Joe Biden hopes to cement lead in crucial Democratic primaries –,

Joe Biden is hoping to cement his position as frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for president on Tuesday, as millions of voters in six states have their say in the next round of primary election contests.

For Bernie Sanders – the second of two major remaining candidates in the race – the six primaries in Michigan, Washington, Missouri, Mississippi, Idaho and North Dakota will be a crucial test of whether he can reverse the momentum the former vice -president enjoys coming out of his victories in the Super Tuesday states last week, and prevent him from extending his delegate count lead .

Sanders and his surrogates have been doggedly campaigning across Michigan , a state he unexpectedly won when he ran for president in against Hillary Clinton. The state has the most delegates of any of the voting states on Tuesday, making it a top priority for the Vermont senator to win again.

“You can’t go backwards and winning four years ago and not winning now would be going backwards,” Democratic strategist Scott Kozar said. “Especially now that it’s a binary choice.”

The ongoing coronavirus crisis is also a wildcard. However, in Washington, the epicenter of the outbreak in the US where people have died so far , officials believe new rules that mean the primary uses mail-in and drop-off ballots rather than a caucus system should prevent disruption, and may even break turnout records as a result .

Sanders held a rally in Ann Arbor with Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the young liberal icon, on Sunday. The rally drew an estimated , 000 people, underscoring Sanders’ support in the more progressive quarters of the state.

Sanders himself conceded the importance of winning Michigan again during his speech.

“Michigan is the most important state coming up on Tuesday,” Sanders said.

A EPIC-MRA poll conducted for the Detroit Free Press between Wednesday and Friday found Biden leading Sanders in Michigan by 40 percentage points. Four years ago the same pollster found Clinton leading Sanders by almost the exact same margin. Sanders ended up winning the state by less than 2 percentage points.

However, the Michigan poll also seems to reflect the widening chasm between Biden and Sanders elsewhere. A separate CNN national poll found the former vice-president leading Sanders by 24 points.

“Michigan would be a great win for Biden,” said former Michigan governor James Blanchard, a Biden supporter. “It’s a must win for Bernie.”

Biden’s lead came as a result of his decisive victory in the South Carolina primary. Since then the Biden campaign has rapidly gained support from former Democratic primary rivals and other elected officials. Former presidential candidates Kamala Harris and Cory Booker endorsed Biden on Sunday and Monday respectively, and held an event with him in Detroit.

An analysis by the polling website FiveThirtyEight forecast Biden leading Sanders in all the voting states on Tuesday except Washington state, which Sanders won by over percentage points in . Forebodingly for the Vermont senator, a last minute King 5 News poll conducted by Survey USA found Biden and Sanders essentially tied in the state.

The Biden campaign also announced an endorsement by Washington State Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz, a rising Democratic star in the state who briefly looked at running for governor in 2019. The endorsement and poll shows that even in liberal states that Sanders won handily, the tides appeared to be shifting in Biden’s direction.

Biden does not have large campaign operation in any of the states voting on Tuesday, but supporters are still hosting fundraisers for him. In Michigan for example, former Michigan governor James Blanchard and Detroit mayor Mike Duggan were slated as headliners for two Biden campaign fundraisers on Monday, according to invitations obtained by the Guardian.

Paul Maslin, a Democratic pollster, said he believes the coronavirus could affect turnout in future contests.

“I think we’re still days away from the stage where large numbers of people will conclude’ I don’t want to leave the house ’but clearly we’re heading in that direction,” Maslin said. “I think next week might be the bigger test when all of a sudden you’ve got Florida, Illinois, Ohio, Arizona and another week of news.”

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