Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden ended primary night in a dead heat in Washington state — which may point to an ultimate victory for Biden, according to some analysts. It was a big night for the former Vice President nationwide, with wins in Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri and Idaho.
Look for more vote counts Wednesday afternoon on seattletimes.com.
It's tied now, but Washington may be betting on Biden
Former Vice President Joe Biden did not make a single public campaign appearance in Washington ahead of the state's presidential primary.
His campaign had almost no visible volunteer or staff presence — not even a campaign office. When he did visit, Biden spoke exclusively at a few high-dollar fundraisers, including one at the home of an Amazon executive.
Bernie Sanders, by contrast, drew 17,000 people to a Tacoma Dome rally last month, and fielded an enthusiastic army of young volunteers who rang doorbells, sent texts and flooded social media in the run-up to March 10. He also raised by far the most small-dollar donations locally.
But as results came in Tuesday night, Biden was neck and neck with Sanders — each taking about 33% of the vote — and late polling suggests Biden could wind up on top in the coming days as later ballots are counted.
In any case, a close split of Washington's 89 pledged delegates was not what Sanders needed in a state where he'd been seen by many as favored, in part due to his win in the 2016 caucuses.
"I still think Seattle and King County could break for Bernie, but the rest of the state, that's another another question," said Crystal Fincher, a local Democratic campaign consultant, in an interview. "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 it's understandable how voters would rally around Biden even without much of a campaign in Washington. Biden retains goodwill and name recognition as the vice president under Barack Obama, whose presidency was for many people "the last time they felt OK," she said.
A pragmatism is at play, too, as voters have also started to increasingly act as political analysts, trying to gauge how voters in swing states will react to a candidate.
Some interviewed at Seattle ballot drop boxes on Tuesday said they were making a bet on Biden as the best match-up against President Donald Trump this fall — even if they agreed with Sanders on key issues.
"The funny thing is, I think most political consultants would tell people to vote their consciences," Fincher said. But, she said Trump has created so much fear and anxiety among Democrats, they're willing to overlook Biden's flaws. "I can't blame people for thinking 'Even if this guy is sub-par — we can't risk it,'" she said.
In a race this close, it will be days before enough votes are counted for us know who the winner is.
But votes don’t win the primary, delegates do. With Biden extending his delegate lead in other states, Bernie needed a big win here to gain ground. He won’t get that. https://t.co/vwpur9rLEg
— Crystal Fincher (finchfrii on all platforms) (@finchfrii) March 11, 2020
With more than 1 million Democratic primary votes counted Tuesday night, Sanders had the narrowest of leads, with about 32.7% of the statewide vote, to 32.5% for Biden. Elizabeth Warren, who dropped out recently without making an endorsement, placed third with about 12%.
In King County, which accounted for more than a third of the votes cast, Sanders had 33.6% of the vote Tuesday, to Biden's 32.5%. Warren was at 15% in the county.
Hundreds of thousands of ballots remain to be counted in the coming week, and the final delegate split won't be known until those votes are tallied. Look for more votes to drop on Wednesday afternoon.
No surprise, Trump receives 97% or better in each county among Republican voters
There's no competition on the Republican side of the Washington primary ballot, as President Donald Trump is the only choice. Still, the state GOP pushed for high turnout to demonstrate enthusiasm for his reelection.
Statewide, Trump received 98.5% of the Republican vote in Tuesday's early returns. King County had the lowest Trump vote, with 97%, compared with 3% write-in votes. He received a 100% vote in six counties: Adams, Jefferson, Pacific, Pend Oreille, San Juan and Walla Walla.
Bernie Sanders supporters greet early numbers with mixed reactions
As Washington results started to appear on the TV screen at Hillside Bar on Capitol Hill, Bernie Sanders supporters greeted the early numbers with mixed reactions.
Some voiced disappointment, but campaign staffer Supreet Kaur was holding out hope. She said staffers and volunteered helped drive many voters to cast their ballots in the last day, and those voters haven't been counted yet.
"We sent volunteers to mosques and grocery stores" and to speak with cab drivers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, she said. "With the late returns ... I think our lead will increase."
Wearing a blue Bernie shirt, Kaur said the media narrative about moderates consolidating around Joe Biden has hurt Sanders. She decided to back the Vermont senator, she said, because even her stepson knows that people like Jeff Bezos have too much money, considering how many people are sleeping on the streets. Only Sanders has consistently spoken out against the "grotesque inequality" in the U.S. Reducing that inequality would make a better future for children like her son, she added.
Sanders and Biden in virtual tie in Washington primary
Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden are virtually tied as results come in for Washington's presidential primary.
Both were taking about 33% of the votes as of 8:20 p.m., with Elizabeth Warren in third place with about 12%.
If the results hold, it would be a further blow to Sanders on a night when he's getting swept in other states, including Mississippi and Michigan.
Not all counties have reported, and hundreds of thousands of ballots will remain to be counted in the coming days.
On Capitol Hill, an unofficial Sanders gathering
The closest thing to an actual election night party Tuesday in Seattle was an unofficial gathering of about a dozen Sanders campaign staffers and volunteers at a bar on Capitol Hill. Shaun Scott, the campaign's Washington field director, was shooting pool below a big-screen television that showed Biden sprinting past Sanders in other states.
The campaign didn't want to hold an official party due to novel coronavirus concerns, but Scott said he couldn't stay home and watch the results roll in on Twitter.
"Elections are so anxiety inducing. It helps to process with people," he said.
Scott said many of the voters he's spoken with in recent days told him they waited until the last minute to cast their ballots because they wanted to see what would happen in the Democratic race.
Scott said he's proud of the campaign's push here, citing 40,000 doors knocked, 517,000 phone calls made and 1,300 volunteer shifts filled during the home stretch. Whatever the outcome, many people from Walla Walla to Seattle voted enthusiastically and proudly for Sanders, he said.
National media takeaway: Biden's race to lose
As Washington gets ready to tally presidential primary votes, national media already are declaring the Democratic nomination all but settled for Joe Biden.
The Associated Press says "IT'S BIDEN'S NOMINATION TO LOSE."
Biden has become the reliable Buick of this race.
His momentum accelerated as he broadened his delegate lead over Sanders with a series of decisive victories. The former vice president’s solid win in Michigan came in a state Sanders was depending on both to bolster his case going forward and for the practical delegate math involved. He came into the day about 96 delegates behind Biden, and Michigan was his best shot at preventing that lead from getting any wider. (Democrats require 1,991 delegates for nomination.)
Meanwhile, national political reporters say Bernie Sanders will not appear publicly to address Tuesday's results. He's headed back to his home in Burlington, Vermont.
NEW: The @BernieSanders campaign tells us Senator Sanders will not be speaking tonight. He was forced to cancel his rally in Cleveland and has returned here to his home of Burlington, VT.
— Ryan Nobles (@ryanobles) March 11, 2020
A last-minute decision in Green Lake
Gabe Ohlsen, 23, approached voting in the Washington state Democratic primary in turmoil.
At around 7 p.m., just one hour before ballot boxes were due to close, he turned in his voter card with a vote for former Vice President Joe Biden — a decision he made five minutes before driving over.
A management consultant, Ohlsen took out a pen and paper to calculate, based on research, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ chief issue: Medicare for All.
“I just can’t see how the numbers are going to work, but I really want them to work,” he said.
Scores of voters filed in by foot and by car to cast their ballots Tuesday.
Isabel Place, 24, said she voted for Sanders because of his health care ideas. She said health care has been expensive and out of reach for her family in recent years. Now, she is insured through her job, but it remains an important issue.
Others cast their vote based on strategy.
Michael Goodwill, 51, said while he aligned more with Sanders’ ideas, he was voting for Biden because “he has the best opportunity to win the election.”
“It wasn’t an easy decision,” he said, but he felt Biden has “the best chance of beating the president.”
Exit poll: Washington Democratic voters are the angriest at Donald Trump
Among states that have held primaries so far, Washington voters are the angriest at President Donald Trump, according to NBC News exit polling.
The polling found 83% of Democrats in Washington feel angry about Trump's administration. The previous high among states that have voted so far was in New Hampshire, where 79% of Democrats said they're mad.
Other states voting today are comparatively less emotional. In Mississippi, 49% said they're mad; in Missouri it was 67% and in Michigan 63%, NBC reported.
Trump has never been popular in Washington, winning just 38% of the vote here in 2016 - and just 22% in King County.
Democratic anger toward Trump higher In Washington than any other primary state so far according to exit polls https://t.co/dhA7ZrTxhp
— Newsweek (@Newsweek) March 11, 2020
In Columbia City, support for Sanders, Biden and a return to the caucus system
Yemane Amare, 42, voted in the U.S. for the first time just now!!! Born in Ethiopia, he chose Bernie Sanders because he thinks the Vermont senator stands for peace among nations, rather than war. “He’s the right guy,” Amare said. pic.twitter.com/iaob8RmE5P
— Daniel Beekman (@DBeekman) March 11, 2020
Theresa Baxley, 63, went with Joe Biden “because like people keep saying, ‘I know Joe.’” He’s compassionate and experienced, she said. Baxley also likes Bernie Sanders but not all his remarks, like “the (Fidel) Castro thing.” She’s worried about Russian meddling in the general. pic.twitter.com/ExC155bytL
— Daniel Beekman (@DBeekman) March 11, 2020
Results from other March 10 primary states are rolling in, and so far they look good for former Vice President Joe Biden.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Joe Biden delivered decisive wins in Missouri and Mississippi on Tuesday, dealing an early blow to Bernie Sanders on a night when six states were up for grabs.
Among voters looking for a candidate who cares about people like them (26% of voters),
— Political Polls (@Politics_Polls) March 11, 2020
Voting - and disinfecting - in Issaquah
Outside Issaquah City Hall, about a dozen people dropped off ballots at a ballot box shortly before 5 p.m. Amid concerns about the COVID-19 outbreak, one voter wiped down the handle with a disinfecting wipe before depositing her ballot.
Another voter, Alison Jeske of Issaquah, said she and her husband were casting ballots for Joe Biden. Their original pick was Elizabeth Warren, and they only decided on Biden last night. It wasn’t an easy choice, she said, but they feel he’s the better candidate to beat President Donald Trump.
The endorsements from Kamala Harris and Cory Booker helped them make the decision.
"That’s the primary goal — beating Trump," she said.
Democratic turnout high, especially among women
Turnout in Washington's presidential primary is soaring among Democrats, and especially women.
As of Tuesday evening, more than 1.8 million people had returned ballots - nearly 40% of voters. Of those, about 1.2 million had come in the Democratic primary, compared with 592,000 for Republicans.
Another 65,000 or so voters had not selected a party on their primary ballot envelope -- putting their votes at risk of not being counted. County elections officials will set aside such ballots unopened and give those voters a chance to correct the mistake.
The higher turnout among Democrats is no huge surprise, as the Democratic nomination race has been highly competitive, while President Donald Trump faces no serious competition among Republicans.
There is a definite gender gap in the vote returns so far.
Among those picking a Democratic ballot, about 56% have been women, compared with 44% men, according to an analysis of returns through Monday evening. Among Republicans, it's been 49% women and 51% men.
The gender split is happening nationally, as women increasingly have rejected President Donald Trump and favored Democrats. A CNN poll in December found a 34% advantage for Joe Biden among women - which would be a historic high if it holds.
In 2016, women voted for Hillary Clinton over Trump by 16 points.
Sanders and Biden cancel Ohio rallies over coronavirus concerns
Washington's coronavirus outbreak kept Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden away from the Seattle area in the week leading up to the March 10 presidential primary.
As the virus spreads nationally, it's starting to interfere with campaign plans in other states, too.
Both Sanders and Biden canceled rallies today in Cleveland, Ohio, the Associated Press reports. Ohio votes next week and is a big prize, awarding 136 delegates.
President Trump, who has sought to downplay coronavirus concerns, has not changed his campaign plans so far. "The campaign is proceeding as normal, Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh told the AP.
Brisk turnout at drop boxes in Seattle as voters pick Biden or Sanders
With hours left before the voting deadline, a steady stream of voters was dropping off ballots Tuesday at a curbside drop box near the Lake City library in Seattle.
Of more than a dozen voters interviewed at the site, all said they voted in the Democratic primary, and most cited defeating President Donald Trump as top of mind. While Seattle has shown wide support for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, several voters said they were casting ballots for former Vice President Joe Biden, betting he has the best shot at winning in November.
Nick Gardner, a 26-year-old software engineer, called it a "tough decision" but said he wound up voting for Biden, with whom he aligns on issues, and who he said "would end up having a better chance at the actual presidency."
While he said there need to be big changes in health care in the U.S., the Medicare for All proposal by Sanders "is too pie in the sky - I think it's a great idea that would run into many implementation problems."
Brisk traffic at ballot drop box near Lake City Library in Seattle. Nick Gardner, 26, says he voted for Joe Biden. “Tough decision” he said, but said his policies “more realistic.” #waelex pic.twitter.com/2Z7BamUkGe
— Jim Brunner (@Jim_Brunner) March 10, 2020
Natasha Breidenbach, a mental health therapist, who works with young people and families experiencing homelessness, said she voted for Sanders and his more sweeping agenda.
"It just seems like there needs to be a lot of systematic change if anything is going to get better," she said. Breidenbach said she attended Sanders' Tacoma Dome rally last month and it left her feeling hopeful. "I think that Biden represents wanting to keep kind of a status quo, and I would rather see some bigger changes."
Natasha Breidenbach voted for Bernie Sanders. She’s a mental health therapist and says “there needs to be a lot of systemic change.” Sanders makes her feel hopeful. Biden represents “status quo.” #waelex pic.twitter.com/1qaD9GTgSK
— Jim Brunner (@Jim_Brunner) March 10, 2020
Julie Wong, a retiree from the Sand Point area, said she'd supported Sanders since 2016 and voted for him again Tuesday. "I like his health care solution," she said. "I think it's so important. She said she'll vote for Biden if he is the Democratic nominee.
K.T. Nguyen, a University of Washington law student, said he agrees more with Sanders on some issues, but voted for Biden, believing he has a better shot at attracting voters in states like Ohio and Florida.
"I hate to say it, but he's the more electable presidential candidate," said Nguyen.
Elizabeth Cagle said she supported Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren before she dropped out. She dropped off her ballot for Biden.
Cagle said she agrees with Sanders on about half of the issues, such as fighting climate change, but said "half the stuff I am not sure he's as well informed as he should be" and worries about how effective he'd be. "It doesn't seem like he could quite reach across the aisle," she said.
Patricia Brunner, a retired Boeing employee, said she voted for Biden. "I think he has the best chance of winning," she said.
Brunner said she'd vote for any Democrat in the fall against Trump: "Even a dog."
Here's what you need to know about Tuesday's primary:
- There is still time to vote if you get your ballot postmarked before midnight, or get your ballot to a drop box by 8 p.m. People who still need to register to vote can also get that done and cast a ballot by showing up to an Election Center by 8 p.m.
- Elections officials say we're looking at a possible turnout record for a presidential primary in Washington. As of Monday afternoon, nearly 1.6 million ballots were already in - about 35% of the state's registered voters. Of those, about 985,000 were in the Democratic primary, while about 550,000 opted for the Republican ballot. Another 60,000 picked no party option, which could invalidate those ballots unless the error is corrected.
- Washington has the second-most pledged delegates (89) at stake of the six states voting on March 10, behind only Michigan (125). Other states voting include Missouri (68), Mississippi (36), Idaho (20) and North Dakota (14). As of Monday, Biden leads with 664 delegates, with Sanders at 573, according to the Associated Press. It takes 1,991 to win the nomination on the first ballot at the Democratic National Convention (DNC), scheduled for this summer in Milwaukee.
- There are still 13 Democratic candidates on Washington's ballot. The list was finalized in January in order to mail ballots to overseas and military voters. That means several candidates who dropped out, such as Michael Bloomberg and Elizabeth Warren, could receive substantial numbers of votes -- and conceivably even nab a few delegates. Those delegates would still be pledged to the candidates on the first ballot at the DNC, but could freely switch to others on subsequent votes.
- On the Republican side, only President Donald Trump is listed, though there also is a write-in option. Trump faces no serious competition for the Republican nomination.
- Two recent polls of Washington voters have shown Sanders and Biden virtually tied. A loss or even delegate split here would be bad news for Sanders, who many have considered the presumptive favorite, in part because of his decisive win in the 2016 Democratic caucuses. Hillary Clinton won the presidential primary that year, but it didn't count. (Until this year, the Democratic Party had refused to honor the primary, preferring the caucus system.)
- We won't get a complete picture of who wins Washington on Election Night, when typically only half or so of the votes are counted. The state Democratic Party is cautioning that final delegate allocations for Sanders and Biden may not be known until the election is certified in a couple weeks. As we saw in last year's Seattle City Council elections, the later votes can shift dramatically - particularly when a flood of younger voters send in ballots late.
2020 Election Resources
For more information about voting, ballot drop boxes, accessible voting and online ballots, contact your county elections office. Ballots are due by 8 p.m. on Nov. 3.
- King County: 206-296-8683 or st.news/vote-kingcounty
- Snohomish County: 425-388-3444 or st.news/vote-snocounty
- Kitsap County: 360-337-7128 or st.news/vote-kitsapcounty
- Pierce County: 253-798-8683 or st.news/vote-piercecounty
For more information on your ballot, in any county, go to: myvote.wa.gov
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