Biden burns Sanders in chaotic Illinois primary — winning by 20-plus percentage points

Speaking in an address from his Delaware home, Biden said he had a “very good night” in Illinois and Florida and said he was “a little closer to securing the Democratic Party’s nomination for president.”

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Former Vice President and Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden.

Former Vice President and Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden speaks about the coronavirus, during a press event in Wilmington, Delaware last week.

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Former Vice President Joe Biden tightened his grip on the Democratic presidential nomination on Tuesday, defeating Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in Illinois with the help of African-American voters, women and voters over 45.

Biden led Sanders with 59.5% to 35.8% with 96% of the precincts reporting.

It was an unprecedented Election Day in Illinois —with delayed results, missing election judges, dwindling supplies of hand sanitizer and bickering over whether the state should even hold its primary during a global health pandemic.

Speaking in an address from his Delaware home, Biden said he had a “very good night” in Illinois and Florida and said he was “a little closer to securing the Democratic Party’s nomination for president.”

He also had a message for Sanders’ supporters: “I hear you. I know what’s at stake. I know what we have to do,” Biden said.

“Our goal as a campaign, and my goal as a candidate for president is to unify this party, then to unify the nation,” he said.

Biden performed very well with women voters, older voters and African-American voters, according to CNN polls. Biden took 70% of the African-American vote, compared to Sanders at just 27%. Among women, Biden had 65% to Sanders’ 30%.

Sanders performed well, unsurprisingly, with voters aged 17-44 — 63% compared to Biden at 17%, the CNN poll found. Biden took 78% of the vote among voters 45 and older, the polls found.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders t

In this screen grab taken from a berniesanders.com webcast, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders talks about his plan to deal with the coronavirus pandemic on March 17, 2020 in Washington, D.C.

berniesanders.com via Getty Images

The race was a bit closer in Chicago. With 77% of precincts reporting, the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners reported Biden at 50.43% to Sanders with 45.52%. In suburban Cook County with 95 percent precincts reporting, Biden led Sanders 62.76% to 32.81%.

With historically low Election Day turnout in Chicago — Biden was relying on a record number of early voters and those who voted by mail. Illinois, Florida and Arizona — with their combined 441 delegates for the taking — held their primaries on Tuesday, despite the coronavirus outbreak wreaking havoc on the nation. Biden won all three states. In Illinois, there are 155 pledged delegates up for grabs.

Biden, Sanders and U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard were the only ones left in the Democratic presidential race, but Illinois voters had a dizzying 13 candidates on their mail-in, early voting and Election Day ballots. Most candidates dropped out of the race in early March, as Biden and Sanders continued to gain delegates across the nation.

But the tide turned when Biden won nine states on March 3 — the most important voting day in the Democratic party —and Democratic moderates Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar quickly dropped out. With Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg also out, all eyes were on the former vice president and the democratic socialist and the competing factions of the Democratic party each represented.

Sanders lost Illinois in 2016 by a tiny margin — just 2 percentage points — to Hillary Clinton. He was boosted by a Chicago rally on the eve of the election, the likes of which packed a downtown theater with many young, progressive voters.