LOS ANGELES — Joe Biden's stunning sweep of most Super Tuesday states has rocketed him to the lead in the all-important delegate count over Bernie Sanders, according to NBC News projections based on early results.
The total delegate haul is yet to be determined because many states have yet to fully report their results. That includes California, the biggest state in the contest with 415 delegates, where Sanders was leading with just over half of the vote counted.
As of noon ET Wednesday, NBC News projects that Biden gained 458 delegates on Super Tuesday, bringing his delegate total to 511. Sanders, meanwhile, so far has won 399 delegates and has earned 459. Elizabeth Warren has gained only 39 delegates so far, giving her a total of 47.
Those totals will rise as more votes are counted.
Mike Bloomberg had an especially disappointing night and announced his withdrawal from the race Wednesday morning. So far, the billionaire former New York City mayor is projected to take home just 24 delegates after winning zero states and only the primary in American Samoa. Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who is still running, earned her first — and so far only — delegate from American Samoa.
Biden won more states and by wider margins than many observers had expected, easily making up for his delegate deficit coming out of the first four early contests and putting him in position to potentially win the 1,991 delegates needed to secure an outright majority and clinch the Democratic presidential nomination.
Candidates need to cross a 15 percent threshold to win any delegates, which are awarded both at the statewide level and usually by congressional district.
The former vice president won delegates across the map, from Texas to Vermont, Sanders' home state, where the independent senator deprived Hillary Clinton of winning any delegates four years ago. Sanders performed worse this year, as Biden won 22 percent of the vote and was projected to take home five delegates.
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Biden's biggest wins, however, came in Southern states where strong support from African Americans and suburban whites allowed him to run up the score.
For instance, in North Carolina — which had the third-largest number of delegates in play Tuesday and was a state that Sanders' team thought he could contest — Biden is so far projected to win 59 delegates to Sanders' 33. In Virginia, the fourth-biggest state contested, the margin win is even wider, with Biden projected to double Sanders' delegate haul, 66 to 30.
The results show that margins can matter as much as who wins a state because Democrats award delegates proportionally. Alabama is not a particularly large state. But black voters accounted for nearly half the electorate and broke for Biden by nearly 3 to 1, putting him on track to net a projected 30 delegates over Sanders.
Biden stunned observers by winning Massachusetts, Warren's home state, where he's so far projected to win 33 delegates to Sanders' 28 and Warren's 18. And he won Minnesota, the home state of Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who dropped out of the race Monday to endorse him, helping him net a projected 10 more delegates over Sanders.
Sanders, meanwhile, has mostly won smaller states, with the potential exception of California, and winning by smaller margins, and so has not been netting as many delegates as Biden.
Sanders won Colorado, for instance, but he has to divide the state's 67 delegates with Biden, Bloomberg and Warren, who all appear on track to cross the 15 percent threshold.
California, which is notoriously slow to count its ballots, remains the big wild card and has yet to be called by NBC News though Sanders is leading. So far, Sanders is projected to win 147 delegates from the Golden State to Biden's 88. NBC News declared Biden the apparent winner in Maine on Wednesday, a race that had remained too close to call overnight.