New York, March 11 (IANS) Former US Vice President Joe Biden has sealed his lead in the Democratic Party race to be the nominee to challenge President Donald Trump in November by winning the party poll in the key state of Michigan and three others.
With those victories on Tuesday, he has taken 15 of the 24 states where the intra-party polls have been held so far and increased the pressure on his sole rival Senator Bernie Sanders to drop out.
As of Wednesday morning Sanders was leading in two of the six states that went to the polls on Tuesday.
The defeat in Michigan dealt a serious blow to Sanders, who had won the state against Hillary Clinton in 2016.
The primaries held under the air of uncertainty from the coronavirus (COVID-19) show a preference for the steadying hand of centrist Biden, rather than for the radical Sanders.
Biden tried to hammer the point on Tuesday by referring to the growing fear of COVID-19 and saying, “We need presidential leadership that is honest, trusted, truthful and steady.”
He and other Democrats have criticised Trump’s response to the deadly virus and it will be an important election issue.
Biden has won the backing of most of his former rivals for the party nomination who have backed out of the race because they consider him the stronger candidate to defeat Trump.
Sanders, who has a dedicated – an almost fanatical – following, is a self-described democratic socialist and many in the Democratic party fear that Trump would exploit it to defeat Sanders and also cause Democrats running for Congress to lose by association with him.
Although he has been critical of Sanders and his penchant for a revolution, Biden extended him an olive branch as the results started coming in.
He thanked Sanders and his supporters “for their tireless energy and their passion” and said that taking on Trump “we will defeat him together. We’ll bring this nation together.”
Holding on to Sanders’s base could be crucial for Biden to win in November as some of the more ideological leftists with Sanders may sit out the election.
Although he is running for the Democratic Party nomination, Sanders is not formally a member of the party and identifies himself as an Independent in the Senate, but aligns with Democrats.
He is under pressure to leave the race and support Biden in order to strengthen the opposition to Trump. But he is an idealogue out to make a point buoyed by his base of young voters fired up by his anti-establishment rhetoric.
He stayed in the Democratic Party race against Clinton till the very end in 2016 weakening her eventual run against Trump.
So far, Sanders has done best in California, the nation’s largest state and in the western part of the country. He won in Utah last week and was leading in Washington State, the state hardest hit by coronavirus with 29 deaths where postal balloting took place.
(Arul Louis can be contacted at [email protected])