back ballots that haven’t yet been tallied, although that has to be handled case-by-case, in person, on Election Day.

In California, with more than 400 delegates are at stake, nearly 1.6 million Democrats had returned mail-in ballots as of Monday afternoon, according to a ballot tracker maintained by Political Data Inc. If an early ballot there was marked for a candidate no longer in the race, a voter can take in their ballot for a new one, and make a second choice. But once the ballot is submitted, that’s it.

In Yolo County, with some 117,000 registered voters — about 87,000 of whom requested to vote by mail — just about 21,000 ballots had been returned as of Monday morning. Jesse Salinas, the county’s top elections official, said he suspected the rapid-fire exits by some candidates could be prompting voters to wait on casting their ballots. And some early voters, he said, had called to ask if they could possibly change their selections.

“You have to surrender what you have,” Salinas said. “You can’t vote twice.”

In Colorado, Secretary of State Jena Griswold tweeted on Sunday that only those who had marked a ballot but not yet returned it could make a second selection, or get a new ballot.

“If you’ve returned a voted ballot, you cannot receive a second ballot, regardless of the status of the candidate you chose,” she wrote.

In North Carolina, where 110 delegates are up for grabs, voters had the option of casting ballots in person at sites in all 100 counties during a 17-day period that ended Saturday. They could also fill out traditional absentee ballots, which must be turned in or mailed by Tuesday.

Early vote selections are final. As of Saturday, more than half a million ballots had been cast in the Democratic primary, and while there is no definitive way to know which candidates garnered those votes, there’s no way to undo the decision.

“There are no mulligans in North Carolina early voting,” said Michael Bitzer, political scientist at Catawba College in North Carolina.

FEELING FRUSTRATED

In many places, the frustration can be real for voters who feel their vote didn’t matter.

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden, left, is joined by former rival Sen. Amy Klobuchar, right, as she endorses Biden during a campaign stop in Dallas, Monday, March 2, 2020. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar

Some of that sentiment bubbled up on Monday, at a Colorado event for Klobuchar. Amy Valore-Caplan, a 46-year-old writer in Denver, showed up to find out that the Minnesota senator, for whom she had waited until the last minute to cast her mail-in ballot, had dropped out.

Colorado has almost exclusively mail voting, and though people can still cast ballots in person on Tuesday, about 60% post them by the day before, so they can be tallied.

Valore-Caplan said she knew Klobuchar’s candidacy was on the bubble, and actually hesitated Sunday, when she saw Buttigieg end his campaign.

“I thought it was safe,” she said, of her decision to wait another day. “I was waiting to make sure she didn’t drop out.”

PRELIMINARY PASSIONS

There’s a sentiment often seen among early voters: those who vote early are most passionate for their given candidate.

Nicolle Bugescu, a pediatric psychologist in Irvine, California, has headed up a group of health care professionals supporting Buttigieg’s campaign. Despite his exit from the race, she said Monday that she was proud to have voted early for him, even though he’d suspended his effort.

“I am so happy that I was able to do that. It’s heartbreaking, too, so it’s been an emotional roller coaster,” she said. “I will forever be proud of the vote that I cast for his historic candidacy.”

WHITHER THE DELEGATES?

Candidates who drop out of the race keep the delegates they’ve won until each state party selects the actual people who will serve as those delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee. At that point, delegates won based on statewide primary and caucus results are given to the remaining viable candidates.

Delegates won based on results in congressional districts become free agents, who can support the candidate of their choice on the first ballot at the Milwaukee convention.