How Biden won enough delegates for another Democratic presidential nomination

FILE - President Joe Biden waves to supporters after speaking at a campaign event, March 9, 2024, in Atlanta. Biden has formally clinched a second straight Democratic nomination. Now his party’s presumptive nominee, he faces an all-but-certain rematch with former President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)

FILE – President Joe Biden waves to supporters after speaking at a campaign event, March 9, 2024, in Atlanta. Biden has formally clinched a second straight Democratic nomination. Now his party’s presumptive nominee, he faces an all-but-certain rematch with former President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden’s path to unofficially clinching the Democratic nomination this year was much shorter and less dramatic than the one he followed in 2020, thanks to a Democratic electorate that still overwhelmingly picked him to top the party’s ticket in November despite persistent concerns about his age. Of course, being the incumbent didn’t hurt, either.

The Associated Press declared Biden the presumptive nominee at 7:16 p.m. EDT Tuesday, after he won the Georgia primary and at least 100 of its 108 delegates, enough to put him above the 1,968 needed to lock up the nomination. When polls close in Mississippi at 8 p.m. EDT, he’ll immediately pick up another 35 delegates, as he’s the only candidate on the ballot. Earlier in the day, Biden won six delegates from the Northern Mariana Islands.

The AP concluded Biden would win enough delegates in Georgia to clinch the nomination after an analysis found neither U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota nor self-help author Marianne Williamson could win enough enough delegates to prevent Biden from clinching.

Democratic delegates are won in Georgia based on both the statewide vote, with candidates needing to win at least 15% of the vote to claim a delegate. To win a delegate in a congressional district, a candidate has to win at least 15% of the vote in that district.

The AP’s analysis of the initial vote determined that neither Phillips nor Williamson would clear that threshold in the statewide vote and that they would fall short in most, if not all, of Georgia’s 14 congressional districts.

To determine if Phillips or Williamson could cross the threshold in any congressional district, the AP compared the votes currently reported in Georgia to past races in the state, the demographics of the counties that have already reported vote results, and the estimated turnout in counties across the state.

AP’s analysis was also informed by what’s happened so far in 2024. Since the election season started in January, Phillips and Williamson — the only other candidates on the Georgia Democratic ballot — have failed to win any delegates, placing well behind Biden and votes for “uncommitted.” That has been the case not just statewide, but in every congressional district. Even in the Minnesota district he represents, Phillips fell short of the threshold required to receive a delegate.

Biden reaches the milestone 38 days after his party awarded its first delegates of the year. That’s a faster pace than the 43 days it took then-President Donald Trump to secure the GOP nomination in 2020. President Barack Obama took almost three times as long to clinch the Democratic nomination when he was running for reelection in 2012.

Democratic delegate rules, where delegates in every state are awarded in proportion to primary and caucus results, tend to make it easier for trailing candidates to win delegates and potentially prolong the race for the nomination. In both the 2020 and 2016 Democratic primaries, a strong challenge from U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont kept both Biden and Hillary Clinton from locking in the nominations until early June, more than 120 days from the start of their races. In 2008, then-candidate Obama won more than twice as many contests as Clinton in February and March, but she won enough delegates in those and subsequent matchups to prevent Obama from becoming the presumptive nominee until June.

Biden did not face that problem in 2024. Last spring, Sanders announced he would not challenge the sitting president for the nomination and discouraged any other prominent progressives from doing so as well. No other marquee Democrats entered the race, leaving Phillips and Williamson as Biden’s main challengers in the primary. Anti-vaccine activist Robert Kennedy Jr. briefly challenged Biden for the nomination but abandoned that effort in favor of an independent bid.

Heading into Tuesday’s contests, Biden won 19 of the 20 contests where he appeared on the ballot and 99% of the delegates they had at stake. In 12 contests, his vote percentage was in the high 80% or low 90% range. In another four contests, he received more than 80% of the vote. His worst performance of these contests was in Hawaii where he received 66% of the vote. Biden’s only loss so far came in American Samoa, where 51 of 91 people who participated in the Democratic caucuses voted for little-known candidate Jason Palmer, who split the territory’s six delegates evenly with Biden.

In Michigan, Minnesota and Hawaii, voters who cast their ballots for “Uncommitted” kept Biden from winning a combined 20 delegates of the 214 that were available in those states – about 1% of the total delegates up for grabs so far. Similar efforts are underway in a handful of additional states.

By comparison, Biden stumbled almost immediately out of the starting gate in 2020, placing fourth in Iowa, fifth in New Hampshire and a distant second in Nevada. It wasn’t until his endorsement from U.S. Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina and his subsequent victory in that state’s primary that Biden began to amass the delegates needed to win the nomination.

As the incumbent president, Biden has enjoyed numerous advantages, including help from cooperative state party organizations that helped clear or limit the field of candidates on some state ballots. But his unobstructed path to renomination wasn’t a certainty as the process was getting underway.

Last year, Biden urged the Democratic National Committee to reshuffle its primary calendar to increase the role and influence of voters of color in the earliest stages of the nomination process. The new schedule slotted South Carolina – the state that had salvaged his 2020 campaign – into the coveted lead-off position at the expense of Iowa and New Hampshire, which had traditionally held the first-in-the-nation contests.

While Iowa Democrats went along with the plan, scrapping the caucuses it had held for 52 years in favor of a mail-in presidential preference vote that concluded on Super Tuesday, New Hampshire instead bucked the national party and scheduled its primary for Jan. 23, almost two weeks ahead of South Carolina.

Biden opted not to appear on the New Hampshire primary ballot, since it violated the party’s new calendar that he pushed for, but his supporters in the state mounted a write-in campaign on his behalf. This created the potentially embarrassing possibility that the president’s reelection campaign might begin with a narrow victory or even a defeat, albeit an unofficial one, in the New Hampshire primary. That concern never materialized, as Biden won the contest as a write-in candidate with about 64% of the vote, comfortably ahead of Phillips, whose 20% of the vote would be the high-water mark of his campaign.

_____ Associated Press reporter Leah Askarinam contributed to this report. AP Data Scientist Serena Hawkins contributed from Indianapolis.

AP Politics

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