What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

What voters in 6 primary states are saying about Biden vs. Sanders

Residents of six states head to the polls Tuesday to cast ballots in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary. The two leading candidates, former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, are battling for a total of 352 delegates. John Yang reports and Judy Woodruff gets updates from Politico’s Tim Alberta, Mississippi Today’s Adam Ganucheau and Donna Blankinship of KCTS 9.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Voters in six states, as we have been saying, will have their chance to weigh in on the Democratic presidential primary today.

    As John Yang reports, the two main contenders were on the trail to make their closing arguments, focusing heavily on delegate-rich Michigan.

  • Former Vice President Joseph Biden:

    Michigan, I'm counting on you in a big way.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • John Yang:

    The Democratic presidential field that once numbered in the dozens is now down to just two. Tonight, they face off head-to-head for the first time.

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.:

    The people of Michigan understand that there are very substantive difference between Joe Biden and myself.

  • John Yang:

    Six states hit the polls today for a total of 352 delegates, Washington, Missouri, Mississippi, Idaho, North Dakota, and the biggest delegate prize, Michigan.

    Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders scored a narrow upset win there in 2016 over Hillary Clinton, propelled in part by the support of white working-class voters. His campaign is counting on holding that support in 2020.

    But former Vice President Joe Biden is leading in recent polls and has been making inroads with some of those voters.

  • Former Vice President Joseph Biden:

    Wall Street didn't build this country. You all built the country.

  • John Yang:

    Earlier today, Biden met with Detroit factory workers and stressed his union roots. But he also was challenged by one voter for his past statements on guns.

  • Man:

    You are actively trying to diminish our Second Amendment right and take away our guns.

  • Former Vice President Joseph Biden:

    You're full of (EXPLETIVE DELETED). I support the Second Amendment.

  • John Yang:

    Looming over the campaign season marked by handshakes, selfies and jam-packed arenas, the threat of coronavirus. Not only did both candidates cancel rallies tonight…

  • Man:

    Here's your hand sanitizer.

  • John Yang:

    … last night, Biden's team offered hand sanitizer to voters entering his Detroit event.

    And at a FOX News town hall, Sanders said the outbreak strengthens the case for Medicare for all.

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders:

    You have got millions of people in this country today who may feel that they have a symptom, but you know what? They cannot afford to go to a doctor.

  • John Yang:

    As voters weigh in, in Michigan and across the country today, Biden and Sanders are preparing to battle it out in primary states in the weeks to come.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm John Yang.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We now get on-the-ground reports from states voting today.

    And we begin with Michigan. That is, as you were hearing, the biggest prize of the night.

    I'm joined from Ann Arbor by Tim Alberta, the chief political correspondent for Politico.

    Tim, great to see you. Thank you for joining us.

    So, we know Bernie Sanders eked it out four years ago. What does it look like this time?

  • Tim Alberta:

    Well, quite a bit different, Judy, to put it mildly, I think.

    This campaign has really in some way brought some clarity to Bernie Sanders' weaknesses with certain demographic groups, namely, African Americans and suburban women. And those are two groups that are going to be critical here in Michigan.

    You know, four years ago, Hillary Clinton lost very narrowly in the state, despite beating Bernie Sanders by 40 points among black voters. And if you wonder how that could possibly happen, the answer is because not very many of them showed up.

    What we're expected to see tonight is a big spike in voting across the board, and particularly among African Americans, among suburban women. And really, if Joe Biden can just sort of keep Bernie Sanders from really running up the score among working-class white voters, the former vice president is expected to have, I think, a very good night here.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What is it that African American voters are saying they see in Joe Biden?

  • Tim Alberta:

    You know, more than anything else, Judy, it's a trust that they have in him, and I think, by some extension, because of the trust that Barack Obama placed in him.

    I was with Joe Biden last night at a rally in Detroit, and it was remarkable to see some of the energy, the enthusiasm among black voters for Joe Biden that you just, frankly, didn't see for Hillary Clinton four years ago.

    And when I talked with some of those voters, they essentially all said the same thing. Look, we know this man. We have a relationship with him. We trust him. People who we trust vouch for him. He's been here to our community in Detroit time after time. He's fought for us. We have gotten to know him.

    So there is just an intimacy with Joe Biden that, frankly, a lot of these voters have not had with other candidates.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Tim Alberta with Politico, thank you so much.

  • Tim Alberta:

    Thank you, Judy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And now to Mississippi, where the polls close in just under two hours.

    And I'm joined by Adam Ganucheau of Mississippi Today. It is a nonprofit news organization based in Jackson.

    So, Adam, we have just been listening to Tim Alberta talk about what the African American voters, what many of them see in Joe Biden in Michigan. What about in Mississippi, where I believe African Americans make up, what, 75 percent of the Democratic primary vote?

  • Adam Ganucheau:

    That's right, Judy.

    You know, 75 percent-ish of Democratic primary voters in the state are African American. Mississippi itself, just in terms of population, has the highest percentage of African American residents of any state in the country.

    What Tim was saying about Michigan and sort of Joe Biden's success, particularly with African American voters there, is true here. I really do think there is a trust factor here with former Vice President Biden.

    You know, you hear all the time from Mississippi voters who have really put a lot of their faith and trust in President Obama over the years and certainly, by extension, President — Vice President Biden.

    You know, while that's the case, voters here are not monolithic. No demographic is in any state. I know this. Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, who is an African American sort of seen as a rising star in the national progressive wing of the Democratic Party, he endorsed Sanders.

    So, you know, looking here at Mississippi, I think we can expect a sizable victory for Biden tonight. But there will be some African American voters who do end up casting their votes for Senator Sanders tonight.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And just very quickly, you were saying there is what you might call an establishment piece or wing of the Democratic vote, as well as a progressive piece.

  • Adam Ganucheau:

    That's right. That's right.

    You know, the establishment, I'd say the more moderate Democrats in Mississippi certainly have held the power here. That has not changed in the last four years. You can look at four years ago, the Clinton-Sanders race in Mississippi.

    Mississippi provided Hillary Clinton, sort of that establishment Democratic pick, with her largest margin of victory of any state in the country, with 83 percent, to Sanders' 16.5 percent.

    So, yes, you're right, Judy, that's certainly the case. There is a progressive faction in this state, but it's just not sizable enough, I don't think, to win too many delegates for Sanders today.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Adam Ganucheau, reporting from Jackson, Mississippi, thank you, Adam.

    And we will see you later tonight.

    And now onto Washington state. It has the second biggest pot of delegates at stake in tonight's contests.

    Joining us from Seattle is Donna Blankinship. She's the politics editor at the PBS member station KCTS-9 Crosscut.

    So, Donna, 89 delegates at stake. Bernie Sanders did very well there four years ago. What's it looking like now?

  • Donna Blankinship:

    It's looking — the last polls show they were tied, Bernie Sanders and the former vice president.

    But now we think that Joe Biden is on the ascension, according to our pollster. So it could — anything could happen, but it looks like late voters are pushing toward Biden.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And four years ago, you had, what, caucuses. This time, you are switching to a primary.

    How do you think that's affecting — what do you hear from voters about how that may affect…

  • Donna Blankinship:

    So…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Go ahead.

  • Donna Blankinship:

    So, we're expecting record turnouts.

    I talked to the secretary of state today, Kim Wyman. She said that she expects 60 percent of registered voters to turn in ballots by the end of today. And last — four years ago, the caucuses went for Bernie Sanders, but the — we also had a primary, which was just a beauty contest, and it went for Hillary Clinton.

    So, Washington, you just don't know what's going to happen. We're an interesting state.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    No question about it. We will be watching.

    But you're absolutely right. You had both the caucuses and the so-called beauty contest primary four years ago. This time, it's just — no caucuses.

  • Donna Blankinship:

    Yes, that's right, no caucuses.

    Well, there will be caucuses to choose the delegates, but that's just a party function. The actual delegates will be assigned according to the primary vote.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All right.

    Donna Blankinship with KCTS, very good to see you. Thank you so much.

  • Donna Blankinship:

    Thank you, Judy.

Listen to this Segment

The Latest