Former Vice President Joe Biden has won the Arizona Democratic primary, edging out Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in a contest that proceeded Tuesday despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Despite Sanders’s generally strong support among Latino voters, Biden’s victory in Arizona is unsurprising. Ahead of the primary, Biden had netted victories in 16 other states and gave a strong performance in the latest debate, projecting “confidence and competence on the coronavirus pandemic” and landing “solid hits” on Sanders’s record, as my colleague Zack Beauchamp writes.
And though he had been trailing Sanders in Arizona polls as late as March 3, Biden had surged in the state after winning 10 states on Super Tuesday and last week, and after netting a series of endorsements from candidates who had dropped out of the Democratic primary. As of March 17, FiveThirtyEight’s average of national polling data showed Biden with a whopping 25-point lead and with about 52 percent support.
Arizona has the fewest delegates among the three states that voted on Tuesday: It will award 67 delegates, 23 of which are awarded based on statewide results; the other 44 are tied to the results in each of Arizona’s nine congressional districts.
Candidates must capture at least 15 percent of the vote in a single district in order to be awarded those precinct-level delegates and at least 15 percent of the vote statewide for statewide delegates. Going into the day, Biden was expected to win every district by double-digit margins, but Sanders was not expected to fall short of the 15 percent threshold.
Unlike Ohio, which delayed its scheduled Tuesday primary, Arizona moved forward with the scheduled primary contest, despite concerns over the spread of the coronavirus in public polling places while taking additional precautions. Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs said in a statement Monday that officials had decided not to delay the election because it would only become harder to hold it going forward as infection continues to spread.
“This decision was not made lightly, and what it all comes down to is that we have no guarantee that there will be a safer time to hold this election in the near future,” she said. “The longer we wait, the more difficult and dangerous it could become.”
The deadline to vote early via mail-in ballot was March 11, but those who were unable to mail their ballots in time were allowed to deliver them at polling locations and drop-off boxes throughout the state by 7 pm on Tuesday. They also could have voted before Tuesday at early voting locations.
Officials also cut down on the number of available polling locations, especially in Maricopa County.
Latinos make up about a quarter of eligible voters in Arizona — a demographic that Sanders has been relying on.
He is trying to appeal to them with a progressive policy platform that speaks to their core interests — health care, jobs, and, for some, immigration — and has invested heavily in spreading his message, in both Spanish and English, to Latino communities in Texas and other states. But on Tuesday in Arizona, that strategy didn’t appear to work.