Joe Biden rode a wave of momentum to win at least nine states on Super Tuesday, closing the gap with presumed front runner Bernie Sanders.
In a surprisingly strong showing, former vice-president Biden rolled to victories across the South, Midwest and New England on the biggest day of voting in the Democratic campaign.
Sanders, who was way out in front coming into the crucial day of voting, was leading in the biggest race in California at the time of publication, setting up a one-on-one battle for the Democratic presidential nomination.
However Biden has secured the second-biggest state of Texas and is now the bookies favourite to go toe-to-toe with Donald Trump later this year.
Last night Americans in 14 states were casting ballots to decide who should challenge Republican President Donald Trump in the November 3 general election.
"For those who have been knocked down, counted out, left behind, this is your campaign," said Biden.
Barack Obama's deputy had performed poorly in the first three nominating contests, but broke through with a win in South Carolina last week.
"We are very much alive," he told roaring supporters in Los Angeles.
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.
Fox News and AP projected Sanders won California, whose 415 delegates represent the largest haul in the nominating contest.
But Edison Research and other networks held off declaring a winner as results trickled in.
With overwhelming support from African American, moderate and older voters, Biden swept to wins in Alabama, Arkansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Virginia.
Early on Wednesday Texas, the state returning the second number of delegates – who eventually chose the nominee – was declared for Biden.
Maine remained too close to call however.
It was a spectacular turn of events for Biden, whose campaign was on life support after poor showings in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Until a week ago he trailed Sanders in most state and national polls.
Biden's blowout win in South Carolina on Saturday provided a burst of new momentum, fueling a wave of endorsements from elected Democratic officials and former presidential rivals including Pete Buttigieg, a former mayor, and U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota .
The results also left Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former New York mayor who spent more than half a billion dollars on advertising, largely out of the running.
His only victory came in the US territory of American Samoa.
Bloomberg campaign officials said he would reassess whether to stay in the race on Wednesday, but they said that did not mean he would drop out.
Biden was hoping to stay within reach of Sanders in delegates, giving him a chance to catch up as the race moved on.
But after Tuesday, Biden leads Sanders in delegates 450 to 376.
Without naming him, Sanders took direct aim at Biden during a rally with supporters in Vermont.
He criticized his 2002 vote to authorize the 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.
Biden repeated his strong performance with black voters in South Carolina on Saturday.
Edison Research exit polls showed Biden winning large majorities of African-American voters in the South.
He also won strong support from older people, college graduates and those who considered themselves liberal or moderate.
Sanders countered with a strong showing among Latinos, young people and white men, helping him to wins in the West.
The results were disappointing for U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, who finished well behind Sanders and Biden in most states and trailed them even in her home state of Massachusetts.
Bloomberg, who was on the ballot for the first time yesterday having entered the contest late, won some delegates, in Tennessee, Texas, Colorado, Utah, California and Arkansas by picking up more than 15% of the vote.
The billionaire skipped the first four contests and bombarded Super Tuesday and later voting states with ads.
However, his poll numbers slipped after he came under fire during Democratic debates over past comments criticized as sexist.
That effort gained fresh momentum on the eve of Tuesday's voting as moderates Buttigieg and Klobuchar endorsed Biden after withdrawing from the race.
The pace of the Democratic race begins to accelerate after Super Tuesday, with 11 more states voting by the end of March.
By then, 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.
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