Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, has recorded early wins, as polls began closing in the six states holding their Democratic primaries for the presidential nomination.
Biden was projected to defeat left-wing Senator Bernie Sanders in Mississippi and Missouri, according to multiple U.S. broadcasters, carrying over his winning streak from Super Tuesday last week.
“Thank you, Mississippi!,” the 77-year-old tweeted after broadcasters including Fox News and NBC called the race for him as polls closed at 8 pm eastern time (0000 GMT Wednesday).
Missouri and Mississippi award 68 delegates and 36 pledged delegates respectively.
Mississippi, a southern state with a large African-American voting population, was expected to favour Biden, who was vice president to the country’s popular first black president Barack Obama.
The other states holding their primaries on Tuesday are Idaho, Michigan, North Dakota and Washington.
Polls there are yet to close or are too early to call.
All six states have 352 delegates at stake, making up nearly 10 per cent of the delegates up for grabs in the Democratic race this year.
Michigan has become a must-win for Sanders, who slipped to second place in the delegate count after Super Tuesday, when a third of all delegates were allocated.
However, polling out of Michigan, with 125 delegates, shows that Sanders is trailing Biden, in some surveys by double digits.
Biden continues to build momentum in his comeback, as moderates and centrists coalesce around his campaign, which increasingly appears to be focused on a message of a so-called return-to-normal, in opposition to the era of President Donald Trump.
Sanders continues to push a progressive reform package, including a massive health-care overhaul that would bring the U.S. more in line with many global peers in the developed world.
It also includes climate change proposals and criminal justice reform.
Both campaigns have been pouring resources into Michigan, a northern state, including through television advertising.
Biden looks set to grab the most delegates and win the larger states, though Sanders is still likely to walk away with an upward movement in his delegate count.
Signs persist the two front-runners still lack a clear path to an overall majority of delegates nation-wide, heading to the Democratic convention in July.
Both candidates on Tuesday cancelled rallies they were meant to hold in the evening in Ohio, a key battleground state that holds its primary next week, due to coronavirus concerns as cases surged to more than 800 in the U.S.
Sanders and Biden’s campaigns said they would evaluate future events with guidance from public health officials.
The next Democratic debate is set to take place on March 15 and is likely to be more focused, as after more than a year of an overcrowded field, which at one point had more than 20 contenders, the race is down to two.
Broadcaster CNN on Tuesday said it was eliminating the live debate audience, press centre and spin room “at the request of the campaigns and out of an abundance of caution.”
Whether or not turnout at the primaries was affected by the new coronavirus outbreak will be closely watched, particularly in Washington state which has been the epicentre of the virus in the U.S., though thanks to a unique system this may present less of a concern.
The state has mail-only polling in this election.
Health officials, however, have been asking people over the past weeks not to lick ballot envelopes, which they have already been mailing.