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Illinois Democratic Presidential Primary Will Be Critical As Biden, Sanders Run Neck-And-Neck

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Virtually up for grabs – that's where it stands right now for the top two candidates vying to become the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee.

The latest delegate tracker from CBS News shows former Vice President Joe Biden has 525 delegates, while U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) has 455.

As CBS Political Investigator Dana Kozlov reported, the close race puts Illinois in play.

Biden's 10-state Super Tuesday win now has a title – "Joementum." Yet the delegate count between frontrunner Biden and Sanders remains super close – less than 70 delegates separate the two.

"Joe is a decent guy, and I do not want this campaign to degenerate into a Trump-type ethic where we're attacking each other," Sanders said.

But they are still competing with each other, and the tight race means upcoming primaries – including Illinois' – are critical.

The primary is on March 17, and Northwestern University political scientist Alvin Tillery Jr. said Illinois voters' ballots will matter.

"Absolutely – this is going to be a very critical stretch - the rest of the month's primaries – because you do have the ability to decide it for Joe Biden, or keep Bernie Sanders in it," Tillery said.

Tillery said the 10 upcoming primaries and caucuses prior to Illinois' March 17 primary day will further clarify a frontrunner. After Super Tuesday, that is not always the case.

But a candidate needs 1,991 delegates to become the presidential nominee, so Tillery said Illinois' 184 delegates will be an important grab for any candidate still in the game – but especially for the top two.

"Illinois will absolutely matter," he said. "Your votes will matter this time, and it's an exciting time to be a voter in this state."

Early voting totals were still being counted in the Super Tuesday states as of Wednesday, so totals will change.

Already, the candidate list has also changed. Michael Bloomberg on Wednesday dropped out of the race and threw his support to Biden. Elizabeth Warren remains in the race, but is assessing the future of her campaign, CBS News reported.

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