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Joe Biden wins Idaho primary, beating Bernie Sanders in a state he won in 2016

Sanders won Idaho in 2016 with 78 percent of the vote. But this year, Biden took the state.

Joe Biden wins the Idaho primary election.
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday won the Idaho Democratic primary election.

The win lets Biden expand his delegate count by just a little, with Idaho holding 20 pledged delegates out of the 1,991 needed to clinch a majority for the Democratic nomination.

Biden went into Tuesday’s race with a lead over Sen. Bernie Sanders in the delegate count, but still far from the majority he needs to win. If no candidate gets a majority by the Democratic National Convention later this year — an increasingly unlikely scenario — there will be a second ballot and potentially more involving unelected superdelegates.

This Tuesday’s set of races isn’t quite super, but there are a few states voting in the primary: Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, and Washington state are all voting as well. Biden and Sanders went into the day separated by less than 100 delegates, making these races particularly important for either Biden to get closer to that insurmountable lead or for Sanders to chip away at Biden’s advantage and build at least some momentum behind his campaign.

There was a lot of uncertainty going into Tuesday’s primary in Idaho. Sanders won the state over Hillary Clinton in 2016 with 78 percent of the vote. But few major polls were conducted in Idaho, although Biden had the lead in two polls just before the primary. And the state had changed from its caucus system in 2016 to a primary election system in 2020 — which some speculated may hurt Sanders’s chances because it could increase turnout among less passionate but more moderate voters who are likely to support Biden.

Biden also went into the race with a lot of momentum behind him. After a strong finish in Super Tuesday on March 3, Biden had racked up a big delegate lead and a growing list of endorsements, including from former candidate Mike Bloomberg — fueling his campaign as the frontrunner and sole moderate candidate in the race.

In Idaho, at least, Biden did not lose that momentum, denying Sanders a state that he won fairly easily four years ago.

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