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The biggest day of the 2020 primary season has arrived: Super Tuesday. Fourteen states are holding contests that will help determine the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee. Judy Woodruff reports and gets updates from across the country from Amna Nawaz, Yamiche Alcindor, Lisa Desjardins, Daniel Bush, Mary Lahammer of Twin Cities PBS and Adam Reilly of WGBH.
It is the biggest contest in the 2020 primary season. Across 14 states, the stakes are high to decide who will be the Democratic Party's presidential nominee come November.
At a polling center in Northern Virginia, Anthony and Neia Drayton said the choice today was clear.
Yes, definitely Bernie as well. I think he has like the strongest, like, platform vs. some of the other Democratic candidates. Like, I have always been a Bernie fan ever since, like, 2016. He didn't get the primary then, but hoping for this time.
More than 500 miles away, Senator Bernie Sanders arrived to cast his vote at another polling center in his home state of Vermont.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.:
To beat Donald Trump, we are going to need to have the largest voter turnout in the history of this country. We need energy. We need excitement. I think our campaign is that campaign.
While an energetic Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren greeted supporters in Cambridge.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.:
It is a moment not just to get rid of Donald Trump. It is a moment to build the America of our best values.
In all, voters across 14 states cast their primary ballots today, as the U.S. territory in the Pacific, American Samoa, held caucuses.
Over 1,300 delegates are at play, more than a third of all Democratic delegates to be chosen this year. North Carolina is the third biggest contest state voting, with 110 delegates at stake.
Raleigh resident Keith Miller opted for Joe Biden, but only after the former vice president secured some critical late support.
My original intention was Buttigieg. But with Klobuchar's, Buttigieg endorsement of Biden, I went back to Biden, who was my first choice many months ago.
Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg offered his endorsement last night, after quitting the race.
Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar soon followed suit, joining Biden at a raucous evening rally in Dallas.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.:
It is up to us, all of us, to put our country back together, to heal this country, and then to build something even greater.
Former candidate Beto O'Rourke of Texas also offered his backing. Biden himself underlined his pitch to voters.
The Democrats want a nominee who's a Democrat, a lifelong Democrat, a proud Democrat, an Obama-Biden Democrat!
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
Seeking to contrast himself with Sanders, a self-styled Democratic socialist, who invited Klobuchar and Buttigieg supporters to join him.
Sen. Bernie Sanders:
So, to all of Amy and Pete's millions of supporters, the door is open. Come on in!
But former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said today that calls for moderates to consolidate behind Biden wouldn't deter his own campaign.
Have you asked Joe whether he is going to drop out?
When you ask him that, when you ask him that, then you can call me up. I have no intention of dropping out. We're in it to win it.
For some in North Carolina, no other candidate is as well-suited to beat the president in November as Bloomberg, who was on ballots today for the first time.
Joe Biden is a great guy. I voted for Obama twice and Biden. But I think we need somebody that can really go toe to toe with Trump. And he can be just as nasty as Trump. And I think he's got the money to do it.
And we have a host of "NewsHour" correspondents and public media reporters spread out in Super Tuesday states across the country, from Texas, to Minnesota, to North Carolina, Massachusetts, and Virginia.
But we start with California. It is the biggest prize of the night; 415 delegates are at stake.
And that's where we find Amna Nawaz. She joins me from San Francisco.
So, yes, the focus is on all those delegates, but there is a metric people are also looking at, 15 percent. Tell us about all that.
That's right, Judy.
The key for all the candidates is tonight to get to that 15 percent threshold mark. Without that, you don't get any delegates at all. So that 415 number really doesn't matter that much. That's to get any delegates at the statewide level or at the 53 congressional district level.
That's where the bulk of the delegates are, 271 total. So, one of the big questions we're looking to answer tonight is, yes, Senator Sanders has been polling well across the entire state. Biden has a lot of support statewide.
But in some of those more specific districts across the state, Senator Warren and Mike Bloomberg have also shown that they have support. If they can meet that 15 percent threshold, start to chip away at some of the delegates there, that means those delegates aren't going to the other campaigns.
If they can't, if they even get to 14 percent, that could mean dozens of delegates are going to other campaigns. It's one of the key metrics that we're watching here tonight.
And, Amna, we know one of the things that sets California apart is that a majority of the ballots coming in by mail. What effect is that expected to have?
It means there's a lot of uncertainty. And it means a lot of excitement too.
Sixteen million ballots were mailed out to California voters weeks ago.The vast majority of them have yet to be returned. The last time I checked, about 3.5 million had been returned.
So the big question there, Judy, is, who's waiting and why? If they are younger voters just waiting until the last minute to vote, we know a lot of those voters tend to break for Senator Sanders. But we have also talked specifically to a lot of voters who thought they wanted to go with a more moderate candidate, and were waiting to see who was even left in the race at this point.
That's why they were holding on to their ballots. In fact, just down the street, I met a couple who were sitting on the street corner, filling out their ballots, waiting to turn them in at a polling location, because they said, we were just waiting to see who dropped out and who was still in.
Millions of ballots are still out there. That means that there could be a count in the days and weeks ahead. There's a lot we just don't know yet in California.
So much to report on.
Amna Nawaz in San Francisco, thank you.
Another key state, North Carolina, which has the third largest pool of delegates being decided today, Yamiche Alcindor has been talking to voters there. She joins me now from Raleigh.
So we know, Yamiche, Joe Biden did very well in the neighboring state of South Carolina. What's it looking like where you are?
Well, what we have seen is that the urgent coalescing around Joe Biden by moderate Democrats as an alternative to Bernie Sanders, who is seen as a more progressive candidate, is having an impact at the polls here.
Our team has been talking to voters, who say, look, I was looking at possibly supporting Amy Klobuchar or Pete Buttigieg, but when they decided to drop out and endorse Joe Biden, that meant that I wanted to then go and vote for Joe Biden.
But, that being said, there's a lot of support also for Bernie Sanders. And what we saw, though, was a race that used to be a three-person race. It used to be Michael Bloomberg vs. Bernie Sanders vs. Joe Biden.
And what we have seen in the last few days is a tightening of the race. And now it's really Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders. The other thing to note is that we're here, of course, at a polling station at a library here.
So, people are eager to be able to cast their ballots and have a say in this, after waiting for a long period, of course, for all the other states to vote.
And we won't make you talk very loud, since it's the library.
But, Yamiche, we know also that North Carolina important, obviously, for the Democratic Party, but it — also looking ahead for the general election as well.
North Carolina is going to be a key battleground state come November and the 2020 election. Democrats have been wanting to wrestle the state back from Republicans. President Obama won here in 2008, but Senator Mitt Romney won in 2012. And President Trump won in 2016 by about three points.
The other thing is, one in three Democratic voters here are African-American, which is a key constituency for Democrats. So, the person who wins North Carolina is going to be able to talk about the thing that Democrats themselves have been talking about for a long time.
And that is electability and who can win President Trump — who can beat President Trump. So, what you're going to see is, if Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden wins this state, I can imagine that they're going to say, well, I'm the best person to beat President Trump, because I will also not only beat him, but also take back North Carolina.
And, of course, North Carolina, the state where the Republicans are holding their national convention this summer.
Yamiche, thank you. We will come back to you later tonight.
And now we hear from Lisa Desjardins, who spent the day in Northern Virginia.
So, Lisa, you're telling us you have been talking to a lot of late-deciders?
This is the home state of George Washington. As you may hear, we're also in the flight path for Washington, D.C.
And this part of Virginia is bright blue Democratic. The whole state overall is purple.
But, Judy, here, in this bright blue part, turnout has been strong. In fact, it could even be a record turnout here in Virginia. And as Yamiche has been reporting, we're finding the same thing, late-deciders breaking for Joe Biden, telling us that his margin in South Carolina and the endorsements he received over the last few days, including some notable endorsements in Virginia, have made a big difference to them.
The Michael Bloomberg campaign saw this as a potential win. He was leading in the polls here at one point, Judy. But talking to his campaign tonight, they tell me they no longer see this as his strongest state.
And, Lisa, you told us you have also been talking to the Biden and the Sanders camps about their expectation.
The Biden campaign says, tonight is all about the delegate math. This goes to what Amna was talking about. It's not just about winning a number of states, but about winning the districts that have the most number of delegates.
Democrats proportion these delegates based on how Democratic that district is. So the Biden campaign is specifically focusing on some congressional districts that have larger delegate hauls than others. Or at least that's sort of the assumption when you — they talk about the delegate math.
Now, as for Bernie Sanders, his campaign is stressing that, while his — the early night figures are still up in the air, he thinks his strongest states are in the end, California. And they're cautioning voters that they may go to bed tonight with the election looking one way tonight, on Super Tuesday, and wake up with Bernie Sanders doing better than when they went to bed.
So these early states, we're getting from all sides, look more favorable to Biden, in other words, later states perhaps for Bernie Sanders.
Lisa Desjardins with that great reporting, thank you, Lisa.
And now to Texas, which has the second largest pool of delegates being chosen today, 228.
Our own Dan Bush joins us now from Houston.
So, Dan, Texas happens to be the state with a very large percentage of Latino voters participating in the Democratic primary. What do we know about what's motivating them?
So, Judy, that's right.
Here in Texas, the Latino vote is critical. We have seen the candidates making appeals to Latino voters. But it's important to note here in Texas, as nationwide, that the Latino vote, of course, is not monolithic.
And when you unpack that, you see actually a lot of division. So, Texas is home to a lot of Latinos whose families have been here for two, three, four generations, who are very established in their communities, more affluent, and, crucially, more moderate.
I spoke to a lot of those voters who said, Judy, that they resent being typecast as single-issue voters. Yes, they said, immigration is important, but they also want to hear about education, about health care, about a host of other issues.
Also, Judy, there's a generational divide here among Latino voters, the way that there is across the country with older voters I spoke to here in Houston and elsewhere, who are leaning more towards moderate candidates like Joe Biden, Bloomberg, whereas younger voters were supporting Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren.
And, Dan, you were also telling us that you are seeing in Texas a reaction, reverberation, if you will, from the fact that this Democratic race has been changing so rapidly just in the last 48, 72 hours.
And we're seeing here the Democratic establishment really coalescing around the moderates, in an attempt to try and block Bernie Sanders from getting the nomination.
I spoke to Houston's mayor, who endorsed Bloomberg. Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia, an influential force here in Houston, who has endorsed Joe Biden, Garcia told me that Sanders would put the House majority, the Democrats' majority at risk.
And, Judy, that message is filtering down to voters. I spoke to a lot of people at polling sites here who said, you know what? I like some of Bernie Sanders' ideas, but, at the end of the day, I'm worried that a Sanders-led ticket would hurt Democrats down-ballot at the congressional level and at the state level as well.
And so they ended up voting for either Biden or Bloomberg.
Really interesting, Dan Bush, joining us from Texas.
And, Dan, we will be coming back to you throughout the night.
Now joining us from Minneapolis, Mary Lahammer of Twin Cities PBS.
The state of Minnesota, Mary, of course, the home of Amy Klobuchar. She just dropped out of the race yesterday, threw her support to Joe Biden.
What effect — how are voters reacting to that?
Well, the question is what voters who have already voted are doing.
Minnesota this year moved to a new presidential primary process run through the state election system. And that means early voting has been going on for some time. And, presumably, many of those Democratic voters have already cast ballots for their home state Senator Amy Klobuchar, who got out of the race Sunday — after Sunday.
So you may have seen that rally she was supposed to have in her home state, actually, at the high school I graduated from in the suburbs. We were there waiting, when protesters took to the podium, kind of took over the whole stage.
They were protesting her work as the Hennepin County attorney when she prosecuted a black teenager for a murder, and now the evidence is being questioned. She could not reach a compromise to get to the podium, so canceled her rally here, then, the next day, pulled out of the race, got behind Biden.
The question is, will Minnesota voters follow suit and move their votes to Biden? He was in about a distant fourth place in the last poll we had. And the second-place person was Bernie Sanders, who happened to be here last night holding a rally.
So it'll be fascinating to see if there was a Sanders surge that Klobuchar saw coming here.
And whether it's down to a two-man race, or we know, as in so many other states, Mike Bloomberg has put a lot of money into ads there.
What are you seeing, hearing about him?
Yes, in fact, I just talked to a voter moments ago who was getting a call from Bloomberg. He built a lot of infrastructure here, been sending out a lot of social media, text messages, phone calls.
He's still trying to move folks, I talked to a panel of swing voters about what they were thinking with Klobuchar out of the race. And, actually, two of them said they're not voting at all. They only wanted to vote for Klobuchar. They really lean Republican, but had always voted for her for U.S. Senate.
We do have those voters here that cross their ballots. They're fascinating here.
And I said, any interest in moving to Bloomberg? And they said, no. One of the voters said that she will hold her nose and vote for Biden. Another really wanted to cast a ballot for a woman, but didn't think Warren could get there.
So we will be really watching very closely to see if Biden's numbers improve here and if Sanders can run away with it.
Mary Lahammer in Minneapolis-St. Paul, thank you, Mary.
The night is young. We will be coming back to you a lot.
And now back to the East Coast. I'm joined by WGBH's Adam Reilly. He's in Boston, Massachusetts.
Adam, from the home of one candidate to another one — and, of course, that's Elizabeth Warren. She's still in the race. We haven't talked about her a great deal tonight. We know Bernie Sanders has been giving her a run for the money there.
Yes, she's still in the race. She could really use a win. She has yet to win a state. It'd be nice if she could win her home state.
It has looked for a long time like this was a two-person race, with Warren and Sanders running very close together, and Sanders leading by a little bit. He came, by the way, to Massachusetts over the weekend and held this huge rally on Boston Common.
The question now, obviously, is whether the defections or the withdrawals of the moderates Buttigieg and Klobuchar is going to give Biden fuel and maybe make it a three-person race. It's too early to say, I think, at this point in the day.
I was at Warren's polling place today, talked with a lot of people who were enthusiastic about her, also had good things to say about Sanders. There was some Biden support, but it didn't seem wildly enthusiastic.
And it's not clear where those — the voters whose candidates have left the race, where they're going to go. I talked with one woman who'd been with Buttigieg, and now was voting for Warren instead, another guy who had been with Buttigieg and was casting his lot with Warren, so — pardon me — with Biden, rather.
And I was going to ask you about Biden.
And I should have mentioned the other candidate, born in Massachusetts, Mike Bloomberg. Much discussion about him.
Not much about him. He's made a point of courting the business community. The Bloomberg campaign came out here after that disastrous debate, where Elizabeth Warren really went after him effectively.
They came out and tried to reassure his potential supporters that, OK, this was a matter of preparation; it's not going to happen again.
He has been right there with Buttigieg and Biden as sort of one of three in this second tier. There's no sense that I got that his campaign is picking up steam.
I spoke with one gentleman who was voting for Biden, very grudgingly, again, at Warren's polling place in Cambridge. He said he loved the idea of Bloomberg as a candidate, but he just didn't see a path for him to actually become the Democratic nominee.
All right, we're hearing it now, Adam Reilly, Boston, Massachusetts, WGBH.
And we will be coming back to you throughout the night and to all of our colleagues.
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