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2020 Super Tuesday live updates: Biden sweeps the South, wins most delegates

More than 1,300 delegates — or about a third of the total — were at play on Super Tuesday.
Image: Voters in 14 states will cast ballots in Democratic primaries on \"Super Tuesday,\" March 3, 2020.
Voters in 14 states cast ballots in Democratic primaries on "Super Tuesday," March 3, 2020.Chelsea Stahl / NBC News

Fourteen states and one territory held nominating contests for the Democratic Party's candidate for president on Tuesday, the most pivotal day on the presidential primary calendar.

When the polls closed on Super Tuesday and results came in, it became clear that former Vice President Joe Biden had swept the Southern states, winning the primaries in Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Texas, as well as Minnesota and Massachusetts, and had ended the night with the most delegates. Sen. Bernie Sanders came out on top in Colorado, Utah and his home state of Vermont, NBC News projected.

On Wednesday, NBC News declared Biden the apparent winner in Maine, though the race against Sanders in the state was a tight one.

More than 1,300 delegates — about a third of the total — were at play, more than on any other day in the primary season.

Download the NBC News app for full coverage and alerts on the latest news.

Live Blog

Biden now giving Sanders a run for his money — on Google

Biden is making a comeback on Sanders — in terms of Google searches.

While Sanders has generally been the most-Googled candidate in 2020 — and particularly over the last couple weeks — Biden has come roaring back in the last few days, according to data from Google Trends.

Google Trends

Volunteers outraged after voters face hours-long lines in Houston

HOUSTON — Local Democratic Party volunteers here were outraged after some voters in a predominantly black and Latino community in north Houston had to wait up to three hours to cast ballots Tuesday morning.

Election workers said technical problems with some of the voting machines assigned to Democratic primary voters led to the delays at the Fallbrook Church voting site. Residents casting ballots in the Republican primary were not affected. 

Karen Griffin, a 63-year-old retired college administrator, waited two and a half hours to cast a ballot for Joe Biden, who she said was best suited to beat Trump.

"I don’t think it’s right that someone should have to wait that long to participate in our democratic process," Griffin said after voting at around noon.

The Rev. Stan Hillard, 67, spent a few minutes in line Tuesday afternoon before leaving in search of another voting location. In Harris County, voters can vote at any polling location, but Hillard said he wasn’t sure where he needed to go.

"It’s inconvenient, but this is too important," said Hillard, who said he planned to vote for Biden in the hopes that he would defeat Trump and "restore this country’s moral integrity."

Rosalind Caesar, 44, a Democratic Party precinct chair, spent Tuesday morning helping voters who didn’t have time to wait to find different voting locations.

"I think it’s more than a little ironic that in this heavily Democratic precinct, it’s only the machines for the Democratic primary that aren’t working," said Caesar, noting that some voters might not have time to find another location. "The county needs to get someone out here to fix this."

In Texas, polls are open until 7 p.m.

'Delegate math': Inside the Biden campaign's Super Tuesday strategy

OAKLAND, Calif. — Joe Biden never expected a coronation, and his campaign prepared accordingly. 

Despite his status as a former vice president and widely-admired party elder, his campaign knew the crowded field and ideological diversity of the party would pose headwinds for him and suggested a long, bruising battle for the nomination. The fact that Biden was never a prolific fundraiser also meant what resources the campaign had would need to be invested with great precision.

So the Biden campaign’s approach to Super Tuesday perhaps best illustrates what became a mantra of his top strategists: if Andrew Yang was the “math” candidate, Biden would be the delegate math candidate.

While much of the focus Tuesday will be on the statewide results in the more than dozen Super Tuesday contests, the Biden team will be looking just as closely for the results district-by-district — especially in the South. Of the more than 1,300 delegates at stake Tuesday, 875 will be awarded not based on the statewide tally but from the results in individual congressional districts (or, in the case of Texas, state senate districts).

For the full look at Biden’s delegate strategy, read here.

Trump on Democratic candidates: 'Whoever it is, I don't care'

Ahead of more than a dozen primary contests Tuesday, President Donald Trump said he doesn't care who  secures the Democratic Party's presidential nomination. 

"Whoever it is, I don't care. I really don't care. Whoever it is, we will take them on," Trump told reporters outside of the White House, touting a rebuilt military and a strong economy. 

Trump said he would "very gladly" debate "any of them" in the general election and is ready "to take on anybody."

 

The president said that there's "no question" that the Democratic establishment is trying to take the nomination away from Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

"Look, a lot's going to be learned tonight. We'll see how well Biden does; we'll see how well Sanders does. I would have said two, three days ago, Biden was not looking too good. Now he's looking better," he said. "Probably by 9 or 10 o'clock tonight, we're going to have some big answers."

Paper ballots, transportation issues in Tennessee after tornado

At least one polling station in a Tennessee county began using paper primary ballots Tuesday after a tornado ripped through the central part of the state, killing at least 22 people. 

The polling place in Wilson County's St. Stephen Catholic Church, east of Nashville, began using paper ballots because it lost electricity, said Lauren Breeze, a member of the county's election commission. 

As a result of the tornado damage, a number of people had to enter two shelters that opened in Wilson County, including 35 to 40 people at Victory Baptist Church and at least 13 people at the Highland Heights Church of Christ. Neither shelter was offering transportation to polling sites, Breeze said.

In addition, two high schools in the county that were originally supposed to be polling locations were closed because of storm damage. Voters who were assigned to those sites have been redirected to other locations.

Homeland Security hasn't seen signs of election meddling — so far

The Department of Homeland Security is “at a heightened state of operational readiness” as Super Tuesday voting gets underway, a senior official said Tuesday.

In a press call Tuesday morning, a senior official at DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency told reporters that the agency’s two election war rooms in Arlington, Virginia — one classified and one unclassified, and filled with representatives from multiple levels of government — had been on alert for potential issues “since early January,” but hadn’t seen anything concerning yet. Per the terms of the call, the senior official requested to not be identified by name.

CISA has sought to take a clearer leadership role in election security since January 2017, when DHS classified U.S. elections as critical infrastructure after the Russian government interfered in the 2016 campaign.

While declining to share specifics, the government was monitoring  “low-level” of activity targeting the major threats to elections, cyberactivity on election-related infrastructure and dis- or misinformation campaigns. But that’s a constant, the official said.

Constant scanning of internet-connected networks is a reality, and influence operations are “a 365-day threat,” the official said. "There’s a low level of constant activity, but at the moment we’re not seeing any appreciable increase or spike in activity." 

Super Tuesday spending wars: Bloomberg drops almost $200 million on airwaves

Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg's deep pockets have translated into an overwhelming spending edge on the airwaves in Super Tuesday states. 

In the 14 states that hold their presidential nominating contests on Tuesday, Bloomberg has spent $198.4 million on television and radio ads, according to ad-tracking firm Advertising Analytics. That's more than six times the spending of the rest of the field combined and their affiliated super PACs. 

Total Super Tuesday TV and radio ad spending

  • Bloomberg: $198.4 million
  • Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders: $15.7 million
  • Persist PAC (A super PAC supporting Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren): $9 million
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden: $2.1 million
  • Warren: $2 million
  • Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard: $338,000
  • Unite the Country (Pro-Biden super PAC): $163,000

Bloomberg is the top spender in each one of the 14 states, dropping more than half his total between California and Texas, the two biggest delegate prizes of Tuesday's slate. 

California TV and radio spending

  • Bloomberg: $71 million
  • Sanders: $7.1 million
  • Persist PAC: $3.6 million
  • Biden: $629,000
  • Gabbard: $74,000
  • Unite the Country: $18,000

Texas TV and radio spending

  • Bloomberg: $52 million
  • Sanders: $3.9 million
  • Persist PAC: $2 million
  • Warren: $790,000
  • Biden: $463,000
  • Gabbard: $46,000
  • Unite the Country: $29,000

And he's responsible for at least three-quarters of all money spent on TV and radio ads in 13 of the 14 states (he's spent six out of every 10 dollars dropped on the Virginia airwaves). 

Biden's team says 'thanks, but no thanks' to Comey's endorsement

Bates, Biden's rapid response director, then quickly clarified his tweet.

Coronavirus fears keep some poll workers away

Election officials in Travis County, home of Austin, Texas, are implementing emergency procedures to fill in for poll workers who didn’t show up to their stations Tuesday because they fear contracting the coronavirus.

Some poll workers were relocated to some of the county’s most severely understaffed polling centers.

"It's been in the news, just because they’ve been seeing it in the news, and reading about what they find to be scary stats relating to it," said Victoria Hinojosa with the County Clerk's Office. "A lot of them are older so their health is always a concern."

Residents cast their ballots during the presidential primary in Beverly Hills, Calif., on March 3, 2020.Mark Ralston / AFP - Getty Images

 

“Most locations are up and running now, and we’re continuing to work on resolutions to get everywhere fully staffed,” Hinojosa said.

In Sacramento, California, around a dozen of the nearly 700 election clerks opted out over coronavirus fears. 

"To better equip our Vote Centers for any spread of germs, we’ve sent out sanitation supplies to our vote centers including hand sanitizer, antiseptic wipes for the voting booths, tissues and gloves that people using the touchscreens can use," said a spokeswoman for the Sacramento County Registrar of Voters.

Analysis: Warren is the undercard

Obviously, everyone's watching to see where Sanders and Biden finish in terms of delegates — an answer that might not be fully detailed for days or weeks.

But the undercard is Elizabeth Warren's delegate count. The departures of Tom Steyer, Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg make it more likely that the Massachusetts senator will make the 15 percent threshold in states and congressional districts across the country. If Sanders and Biden are running close to each other, two or three hundred delegates apiece in the baskets of Warren and Mike Bloomberg over the course of the primary season could easily prevent either Sanders or Biden from winning a majority of delegates outright.

 

Since Bloomberg is running to the right of Biden, his delegates would be very unlikely to move toward Sanders in any scenario.

But Warren's delegates could conceivably go either way — or split — which might end up giving her a ton of leverage heading into the Democratic convention this summer. That's why her delegate count tonight, driven primarily by whether she makes threshold statewide in California and Texas, is a big dynamic to watch.