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Biden scores major delegate haul on Super Tuesday, NBC News projects

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Image: Sen. Bernie Sanders arrives for an election rally in Essex Junction,
Sen. Bernie Sanders arrives for an election rally in Essex Junction, Vt., on March 3, 2020.   -   Copyright  Matt Rourke AP
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LOS ANGELES — Joe Biden's stunning sweep of most Super Tuesday states has rocketed him to the lead in the all-important delegate count over Bernie Sanders, according to NBC News projections based on early results.

The total delegate haul is yet to be determined, since many states have yet to fully report their results. That includes California, the biggest state in the contest with 415 delegates, where Bernie Sanders is leading with just over a third of the vote counted.

As of 2 a.m. ET Wednesday, NBC News projects Biden gained 342 on Super Tuesday, bringing his delegate total to 395. Sanders, meanwhile, so far won 245 delegates and is now at 305. Elizabeth Warren has gained only 13 delegates so far, giving her a total of 21.

Those totals will rise as more votes are counted.

Mike Bloomberg, who appeared on the ballot for the first time Tuesday, had an especially disappointing night. So far, he is projected to take home just 12 delegates after the only contest he won outright was American Samoa.

Biden won more states and by wider margins than many observers expected, easily making up for his delegate deficit coming out of the first four early contests and putting him in position to potentially win the 1,991 delegates needed to secure an outright majority and clinch the Democratic nomination.

Candidates need to cross a 15 percent threshold to win any delegates, which are awarded at both the statewide level and usually by congressional district.

The former vice president won delegates across the map, from Texas to Vermont, Sanders' home state, where the independent senator successfully deprived Hillary Clinton from winning any delegates four years ago. Sanders performed worse this year, letting Biden win 22 percent of the vote and take home a projected five delegates.

Biden's biggest wins, however, came in Southern states where strong support from African-Americans and suburban whites allowed him to run up the score.

For instance, in North Carolina, which had the third-largest number of delegates in play on Tuesday and was a state Sanders' team thought he could contest — Biden is projected to win 56 delegates to Sanders' 29. In Virginia, the fourth-biggest state contested, the margin win is even wider, with Biden projected to double Sanders' delegate haul, 64 to 29.

Alabama is not a particularly large state. But black voters accounted for nearly half the electorate and broke for Biden nearly three-to-one, putting him on track to net a projected 30 delegates over Sanders.

Biden stunned observers by winning Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren's home state, where he's projected to win 30 delegates to Sanders' 24 to Warren's 10. And he won Minnesota, the home state of Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who dropped out of the race Monday to endorse him, helping him net a projected eight more delegates over Sanders.

Sanders, meanwhile, has mostly won smaller states, with the potential exception of California, and so has not been netting as many delegates as Biden.

Sanders won Colorado, for instance, but has to split the state's 67 delegates with Biden, Bloomberg, and Warren, who all appear on track to cross the 15 percent threshold. And it's a similar story in Utah, which has only 29 delegates at stake.

California, which is notoriously slow to count its ballots, remains the big wild card and has yet to be called by NBC News.

Sanders has a clear lead over Biden in California and with 415 delegates at stake, a commanding win for Sanders could still reverse Biden's gains elsewhere. But a more split result would make it harder for Sanders to catch up in the long run.