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Joe Biden wins the Tennessee Democratic primary

The former vice president’s Southern momentum continues with a victory in the Volunteer State.

Joe Biden speaks at the University of South Carolina in Columbia on February 29, 2020.
Jeremy Hogan/Echoes Wire/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden has been declared the winner of Tennessee’s Democratic primary.

Biden prevailed over what has become an increasingly narrow field, defeating Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren; former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg; and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.

Biden’s win isn’t overly surprising, as conditions in the state favored him, particularly Tennessee’s demographics: A 2016 CNN primary exit poll found 64 percent of the Democratic electorate to be above age 45 and 32 percent to be black — and those are groups that have typically gone for Biden in the race’s early contests. While there was little polling in the state until just before Super Tuesday, a projection from FiveThirtyEight forecast Biden as the race’s winner.

Biden’s victory marked the second straight Tennessee Democratic primary in which Sanders was bested by a more moderate candidate. In 2016, Hillary Clinton received more than twice as many votes as Sanders did in Tennessee on her way to winning the Democratic presidential nomination. Sanders performed better in the state this time around — but it still wasn’t enough.

Tuesday’s win will give Biden a share of the state’s 64 pledged delegates proportionate to his share of the vote once all results are in. Going into the day’s contests, the former vice president was second in the delegate count, having won 53 delegates in the first four primaries and caucuses. To become the presumptive nominee, a candidate will need to win a majority — 1,991 — of the total 3,979 pledged delegates ahead of July’s Democratic National Convention.

Biden’s win now brings him closer to securing the Democratic nomination, but whoever ends up with it this time around will have a hard time beating President Trump in deep-red Tennessee. In 2016, Trump defeated Clinton in the state by a 61 percent to 35 percent spread — the largest margin of victory in Tennessee for any presidential candidate since Richard Nixon’s 1972 landslide over George McGovern.

The margin in Tennessee may be a bit tighter this time around, but polling conducted in late January still showed Trump with a commanding 16-point lead over Biden (55 percent to 39 percent). The Democrat who performed best in hypothetical matchups against the president was Bloomberg, but even he trailed Trump by 15 points.

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