Joe Biden has won the Democratic primaries in a string of southern states including North Carolina, Virginia and Alabama, underlining his popularity among African-American voters and boosting his chances of securing the nomination.
The former vice-president won the delegate-rich states of Virginia and North Carolina which were among the first to report results on Super Tuesday, showing that he has re-energised his campaign following a decisive victory in South Carolina at the weekend.
Bernie Sanders, Mr Biden’s main rival in the race to become the Democratic nominee, was projected to win the primary in his home state of Vermont and in Colorado, which award 16 and 67 delegates, respectively, versus 99 in Virginia and 110 in North Carolina.
Early results pointed to a poor night for Michael Bloomberg, the former New York mayor who has spent more than $500m of his own money in an unprecedented bid to win the Democratic nomination.
The billionaire media executive skipped earlier primaries and instead tried to hoover up votes in the delegate-rich states that voted on Super Tuesday. Mr Bloomberg was projected to win in American Samoa, which awards just six delegates, but was soundly beaten in southern states where he had high hopes of success.
While the results in the first states provided a big boost to Mr Biden, Mr Sanders headed into the night with a big polling lead in California, the biggest prize of the night with 415 delegates. He may also benefit from widespread early voting in the most populous US state, reducing Mr Biden’s tailwind from his victory in South Carolina on Saturday night.
Texas, which allots 228 delegates, was too close to call.
Mr Biden had not been polling at the top of the field in many of the southern states but attracted a surge in support from more moderate Democrats after his win in South Carolina. His campaign had received a big boost this week when two other moderates, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, dropped out of the race and threw their weight behind the former vice-president.
His wins on Super Tuesday — the most important night on the Democratic primary calendar — suggested that he had rejuvenated his campaign following disappointing performances in the early-voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.
The speed with which the Associated Press projected the results in Virginia suggested that Mr Biden had won a decisive victory in the state, which has trended Democratic in recent years. He is also expected to do well in states such as Tennessee, which has a big proportion of black voters.
Ahead of the Virginia projection, David Plouffe, the former top campaign strategist for Barack Obama, said the state would be a good indication of how the contenders would do in states that have large populations of African Americans, such as Tennessee.
Virginia exit polls showed that Mr Biden won 63 per cent of African-American voters, a result that mirrored his domination in South Carolina where 60 per cent of the electorate were black voters.
Mr Sanders won only 18 per cent of the African-American vote, a result that also echoed his poor performance with that segment of the electorate in South Carolina.
When Mr Sanders lost the Democratic nomination to Hillary Clinton four years ago one factor was his inability to generate much support from black voters, particularly in southern states.