By Ivonne Malaver
Miami, US, Mar 17 (efe-epa).- Former United States vice president Joe Biden took most of the delegates at stake in the Democratic Party primary elections held this Tuesday in Florida and Illinois amid low voter turnout due to the coronavirus outbreak in the country.
Moderate Biden won in Florida — the biggest prize in Tuesday’s election — against progressive senator Bernie Sanders with 61.7 percent of the votes compared to 22.9 percent, with 98 percent counted.
Biden took most of the 219 delegates up for grabs in Florida, as well in Illinois — which has 155 delegates — where he brought in 59 percent of the votes as opposed to Sanders’ 36 percent, according to preliminary results with 89 percent counted.
In Arizona, another state where primaries were held on Tuesday and from where there are no results yet due to the time difference, 67 delegates are at stake.
With the primaries at the halfway point, Biden continues to gain ground in the Democratic nominee race to face Donald Trump in the presidential elections on Nov. 3.
Biden has a six-point lead over Trump in a head-to-head matchup, according to polls.
Barack Obama’s former vice president (2009-2017) and the Vermont senator went into Tuesday’s primaries after an unusual debate on Sunday, which had no audience due to the coronavirus outbreak and was the first with only two participants.
Few voters turned up to the polling stations, which were stocked with disinfectants, gloves and masks.
Biden and Sanders were also competing for the 136 delegates of Ohio, another state scheduled to vote on Tuesday but which called off the primary at the last minute due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The preliminary results augur a difficult future for 78-year-old Sanders’ campaign and consolidate 77-year-old Biden’s victory in more than 20 states.
The former vice president is drawing closer to securing the required 1,991 delegates (50 percent plus one) out of a total of 3,979 delegates heading to the Democratic National Convention, scheduled to be held in July in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
The moderate Democrat crossed 1,000 delegates with his win in Florida while Sanders trailed with 745 delegates.
In a brief albeit celebratory message following his wins on Tuesday, Biden spoke of the urgency of stopping the spread of the virus, saying that “tackling this pandemic is a national emergency akin to fighting a war.”
Biden said his campaign has had “a very good night” and was moving closer towards the Democratic presidential nomination by building a broad coalition with support from African-Americans, Latinos, firefighters, teachers, suburban women and many others.
He also said thanked Sanders and his supporters for their “remarkable passion and tenacity.”
“Our goal is as a campaign, and my goal as a candidate for president is to unify this party, and then to unify the nation,” he declared.
Sanders was yet to speak and devoted much of the day to the discussion about the coronavirus pandemic.
The state of Florida, with 17 percent Hispanic voters, many of them Cuban and Venezuelan, helped to strengthen Biden’s lead on Tuesday.
Four years ago, the Vermont senator also lost in Florida to former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, who then went on the secure the nomination.