Any politician will tell you every state, and every vote in that state, matters — but some matter more than others. For Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, Michigan was that state Tuesday night, and Biden's victory, called by multiple news organizations within minutes of polls closing, is pivotal for him moving forward.
Michigan had 125 delegates at stake, the most of any state on Tuesday night, but its symbolism moving ahead matters perhaps even more.Sanders still technically has a path to the nomination, although at this point he would have to win 56% of delegates to win an outright majority of delegates. Biden at this point would only have to win half of the delegates in future contests.
Sanders won the state by 1.5 points against Hillary Clinton in 2016, but polls ahead of that primary had her leading by as much as 20 points. The large delegate count and the Michigan's demographics made the state crucial for Sanders to win if he wanted a clear path to the nomination.
Clinton's loss in the primary foreshadowed her loss in the state in general election, when President Trump became the first Republican to win the state since 1988. The state, along with Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, was one of three so-called "blue wall" states that Democrats had counted on.
In this contest, Michigan's more liberal voters coalesced around the more-moderate Biden, which bodes well for the former vice president in future contests.
Biden's seemingly decisive win in Michigan was possible due to support from some key voting groups.
Biden won 54% of union households, compared with Sanders' 42%. Biden also won white voters without a college degree — 51% to Sanders' 45%. This is a group Sanders won in 2016.
Voters also thought Biden has the best chance of beating Mr. Trump — 55% to Sanders' 32%. Defeating Mr. Trump is consistently a top priority for Democratic primary voters.
"This campaign is taking off and I believe we're going to do well from this point on," Biden said before going on to thank Sanders and his supporters and praising their passion, in a Philadelphia speech that appeared to be aimed at looking beyond the primary.
Sanders decided not to speak at all Tuesday night, after losing the first three contests. Both Sanders and Biden canceled rallies Tuesday night over coronavirus concerns, but Biden still delivered an address.
Former presidential candidate and current CNN commentator, who said Sanders was an inspiration to him in deciding to run for president, endorsed Biden live on air, saying he will win the nomination.
Meanwhile on Tuesday, the head of one of the largest Democratic super PACs said it's time to coalesce around Biden, declaring him the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee following his projected wins in Missouri, Mississippi and Michigan.
"The math is now clear. Joe Biden is going to be the Democratic nominee for President and @prioritiesUSA is going to do everything we can to help him defeat Donald Trump in November. I hope others will join us in the fight," Guy Cecil, chairman of Priorities USA, tweeted.
On March 17, the delegate-rich states of Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio will go to the polls.