After big wins, Biden makes appeal to young Sanders voters: 'I hear you'

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden has made a direct appeal to the young supporters of rival Bernie Sanders after moving closer to the nomination with big primary victories in three states.

Biden, the former vice president, began looking to the Nov. 3 general election against Republican President Donald Trump after Tuesday’s dominating wins in Florida, Illinois and Arizona increased the pressure on Sanders to drop his fading White House bid.

In remarks broadcast from his home in Delaware, Biden said he and Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont, disagreed on tactics but shared a common commitment to affordable healthcare, reducing income inequality and tackling climate change.

“Senator Sanders and his supporters have brought remarkable passion and tenacity to these issues, and together, they have shifted the fundamental conversation in the country,” Biden said.

“And let me say, especially to the young voters who have been inspired by Senator Sanders: I hear you. I know what is at stake. And I know what we have to do.”

Biden, 77, still faces work to convince supporters of Sanders, who has pushed the Democratic Party to the left with his democratic socialist economic agenda, to back him in a general election campaign against Trump.

Young voters might be his biggest challenge of all. Voters between the ages of 18 and 44 were the only major demographic to stick with Sanders during Biden’s sweeping victories on Tuesday, Edison Research polls showed.

GRAPHIC: Calendar of Democratic nominating contests and state delegates – here

The Democratic nominating campaign begins an extended hiatus on Wednesday, with no primary votes scheduled for weeks amidst concerns about the coronavirus outbreak that has forced several states to postpone their contests.

The Edison polls found a majority of voters in all three states trusted Biden more than Sanders, 78, to handle a major crisis, a sign the widening pandemic has increased Biden’s appeal as a steady and experienced hand.

“It’s at moments like these that we realize we need to put politics aside and work together as Americans. The coronavirus doesn’t care if you’re a Democrat or a Republican,” Biden said in his remarks.

Biden has taken command of the Democratic race in the past two weeks, scoring victories in 16 of the last 21 state contests before Tuesday. His sweep extended his lead over Sanders to roughly 230 delegates in the chase for the 1,991 delegates needed to clinch the nomination at July’s Democratic convention.

GRAPHIC: Where the candidates stand on key issues – here

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