WASHINGTON, DC: Former US vice president Joe Biden secured enough delegates to formally clinch the Democratic presidential nomination on Friday (Jun 5), setting the stage for a challenge to President Donald Trump in the November election.
A candidate needs at least 1,991 delegates to secure the nomination. Biden crossed the threshold when results came late on Friday after seven states and the District of Columbia held presidential primaries earlier in the week.
The achievement was a formality after Biden became the presumptive nominee when his main rival, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, quit the race in April.
"Folks, tonight we secured the 1,991 delegates needed to win the Democratic nomination," the former vice president said on Twitter.
"I'm going to spend every day fighting to earn your vote so that, together, we can win the battle for the soul of this nation."
He added: "It was an honor to compete alongside one of the most talented groups of candidates the Democratic party has ever fielded - and I am proud to say that we are going into this general election a united party."
At one point, the field had more than 20 candidates, with contenders dropping out as their chances faded.
Biden had a slow start and recorded his first win in South Carolina at the end of February.
After that, some other candidates seen as centrist or moderate dropped out before Super Tuesday votes on Mar 3, when the highest number of delegates were up for grabs and Biden won key contests.
It then became a two-horse race with Sanders, who was seen as a progressive candidate challenging incumbent Democrats.
While Sanders was a front-runner after early races, Biden carried his Super Tuesday momentum into subsequent contests and increased his lead.
Sanders quit the race upon seeing no path to the nomination as the novel coronavirus outbreak made campaigning and outreach difficult.
A US senator and then vice president under President Barack Obama, Biden has promised to choose a woman as his running mate, with several black candidates likely in the running.
"A DIFFICULT TIME"
Biden reached the threshold with the country wracked by protests over the death of African-American George Floyd at the hands of police.
Floyd's death has reignited long-felt anger over police killings of African-Americans and unleashed a nationwide wave of civil unrest unlike any seen in the US since Martin Luther King Jr's 1968 assassination.
"This is a difficult time in America's history. And Donald Trump's angry, divisive politics is no answer," Biden wrote in a post on Medium.
"The country is crying out for leadership. Leadership that can unite us. Leadership that can bring us together."
Biden's response to the protests has been in marked contrast to Trump, who threatened to deploy the military against American citizens.
In his first major public speech since going into isolation in mid-March because of the virus outbreak, Biden called Floyd's death a "wake-up call for our nation" and accused Trump of turning the US into a "battlefield riven by old resentments and fresh fears."
The 77-year-old Biden, who served as deputy for eight years to America's first black president, Barack Obama, has pledged to tackle "systemic racism" if elected to the White House.
"We need equal justice - and equal opportunities - for every American now. We need a president who cares about helping us heal - now," he wrote.
Biden's run for the Democratic nomination had looked destined for disaster following early losses to the fiery Sanders in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.
But he came roaring back in South Carolina's primary in late February on the strength of overwhelming backing from African-American voters, a crucial base of Democratic support.
Biden will now be expected to name his running mate, after promising to pick a woman.
Senator Kamala Harris, a 55-year-old former attorney general of California, is considered one of the front-runners to be Biden's vice presidential pick.
Harris, who is of Jamaican and Indian ancestry, was considered a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination but dropped out in December after failing to break out of the crowded field.
In an average of opinion polls, RealClearPolitics gives Biden a 7.1 point lead over Trump in the election.