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Super Tuesday triumph for Biden sets up one-on-one battle against Sanders
[LOS ANGELES] A resurgent Joe Biden rolled to victories across the South, Midwest and New England on the biggest day of voting in the US Democratic presidential nomination campaign, setting up a one-on-one battle against Bernie Sanders, who led in California.
Mr Biden, the former vice president whose campaign was on life support just weeks ago, won nine of 14 states voting on "Super Tuesday", including surprise wins in Texas and Massachusetts, in the race to face President Donald Trump in November.
Just days after his campaign was resurrected by a thumping win in South Carolina, Mr Biden, 77, emerged as a consensus champion for the moderate wing of the party against Mr Sanders, 78, a left-wing senator with strong support among the youth.
"For those who have been knocked down, counted out, left behind, this is your campaign," Mr Biden told roaring supporters in Los Angeles. "We are very much alive!"
In what would be the day's biggest upset, Mr Biden won Texas, the biggest prize after California. Mr Sanders invested heavily in Texas and was counting on its Latino population to propel him to victory.
Mr Sanders, the one-time front-runner who had hoped to take a big step toward the nomination on Tuesday, won Colorado, Utah and his home state of Vermont, Edison Research said.
Mr Biden, with overwhelming support from African-American, moderate and older voters, swept to wins in Alabama, Arkansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Virginia.
Fox News and AP projected Mr Sanders won California, whose 415 delegates represent the largest haul. Edison Research and other networks held off declaring a winner there as results trickled in. Maine was a toss-up, with both Mr Biden and Mr Sanders winning roughly a third of the vote with 73% of the precincts reporting.
Without naming him, Mr Sanders took direct aim at Mr Biden during a rally with supporters in Vermont, criticising his 2002 vote to authorise war in Iraq and his support for global trade deals that Mr Sanders opposed.
"We're going to win the Democratic nomination and we are going to defeat the most dangerous president in the history of this country," Mr Sanders said, referring to Mr Trump.
It was a spectacular turn for Mr Biden after poor showings in the first two contests, Iowa and New Hampshire. Until a week ago he trailed Mr Sanders in most state and national opinion polls.
But Mr Biden's blowout win in South Carolina on Saturday provided a burst of new momentum, fueling a wave of endorsements from Democratic officials. Two big rivals - Pete Buttigieg, a former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and US Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota - quit the race and backed him.
The results left Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former New York mayor who plunged into the contest late, with virtually nothing to show for more than half a billion dollars spent on advertising. With his only victory coming in the tiny US territory of American Samoa, aides said he would reassess whether to stay in the race on Wednesday.
It was also a tough night for Senator Elizabeth Warren, who finished well behind Mr Sanders and Mr Biden in most states and trailed them in her home state Massachusetts, which Mr Biden won despite having spent no money and deployed no staff there.
Mr Biden did not personally campaign in several of the states he ultimately won, including Klobuchar's home state Minnesota. He called Ms Klobuchar Tuesday night to thank her for the Minnesota win, a day after she dropped her own bid and endorsed him.
More than one-third of the delegates who will pick the eventual nominee at a July convention were up for grabs on Tuesday, providing clarity at last in a muddled race for the White House.
To date, Mr Biden leads Mr Sanders in delegates 385 to 325. A candidate needs 1,991 delegates to win the Democratic nomination on the first ballot at the party's convention in July.
The campaign continues at an accelerated pace through the next two weeks, when nearly another 1,000 delegates are up for grabs, including the swing state of Florida on March 17.
The next contests, on March 10, will be in Idaho, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota and Washington state.