(CNN)Former Vice President Joe Biden grabbed huge early victories on Super Tuesday, winning the prized Virginia and North Carolina Democratic primaries and also adding Alabama, CNN projects, confirming that his comeback momentum is for real on the most crucial night yet in the 2020 election.
Front-runner Sen. Bernie Sanders, as expected, won his home state of Vermont, CNN projects, and aides are warning that his fortunes will look better later in the night when results roll in from Texas and California, the states with the two biggest delegate hauls.
And now the two veteran candidates could be set for a showdown in the Lone Star State as they battle for Texas’ 228 delegates.
Biden’s big early wins enshrine one of the most remarkable comebacks in modern political history. A week ago, his campaign was running on empty after poor showings in the first three nominating contests in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada. But a massive win in Saturday’s South Carolina primary now appears to have triggered a rebound that appears to be expanding in the 14 states that voted on Tuesday.
Virginia was seen as a significant test of Biden’s strength against former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is facing voters for the first time in the 14 nationwide primaries after a half-billion-dollar advertising blitz. The results in Alabama and North Carolina will confirm the former vice president’s strength among African American and affluent suburban voters on whom he is basing his campaign.
Sanders and Biden are the early leaders in Minnesota, Maine and Oklahoma and the two are also in the early lead in Massachusetts along with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who is hoping for a win in her home state.
Voting also took place Tuesday in Democratic primaries in Arkansas, Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Tennessee and Utah.
Early Super Tuesday projections and results suggested a disappointing night could be in store for Bloomberg and Warren, who both need to make a statement to have a rationale for staying in the race. As votes are counted, both rivals were below the 15% threshold needed to win delegates in several states.
Bloomberg got one piece of cheerful news, winning the territory of American Samoa to open his delegate count.
Sanders is looking to Texas and California — the biggest prizes on a night when a third of the total delegates needed to win the nomination are up for grabs. It will likely be hours — or even days in the case of the Golden State — until those states can be called.
The key question on Tuesday is whether Biden’s momentum can counter the behemoth of a campaign that Sanders has spent years building. In money, organization and advertising in Super Tuesday states, Sanders is in a far better position than the ex-vice president.
But Biden’s wave of momentum built over the last few days may end up being a big factor. CNN exit polls show nearly half of Democratic voters in Virginia made up their minds in the last few days. Nearly 3 in 10 Democratic voters in North Carolina said the same, and about 4 in 10 Democratic voters in both states said they had made up their minds before February.
Since his thumping victory in South Carolina on Saturday, Biden has enjoyed one of the most impressive streaks by a modern presidential candidate. He’s consolidated the center of his party after his sudden revival caused top rivals — former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar — to quit and endorse him. Establishment Democrats are rushing to endorse him and the once-dry fundraising spigot is suddenly gushing.
From the moment polls closed on Tuesday, Biden began racking up wins.
A mix of affluent suburban voters in the Washington suburbs and African American voters downstate was a good fit for Biden in Virginia, a battleground won twice by former President Barack Obama. But it was a state where Bloomberg had high hopes of making an impact, and Biden’s success may be a bad omen for the financial data billionaire, whose entire campaign is premised on the idea that the former vice president cannot win the nomination.
Biden’s projected victory in North Carolina came from voters who decided in the last few days, black voters, and those