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March 17 Democratic primaries live updates: Biden sweeps Sanders as coronavirus casts shadow over vote

Tuesday's primaries were the first since Trump declared a national emergency over the coronavirus outbreak.

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Joe Biden defeated Bernie Sanders in Florida, Illinois and Arizona, NBC News projected Tuesday, opening up a nearly insurmountable delegate lead.

In Ohio, polls were ordered closed as a public health measure after a judge declined the governor's request to postpone the election. But contests in the other three states proceeded as scheduled Tuesday despite widespread fears over the rapidly spreading coronavirus pandemic.

The outbreak, which has sickened more than 5,000 people in the U.S., is thrusting the Democratic primary into uncertainty, with some states postponing their elections and the candidates forgoing rallies for virtual events.

Highlights from the March 17 Democratic primaries:

Live Blog

Trump is now the presumptive GOP nominee, NBC News projects

President Donald Trump is the Republican Party's presumptive presidential nominee, NBC News projects.

NBC News made the call after projecting Trump the victor in the Florida and Illinois Republican primaries.

Those projected wins put him over the threshold of delegates needed to officially become the party’s nominee. 

NBC News Primary Poll: 1 in 5 Sanders voters in Illinois can’t guarantee they’ll support Democratic nominee

One in 5 supporters of Bernie Sanders in Illinois can’t guarantee that they will vote for the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee in November, regardless of who that may be, according to results from the NBC News Primary Poll.

In contrast, just 6 percent of Joe Biden’s supporters in Tuesday's Illinois Democratic primary said the same. 

Read more on the NBC News Primary Poll. 

Sanders tackles coronavirus in primary night speech

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., on Tuesday outlined his coronavirus proposals in a speech from his campaign headquarters in Washington, D.C. — items that include sending households $2,000 a month for the duration of the crisis.

Sanders opened his address by saying the country was "facing an unprecedented series of crises" that he believes will require a $2 trillion stimulus to avoid "economic catastrophe."

His lengthy list of proposals included government covering all coronavirus-related medical bills, speed up testing, invoke emergency powers to scale up production of supplies like surgical masks and ventilators, and provide substantial unemployment insurance to those who lose jobs as a result of the outbreak.

Sanders enters Tuesday's primaries trailing frontrunner Joe Biden in the NBC News projected delegate count.

NBC News Primary Poll: Biden wins Florida with support from older, moderate and black voters

Joe Biden won Florida's Democratic primary Tuesday night with help from his core constituency: voters age 45 and older, black voters and voters who identify as moderate or conservative. 

Biden also won 83 percent of voters who said the quality that matters most in a candidate is someone who can unite the country, according to an NBC News Primary Poll. The NBC News Decision Desk projected at 8 p.m. ET, when polls closed, that Biden would beat Bernie Sanders in the Florida primary. 

Biden was also the clear favorite among Florida voters who oppose Medicare for All, as well as those who want to return to former President Barack Obama’s policies. 

 

Read more on the NBC News Primary Poll.

Biden wins Florida, NBC News projects, but Illinois to early to call

Joe Biden wins the Florida Democratic primary, NBC News projects. 

The Illinois Democratic primary is too early to call, according to NBC News.

With 77 percent of the Florida vote counted, Biden led Sanders 61 percent to 23 percent.

In Florida, 219 pledged delegates are up for grabs, making it the biggest prize of the contests on Tuesday night.

As of 8:10 p.m., Biden had received 126 of the state's delegates, while Sanders was awarded 17, according to NBC News.

In Illinois, 155 pledged delegates are at stake.

NBC News Primary Poll: Democratic voters want a candidate who can beat Trump

In line with other Democratic primary contest this year, a majority of voters on Tuesday across Florida, Arizona and Illinois said they would rather see the Democratic Party nominate a candidate who can beat President Donald Trump over someone who agrees with them on the issues, according to results from the NBC News Primary Poll.

In Florida, 66 percent of Democratic primary voters said they would rather someone who can beat Trump, compared to 65 percent in Arizona and 61 percent in Illinois.

Voters under 45 in those three states were more split than those over 45. Still, the majority of younger voters, too, said they preferred a candidate who can beat Trump. 

Read more on the NBC News Primary Poll.

NBC News Primary Poll: Florida voters trust Biden over Sanders to handle Social Security

A majority of Florida Democratic primary voters trust Joe Biden more than Bernie Sanders to handle Social Security, according to an NBC News Primary Poll.

Fifty-nine percent said they would trust Biden to handle Social Security, while 37 percent said they would trust Sanders.

Read more on the NBC News Primary Poll.

NBC News Primary Poll: On immigration policy, Arizona voters nearly divided on whether to trust Biden or Sanders

Just over half of Arizona Democratic primary voters said they would trust Joe Biden more than Bernie Sanders to handle immigration policy, according to an NBC News Primary Poll.

Fifty-one percent said they would trust Biden, while 43 percent said they would trust Sanders.

 Read more on the NBC News Primary Poll.

DNC urges states to stick to primary schedule, adopt vote-by-mail instead

The Democratic National Committee is urging states with upcoming presidential primaries and caucuses to not reschedule their elections and instead adopt vote-by-mail in response to the coronavirus outbreak. 

At least six states have so far have taken steps to postpone their primary contests as cities and states shut down amidst the pandemic, but the DNC instead said states should not bring "our democratic process to a halt" and allow people to vote early or by mail on the currently scheduled dates, since no one knows when the threat of the pandemic will subside.

"Eligible voters deserve certainty, safety, and accessibility," DNC chairman Tom Perez said in a statement. 

Perez said the easiest way to allow people to vote during the crisis would be mail-in-balloting, as well as no-excuse absentee voting, where a voter can drop off their completed ballot at a central location, or expanded days and hours for in-person voting to reduce lines. 

Slightly more than half the states in the union have yet to vote in the Democratic presidential primary and all are required to select delegates to July's Democratic National Convention by June 20, under party bylaws.

States that don't comply with the rules can be penalized by having their slate of delegates diminished or even cut entirely. But Perez said the DNC may allow some "flexibility" in the process, given the extraordinary circumstances. 

“The DNC will continue to monitor the situation and work with state parties around their delegate selection plans, specifically allowing flexibility around how states elect their delegates to the national convention once those delegates are allocated based on their primary or caucus results," Perez said. 

NBC News Primary Poll: Florida voters trust Biden over Sanders to handle gun policy

A majority of Florida Democratic primary voters trust Joe Biden more than Bernie Sanders when it comes to handling gun policy, according to results from an NBC News Primary Poll.

In a state that has seen multiple mass shootings in recent years, 63 percent trust Biden to handle gun policy more than they trust Sanders; 27 percent trust Sanders more.

Read more on the NBC News Primary Poll.

NBC News Primary Poll: Most Illinois voters worried about direction of economy

Most Illinois Democratic primary voters are worried about the direction of the nation’s economy in the next year, according to an NBC News Primary Poll.

Eighty-two percent said they are worried about the direction of the national economy, including 46 percent who are very worried about it. Eighteen percent said they are not worried. 

Read more on the NBC News Primary Poll.