Joe Biden made a series of embarrassing gaffes while celebrating his electoral victories on Tuesday at a rally in Los Angeles, California.
Biden, the former vice president whose campaign was on life support just weeks ago, won nine of 14 states voting on “Super Tuesday,” including surprise wins in Texas and Massachusetts, in the race to face President Donald Trump in November.
At the late-night campaign event, though, Biden continued to give fodder to critics and concerned supporters who have questioned his fitness to run in the general election let alone lead the United States.
Biden started his address to a cheering crowd by introducing his wife and his sister. But he got the two women confused in a moment that quickly went viral online.
“Hello, hello, hello!” Biden said. “It’s a good night. It’s a good night. It seems to be getting even better. They don’t call it Super Tuesday for nothing. By the way, this is my little sister, Valerie, and I’m Jill’s husband. Oh no … You switched on me. This is my wife. This is my sister. They switched on me.”
— Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) March 4, 2020
Minutes later, at least two anti-dairy protesters rushed the stage waving signs that read “Let Dairy Die.” Jill Biden stepped in to block one of the women before she could reach her husband at the podium.
— Jill Biden Fight Club (@JillBidenFight) March 4, 2020
At another point in his speech, Biden cut short what sounded like an attempted attack on his main challenger in the Democratic primary, Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Independent. In what has become a common occurrence, Biden, 77, seemed to lose his train of thought.
Joe Biden FORGOT what he was saying AGAIN.
— Andrew Jerell Jones (@sluggahjells) March 4, 2020
Biden image problem bigger than viral video of him confusing his wife and sister
At a rally of his own on Monday, Trump warned that if Biden were elected president, he would end up getting placed “in a home” while “super-left radical crazies” took charge of “running the country” in his place.
“For sleepy Joe, he doesn’t even know where he is, what he is doing, or what office he is running for,” Trump told supporters in Charlotte, South Carolina.
“It doesn’t matter. Maybe he gets in — because he is a little more moderate — so maybe he gets in, but he’s not going to be running it. Other people are going to,” Trump continued. “They are going to put him into a home, and other people are going to be running the country, and they are going to be super-left radical crazies.”
He added, “Joe is going to be in a home. He’ll be watching television. Everything will be just fine.”
Biden still has a better night than Bernie
Despite his missteps, Biden did manage to tout his successful Super Tuesday performance against Sanders, 78.
“For those who have been knocked down, counted out, left behind, this is your campaign,” Biden told supporters. “We are very much alive!”
In what would be the day’s biggest upset, Biden was projected by Edison Research to have won Texas, the biggest prize after California. Sanders invested heavily in Texas and was counting on its Latino population to propel him to victory.
Sanders, the one-time front-runner who had hoped to take a big step toward the nomination on Tuesday, won Colorado, Utah and his home state of Vermont, Edison Research said.
Biden, with overwhelming support from African-American, moderate and older voters, swept to wins in Alabama, Arkansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Virginia.
Fox News and AP projected Sanders won California, whose 415 delegates represent the largest haul. Edison Research and other networks held off declaring a winner there as results trickled in. Maine was a toss-up, with both Biden and Sanders winning roughly a third of the vote with 73 percent of the precincts reporting.
“We’re going to defeat the most dangerous president in the history of this country”
Without naming him, Sanders took direct aim at Biden during a rally with supporters in Vermont, criticizing his 2002 vote to authorize war in Iraq and his support for global trade deals that Sanders opposed.
“We’re going to win the Democratic nomination and we are going to defeat the most dangerous president in the history of this country,” Sanders said, referring to Trump.
It was a spectacular turn for Biden after poor showings in the first two contests, Iowa and New Hampshire. Until a week ago he trailed Sanders in most state and national opinion polls.
But Biden‘s blowout win in South Carolina on Saturday provided a burst of new momentum, fueling a wave of endorsements from Democratic officials. Two big rivals — Pete Buttigieg, a former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota — quit the race and backed him.
The results left Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former New York mayor who plunged into the contest late, with virtually nothing to show for more than half a billion dollars spent on advertising. With his only victory coming in the tiny U.S. territory of American Samoa, aides said he would reassess whether to stay in the race on Wednesday.
It was also a tough night for Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who finished well behind Sanders and Biden in most states and trailed them in her home state Massachusetts, which Biden won despite having spent no money and deployed no staff there.
Biden did not personally campaign in several of the states he ultimately won, including Klobuchar’s home state Minnesota. He called Klobuchar Tuesday night to thank her for the Minnesota win, a day after she dropped her own bid and endorsed him.
One-third up for grabs
More than one-third of the delegates who will pick the eventual nominee at a July convention were up for grabs on Tuesday, providing clarity at last in a muddled race for the White House.
Just a week ago, Biden was hoping to stay within reach of Sanders, to keep alive a chance to catch up as the race moved on. But initial tallies showed him leading Sanders in delegates for the day 332 to 265, with hundreds more to be allocated.
To date, Biden leads Sanders in delegates 385 to 325. A candidate needs 1,991 delegates to win the Democratic nomination on the first ballot at the party’s convention in July.
The campaign continues at an accelerated pace through the next two weeks, when nearly another 1,000 delegates are up for grabs, including the swing state of Florida on March 17.
Did Bloomberg blow billions in a bust?
Biden also achieved his main Super Tuesday goal of muscling aside Bloomberg and consolidating support from moderates.
Bloomberg bombarded Super Tuesday states with ads to jump into position as a top moderate rival to Sanders, but saw his poll numbers slide after coming under fire during debates. He was on course to win 15% or more of the vote, the threshold to win delegates, in Tennessee, Texas, Colorado, Utah, California and Arkansas.
Biden is hoping to build a bridge between progressive Democrats’ desire for big structural change and more moderate Democrats’ yearning for a candidate who will be able to win over enough independents and Republicans to oust Trump.
In Texas, which Biden unexpectedly won with 33% of the vote compared to Sanders’ 30 percent, 56 percent of voters said they favored a candidate who could beat Trump over someone they agreed with on major issues. Among those voters, nearly 40 percent chose Biden, over Sanders who had 26 percent, according to Edison Research exit polls.
Biden pulled off his victories despite being vastly outspent by Bloomberg, who had spent $377 million on ads by Feb. 23, and Sanders, who spent $20 million. Biden spent $4.7 million during the same period, according to the Wesleyan Media Project.
The pace of the Democratic race begins to accelerate after Super Tuesday, with 11 more states voting by the end of March, when nearly two-thirds of the delegates will have been allotted.
The next contests, on March 10, will be in Idaho, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota and Washington state.
(Reuters contributed to this report.)