Biden shocks Sanders in Minnesota

Abe Asher, Editor-in-Chief

On Sunday, Feb. 22, the Star Tribune released a poll showing Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) leading her home state primary by six points over Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Former Vice President Joe Biden placed fourth in the poll, with just eight percent support.

But a lot can change in ten days in a presidential primary race.

By Tuesday, Klobuchar had suspended her campaign — and Biden, the candidate she endorsed just two days before the primary, had scored a stunning victory in a state that had firmly backed Sanders in 2016.

Biden, who surged into a national delegate lead on Tuesday night, won all but a handful of Minnesota’s 87 counties — including its two most populous counties: Hennepin, home of Minneapolis, and Ramsey, home of St. Paul.

The race in Minnesota was called in under an hour. Biden finished with 39 percent of the vote, Sanders with 30 percent, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) with 15 percent, and billionaire Michael Bloomberg with 8 percent.

Biden’s surge in Minnesota mirrored similar late movement in states across the country, from Massachusetts in the northeast, to North Carolina in the southeast, to Texas in the southwest.

Here, however, there was a strong local angle to Biden’s resurrection in the days leading up to the vote.

On Sunday, March 1, Klobuchar, still in the race, flew back to Minnesota for a rally in St. Louis Park.

It went poorly. The three-term senator was prevented from taking the stage by a group of activists protesting the incarceration of Myon Burrell — a young black man convicted of murder on highly suspect evidence by Klobuchar’s office when she served as Hennepin County attorney. She ultimately cancelled the rally.

The next afternoon, facing uncertain Super Tuesday prospects outside of Minnesota and pressure from the Democratic establishment to make way, Klobuchar suspended her campaign. She appeared with Biden at a rally in Dallas that night.

Biden also got pre-Super Tuesday endorsements from former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX), but it was Klobuchar’s departure that put Minnesota into play for a campaign that had previously paid the state little attention.

By Monday morning, a Minnesota-specific advertisement featuring Klobuchar’s endorsement over images of the former vice president was on the air.

The late push worked. The Associated Press is estimating that Biden will win 38 delegates from Minnesota, while Sanders will take 26 and Warren 10. One delegate is yet to be allocated.

What is clear, however, is that while Biden had a strong night in the state, he was not the choice of Macalester students or young people in Minnesota more broadly.

Out of 230 students interviewed who cast their vote at the polling place inside Macalester United Plymouth Church on election day, just four percent supported Biden — compared to 67 percent who supported Sanders and 27 percent who supported Warren.

Biden did only marginally better across the state with voters aged 18-29, carrying 11 percent of them. Sanders, meanwhile, more or less equaled his Macalester performance, running at 65 percent with that age demographic across the state.

Of the major candidates, it was Warren who received disproportionate support from Macalester students. The Massachusetts senator, who ended the night without a first or second place finish, won just 11 percent of young voters across the state.

Her best age group in Minnesota was voters age 30-44 — a group Sanders also carried, though more narrowly than he did younger voters.

Macalester was not unique among Minnesota colleges. Sanders was also the favored candidate in Carleton College’s precinct, St. Cloud State University’s precinct, University of Minnesota Duluth’s precinct and the University of Minnesota’s precincts.

While Macalester students were not the only voters at the Macalester United Plymouth Church polling place on Tuesday, Sanders fared well in Macalester’s precinct. He won it with 47 percent, with Warren at 28 percent and Biden at 19 percent.

As a whole, the Twin Cities were Sanders’ strength in the state. He won in both Minneapolis and St. Paul, but fared poorly in the surrounding suburbs that make up Hennepin and Ramsey Counties respectively. Outside of the cities, Biden ran up his margin.

Notable also was that Sanders comfortably won with non-white voters, while Biden’s success came on the strength of his 15 percent margin of victory with white voters — who made up 85 percent of the total electorate. 

Now, with Biden having established himself as the frontrunner in the primary race, the Democratic Party will have to grapple with what it might mean to nominate a candidate who has virtually no support from young voters.

It remains to be seen whether Biden can hold onto or expand his lead in the coming weeks — or whether that liability with young voters will cost him, and the party, down the line.

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