As the field jockeying for the Democrat nomination to challenge Donald Trump went into Super Tuesday, Joe Biden was trailing after gaffe-filled campaigning and looked totally out of the running.
But in a result that stunned pundits, the former Vice President emerged as the frontrunner in what is now a two-horse race with Bernie Sanders. Sanders also won big, taking his home state of Vermont as well as Utah, Colorado and California.
But Biden won southern and midwest states while scoring a dramatic upset in Texas. He even took rival Elizabeth Warren’s home state of Massachusetts – where he did not appear in person and where Sanders had campaigned aggressively.
The results ended the presidential hopes of billionaire Michael Bloomberg, who dropped out yesterday.
It is a remarkable turnaround for Biden, 77, who said: “We were told, well, when you got to Super Tuesday, it’d be over. Well, it may be over for the other guy. Make no mistake, this campaign will send Donald Trump packing.”
Mr Sanders, 78, echoed him, saying: “We are going to defeat the most dangerous president in the history of this country.”
So who are the two veteran politicians hoping to knock Trump out of the saddle and which campaign would you take a punt on?
Viewed as a hero by working-class voters, Biden served as Vice President throughout Barack Obama’s administration.
As a key architect of the Affordable Care Act, healthcare remains his top priority – and for good reason, following a series of family tragedies.
He lost his first wife, Neilia Hunter, and baby daughter Naomi in a car accident in 1972. And in 2015, his lawyer son Beau died of brain cancer. Healthcare, he says, is “personal” to him.
Biden, who served for decades in the Senate, was born in 1942 in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and moved as a child to Delaware. He still commutes from there to Washington.
As a politician, he has maintained close ties to both states, though Trump has accused him of having “deserted” Pennsylvania. “I was in third grade,” Biden hit back.
Biden maintains strong ties to Pennsylvania, a critical election battleground that Trump won in 2016. He has based his campaign headquarters in Philadelphia.
Although not endorsed by Obama, he talks of their friendship frequently, as well as the work they did together on issues ranging from healthcare to foreign policy. And many Democrat voters, especially African-Americans, cite his relationship with Obama in explaining their support for him.
Over the years, Biden has changed his stance on many issues, bringing himself more in line with the Democratic Party of today.
But some voters may find it hard to forget the senator he once was.
He voted for the Iraq War as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In the “tough on crime” era of the 1990s, he voted for mandatory minimum sentences for drug trafficking and increased funding for federal prisons – both policies contributing to mass incarceration.
However, his fight for healthcare to be “a right for all”, 30 years of tackling climate change and openness to immigration all led to huge support.
In addition, he has called for a rise in the minimum wage to £11.70, released a criminal justice plan focused on prevention and supports same-sex marriage.
He is also known as one of the most empathetic US politicians.
But Biden is not without controversy, having been accused of inappropriately touching women – which he denies. If elected, he would be the oldest President to date at his inauguration, aged 78.
With an anti-establishment style that has changed little over five decades, Senator Bernie Sanders has attracted a loyal following.
Born in New York and the son of a salesman and a housewife, he wed his second wife, political consultant Jane O’Meara, in 1988, honeymooning in Russia. A year later, they flew to Cuba hoping to meet Fidel Castro but had to settle for the mayor of Havana.
Sanders has a son, Levi, from a previous relationship and three stepchildren. For most of his 20s and 30s, he lived “just one step above hand to mouth”, barely paying his bills as a jobbing carpenter and freelance writer.
Sanders became interested in politics in 1971 at a meeting in Vermont of the small, anti-war Liberty Union Party, raising his hand to run for the Senate. His bid was unsuccessful. He became an elected official in 1981, as mayor of Burlington in Vermont.
Ten years later, he was elected to the House of Representatives as Vermont’s sole congressman. In 2006, he moved to the Senate.
Some see him as a visionary. Sanders boasts some of his agenda items once considered radical – “Medicare for all”, an £11.70 minimum wage, free public college – have now been embraced by many Democrats. Running for President a second time, he is one of the best-known candidates but remains something of an outsider.
A self-described democratic socialist, he has never joined the party he hopes to lead. Sometimes likened to Jeremy Corbyn , Sanders has long called for eliminating all student debt. This earned plaudits but some questioned its feasibility.
Sanders is a strong campaigner on universal healthcare and climate change. He frequently attacks the fossil fuel industry and has vowed to stop letting it “destroy our planet for profit” as President.
He has referred to Trump’s immigration policies as “heartless” and will offer most undocumented immigrants a route to citizenship , also backing immigration reform. He is also passionate about racial equality.
Sanders, called Crazy Bernie by Trump, is well known for his dislike of millionaires. But according to 10 years of tax returns last year, he and his wife reported income that topped £800,000 in 2016 and 2017, in part from book proceeds.
If elected, he too would be the oldest President in history – aged 79 when he took office.
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