Former Vice President Joe Biden took a narrow lead from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders as more ballots were counted Wednesday in Washington’s presidential primary.
Biden nudged into the lead with 35% to Sanders’ 33.6%. On Election Night, the two were in a virtual tie.
Hundreds of thousands of ballots remain to be counted, with a larger tally expected Thursday, but the trend so far is a sign of momentum for Biden, who has consolidated support among late-deciding voters.
There were 13 Democrats on Washington’s ballot and about one-third of the votes so far have gone to candidates who dropped out of the race before Tuesday. As of Wednesday, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren placed third in Washington’s vote, with about 11%; billionaire ex-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was close behind with 10%, followed by former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg with 5%.
Washington was one of six states that voted March 10. Biden won contests in Idaho, Michigan, Missouri and Mississippi, while Sanders won North Dakota.
The results gave Biden clear front-runner status for the Democratic nomination. Still, Sanders announced Wednesday he would continue his campaign, including a scheduled debate with Biden on Sunday in Arizona.
Speaking with reporters in Burlington, Vermont, Sanders said his candidacy has energized young voters in a way that Biden’s has not.
“Today, I say to the Democratic establishment, in order to win in the future, you need to win the voters who represent the future of our country,” Sanders said. “And you must speak to the issues of concern to them. You cannot simply be satisfied by winning the votes of people who are older.”
Though much of the strength of Sanders’ candidacy has been with younger voters, they have not turned out this primary season in the numbers he needs.
Biden on Wednesday announced he’ll be delivering remarks Thursday in Wilmington, Delaware, responding to the coronavirus pandemic, which has started to overshadow the presidential campaign and has led both remaining contenders to cancel planned rallies.
Washington has 89 pledged delegates at stake to the Democratic National Convention, and the results so far suggest Biden and Sanders could split them about evenly. The final delegate breakdown may not be known for weeks. Because of the Democratic Party’s somewhat complex delegate-allocation rules, the allocation will depend on the statewide vote and each candidate’s vote share in each of the 10 congressional districts.
Local Democratic political consultant Crystal Fincher said the final delegate figures may be irrelevant as Sanders needed a decisive win in Washington.
“What he’s coming out with, no matter what, is a delegate split, and any time there is a delegate split, that is a win for Biden at this point,” Fincher said on Election Night.
Material from the Associated Press was included in this report.