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Biden opens an all-but-insurmountable lead over Sanders

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Joe Biden has opened an all-but-insurmountable lead over Bernie Sanders in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, as the party's voters increasingly turn to him as the candidate they believe is best equipped to take on President Donald Trump in November.

[WASHINGTON] Joe Biden has opened an all-but-insurmountable lead over Bernie Sanders in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, as the party's voters increasingly turn to him as the candidate they believe is best equipped to take on President Donald Trump in November.

The former vice president swept to convincing victories in Missouri, Mississippi, Idaho and, most importantly, Michigan. The state was the biggest prize of the night and is strategically important for both parties in the general election.

In a speech to supporters in Philadelphia, Mr Biden sought to heal divisions in the party and sounded like a candidate ready to claim the nomination.

"I want to thank Bernie Sanders and his supporters for their tireless energy and their passion," Mr Biden said. "Together we'll defeat Donald Trump."

Mr Sanders was hoping for a win in Washington state, which had the second biggest cache of delegates at stake on Tuesday. But by early Wednesday morning, he and Mr Biden were neck and neck in the mail-in vote, and the race was too close to call. Results in North Dakota were incomplete.

Mr Sanders returned to his Burlington, Vermont, home before the polls closed Tuesday and skipped the traditional primary night address to supporters.

The two face each other in a debate Sunday, the first one-on-one faceoff of the campaign, but this time without a live audience due to coronavirus fears.

And then there's another round of primaries next week in Florida, Ohio, Illinois and Arizona that now could determine whether the race between Biden and Sanders drags on or effectively ends.

A Democratic primary contest that just two weeks ago had Mr Sanders as the clear front-runner seems about to slip away from the Vermont senator in surprisingly quick fashion, accelerating after Mr Biden won South Carolina on Feb 29.

Mr Sanders took his primary battle with Hillary Clinton until June in 2016, just as Clinton did with Barack Obama in 2008. A shorter fight could prove a major advantage to Mr Biden, allowing him to avoid the rigors of a primary fight and bank millions in cash that will be needed to confront Mr Trump.

More than half of all the pledged delegates have yet to be decided, so Mr Biden can't mathematically clinch the nomination until April 28 at the earliest.

But the delegate math is getting daunting for Mr Sanders. The count from Tuesday was incomplete but as of midnight, Mr Biden had 817 delegates to Sanders 658. Mr Sanders would have to win more than 57 per cent of the remaining delegates to catch up to Mr Biden - a difficult feat given the Biden-friendly primary calendar over the next six weeks.

BLOOMBERG