WASHINGTON—Joe Biden formally clinched the Democratic presidential nomination Friday, setting him up for a bruising challenge to President Donald Trump.
“It was an honor to compete alongside one of the most talented groups of candidates the Democratic party has ever fielded,” Biden said in a statement Friday night, ”and I am proud to say that we are going into this general election a united party.”
The former vice president has effectively been his party’s leader since his last challenger in the Democratic primary, Bernie Sanders, ended his campaign in April. But Biden pulled together the 1,991 delegates needed to become the nominee after seven states and the District of Columbia held presidential primaries Tuesday.
Biden reached the threshold three days after the primaries because several states, overwhelmed by huge increases in mail ballots, took days to tabulate results. Teams of analysts at The Associated Press then parsed the votes into individual congressional districts. Democrats award most delegates to the party’s national convention based on results in individual congressional districts.
Biden now has 1,993 delegates, with contests still to come in eight states and three U.S. territories.
The coronavirus pandemic has largely confined Biden to his Wilmington, Delaware, home for much of the past three months.
Biden spent 36 years in the Senate before becoming Barack Obama’s vice president. This is 77-year-old Biden’s third bid for the presidency and his success in capturing the Democratic nomination was driven by strong support from black voters.
He finished fourth place in the overwhelmingly white Iowa caucuses that kicked off the nomination process in February. Biden fared little better in the New Hampshire primary.
His rebound began in the more diverse caucuses in Nevada but solidified in South Carolina, where Biden stomped Sanders, his nearest rival, by nearly 29 points. He followed that with a dominant showing three days later during the Super Tuesday contests, taking 10 of the 14 states.
Biden’s strong showing in states such as North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee and Texas reinforced his status as the preferred Democratic candidate of black voters—but the relationship has not been without its strained moments. After a tense exchange with an influential black radio host, Biden took sharp criticism for suggesting that black voters still deciding between him and Trump “ain’t black.”
That comment, and protests that have spread nationwide, have increased pressure on Biden to pick a black running mate. He has already committed to picking a woman as a vice presidential candidate.
Since clinching the nomination, Biden has worked to build his appeal among progressives, forming joint task forces with Sanders’ campaign to find common ground on key issues like health care, the economy and the environment. Biden has also embraced a plan to forgive millions of Americans’ student debt, meaning that he clinches the nomination as easily the most liberal standard bearer the Democratic Party has ever had.
“I am going to spend every day between now and November 3rd fighting to earn the votes of Americans all across this great country,” Biden promised Friday, “so that, together, we can win the battle for the soul of this nation, and make sure that as we rebuild our economy, everyone comes along.”
By Stephen Ohlemacher and Will Weissert
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Author: The Associated Press