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Super Tuesday’s Sanders-Biden fight to shape Democratic race

Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg abruptly ended their campaigns and endorsed Mr Biden.

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Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden (AP)

Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden (AP)

Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden (AP)

Millions of US voters are casting ballots in a series of high-stakes Super Tuesday primary contests for the Democrats.

Vermont Sen Bernie Sanders began the day as the Democrats’ undisputed presidential front-runner, backed by a coalition of energised liberals, young voters and Latinos.

The progressive was fighting to beat back the sudden rise of former vice president Joe Biden, who seized a wave of new support from some of his former Democratic presidential rivals just hours before polls opened in his quest to lead the party’s moderate wing.

The clash between the two men, each leading coalitions of disparate demographics and political beliefs, peaked on a day that could determine whether the Democrats’ 2020 nomination fight will stretch all the way to the party’s July convention or be decided much sooner.

Yet with voting under way across 14 states and one US territory, the political world was bracing for a long night almost certain to provide new drama.

The crown jewel of Super Tuesday, California, continues voting until 11pm (eastern US time), with final results not expected until early Wednesday or even later.

The day was also testing the strength of another Democratic heavyweight, New York billionaire Mike Bloomberg, who was appearing on a presidential ballot for the first time after skipping all four contests last month.

Mr Bloomberg banked on more than half a billion dollars in advertising and ground operations in an unorthodox and untested strategy that relied on Mr Biden’s perceived weaknesses earlier in the year.

Mr Bloomberg and Massachusetts Sen Elizabeth Warren loomed as potential spoilers as the candidates jockeyed to cross the voting threshold to secure delegates, a move that could prolong the nominating battle.

The Democratic race has shifted dramatically over the past three days as Mr Biden capitalised on his commanding South Carolina victory to persuade anxious establishment allies to rally behind his campaign.

Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg abruptly ended their campaigns and endorsed Mr Biden, though their late departures meant their names will still appear on ballots.

PA