(Reuters) - The field of candidates seeking the U.S. Democratic presidential nomination shrank to three on Thursday as U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts ended her bid after failing to win her home state.
Warren’s departure from a field that was once more than 20 candidates leaves U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and former Vice President Joe Biden in what now appears to be a one-on-one contest.
The Republican choice will almost certainly be President Donald Trump, who has overwhelmingly won the first two contests.
Biden, who was vice president under President Barack Obama and a senator before that, built his candidacy on the argument that his more than 40 years in elected office makes him best suited to take over from Trump on Day One.
Biden emerged as a consensus champion for the moderate wing of the Democratic Party on Super Tuesday, rolling to victories in 10 of 14 states across the South, Midwest and New England, including surprise wins in Texas and Massachusetts.
His campaign, which had been on life support just weeks ago due to poor showings in Iowa and New Hampshire, was resurrected by a resounding win on Saturday in South Carolina.
Biden had argued the state would be a better test of his ability to assemble a diverse coalition of supporters that includes African Americans, Hispanics and working-class white voters, and his win there fuelled a wave of endorsements from Democratic officials.
At 77, questions persist about his age and his moderate brand of politics, which progressives contend is out of step with the leftward shift of the party.
Trump’s apparent effort to push the Ukrainian government to investigate Biden and his son Hunter, which resulted in the president’s impeachment, appeared to boost Biden’s argument that the president views him as a threat.
The U.S. senator from Vermont with an impassioned following is making a second White House bid and had secured a position as front-runner after the first nominating contests before Biden’s Super Tuesday surge.
Sanders won New Hampshire and Nevada, and finished a close second in Iowa to former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, but well behind Biden in South Carolina.
His appeal to the most liberal wing of the party remains undeniable. Sanders’ advantage in California on Super Tuesday will deliver a trove of delegates to remain competitive, and he continues to hold a commanding edge with younger voters.
As in his first presidential run in 2016, Sanders, 78, has campaigned as an unapologetic, self-described democratic socialist who seeks nothing less than a political revolution.
His signature issue is government-run universal healthcare, and he has again proven to be a fundraising powerhouse, leading the field in terms of total campaign contributions.
The Samoan-American congresswoman from Hawaii is the first Hindu to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives and has centred her campaign on her anti-war stance.
Despite repeatedly failing to break 1% in primaries, Gabbard, a 38-year-old Iraq war veteran, has vowed to continue to campaign.
Trump is the clear favourite to win the Republican nomination, and there has been criticism among his opponents that party leadership has worked to make it impossible for a challenger. Still, the incumbent will face a rival on the ballot.
His campaign mounted a show of force in Iowa, where the incumbent won every caucus. In New Hampshire, Trump won 86% of the Republican vote.
Since his surprise win in the 2016 presidential election, Trump, 73, has become a ubiquitous political force, both through frequent controversies and his prolific Twitter account.
Trump was impeached in the House in December for his request that Ukraine carry out investigations into Joe and Hunter Biden. But the Senate, controlled by his fellow Republicans, acquitted him on Feb. 5.
Trump is focusing his re-election message on the strong economy, while continuing the anti-immigration rhetoric that characterized his first campaign.
The 74-year-old former Massachusetts governor ran unsuccessfully for vice president in 2016 as a Libertarian. He has been a persistent critic of Trump, saying when he began his 2020 campaign that “the American people are being ignored and our nation is suffering.”
Weld finished a distant second in New Hampshire, receiving 9% of the vote.
Reporting by Michael Martina; editing by Jonathan Oatis