RICHMOND, Virginia.– Former Vice President Joe Biden swept Virginia on Tuesday, despite early polls showing Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders and former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg running neck-and-neck. Virginia was one of the 10 Super Tuesday states Biden carried, giving him the front-runner status over Sanders.
“I wasn’t expecting such a commanding win,” said 47-year-old voter Katherine Jordan. “He has the best chance of healing the divisions in the country and reinstating our standing in the world,” said Jordan.
Biden finished first in Virginia with more than 50% of the Democratic vote and capturing 49 delegates to the national nominating convention, followed by Sanders at 23% with 19 delegates. Bloomberg finished fourth in the state behind Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., receiving less than 10% of the vote and no delegates.
Exit polls Tuesday showed black voters accounted for the majority of Biden’s Virginia victory.
“The black community stands strong behind Biden and as history, statistics and results show black people, especially black women, are showing up at the polls more than any other community,” said Richmond City Democratic Committee Chair Jamie Nolan.
Sanders is struggling to secure support from black voters and appeal to moderates, which was particularly true in Virginia.
Jacqueline Morgan, who grew up in “red, red, red” Northern Virginia – which now is more blue, wasn’t surprised by Biden’s win. Just last year, the state’s legislature flipped blue for the first time in 25 years, but Morgan said the Democrats in Virginia are moderate.
A self-described pragmatic, Morgan finds Sanders Medicare for All plan unrealistic. She thinks Biden can generate change incrementally.
“For Virginia, it’s a great day today,” said Morgan.
A Richmond resident for 35 years, Rhonda Gilmer said young voters and an increasingly diverse state population has helped new, progressive ideas take hold on the state.
“Biden could take that information and use his experience as well as his connections to push that agenda better than Bernie–he’s done it before.”
Gilmer says she doesn’t see a substantial difference between Biden and Sanders, but she says Biden can better understand the struggles of the working class.
“He [Biden] can go pound to pound with Trump and that’s what made my decision,” said Gilmer. “Biden’s going to win.”
Despite devoting far more resources to Virginia than any other candidate, Bloomberg failed to meet the threshold of getting 15 percent of the vote to be awarded delegates.
The billionaire mayor has seven field offices and 80 staffers and put $18 million of advertising into the state. He also made seven visits to Virginia, including a trip to McLean on Saturday.
Bloomberg also has ties to the state. He spent nearly $2.5 million in Virginia’s last election cycle to help the legislature flip blue. In 2013, Bloomberg’s political action committee also spent $1.7 million in ads to elect former Gov. Terry McAuliffe.
But McAuliffe endorsed Biden on Saturday, after the former vice president’s landslide win in South Carolina–a win that triggered a number of endorsements from leading Democrats around the country and further damaged Sanders’ chances at maintaining his front-runner status.
Two significant endorsements came from former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., who suspended their presidential campaigns on Sunday and Monday, respectively. Their endorsements invite moderate voters to consolidate support around Biden.
John Murray said he would have voted for Buttigieg to support the South Bend mayor’s historic run as the first openly gay presidential candidate but voted for Biden after Buttigieg’s endorsement.
“It showed we really needed somebody with experience and good judgement–someone who can really bring the whole country together,” said Murray.