Biden crushes Sanders in hat-trick in 3 states

US Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, left and his leftist rival Bernie Sanders are seen in this file combination picture. — Courtesy photo

WASHINGTON — US Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden scored decisive victories in all three major Democratic primaries — Florida, Illinois and Arizona — on Tuesday, steamrolling his leftist rival Bernie Sanders.

Accelerating his momentum in the race, the former US vice president made a clean sweep in all three states, making a nearly insurmountable lead over Sanders in their race for the party's presidential nomination.

Biden won a smashing victory over Sanders in Florida, the biggest prize of the night with 219 delegates. The former vice president won 62 percent of the vote and about 130 delegates. Sanders, with only 23 percent, took some 48 delegates, with the rest still to be distributed.

In Illinois, with most precincts reporting, Biden led the Vermont senator by 59 percent to 36 percent with 89 percent of precincts reporting.

By all accounts it is an astonishing reversal of fortune for Biden, whose campaign was left for dead just one month ago after poor showings in early voting states.

But following a string of victories in high-profile contests starting with South Carolina in late February, and continuing into his show of strength Tuesday, Biden now has a commanding lead in the all-important race for the delegates needed to become the nominee.

On Tuesday Biden's delegate count stood at 1,147 compared to Sanders's 861, according to a New York Times rolling tally. A candidate needs 1,991 delegates to secure the Democratic nomination and face Trump in the November election.

Biden appealed for support directly to Sanders supporters.

"To young voters who have been inspired by Senator Sanders, I hear you," Biden said.

Biden said he and Sanders "share a common vision" to expand health insurance, address economic inequality and fight climate change.