Sanders poised for big Super Tuesday

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill’s 12:30 Report: Milley apologizes for church photo-op Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness MORE (I-Vt.) is poised to win the most delegates when 14 states vote on this cycle’s Super Tuesday, while former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenHillicon Valley: Biden calls on Facebook to change political speech rules | Dems demand hearings after Georgia election chaos | Microsoft stops selling facial recognition tech to police Trump finalizing executive order calling on police to use ‘force with compassion’ The Hill’s Campaign Report: Biden campaign goes on offensive against Facebook MORE is looking to solidify his position as the centrist alternative.

Sanders is headed for a top finish in California and Texas, the two largest states to vote. The progressive independent should win California in blowout fashion, and he’s maintained a healthy lead in polls of Texas throughout the early voting period, when more than 1 million people cast ballots in the Democratic primary.

Centrist Democrats are frantically throwing their weight behind Biden in an effort to keep Sanders from building an insurmountable lead.

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Former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegScaled-back Pride Month poses challenges for fundraising, outreach Biden hopes to pick VP by Aug. 1 It’s as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process MORE and Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley: Biden calls on Facebook to change political speech rules | Dems demand hearings after Georgia election chaos | Microsoft stops selling facial recognition tech to police Democrats demand Republican leaders examine election challenges after Georgia voting chaos Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk MORE (D-Minn.) dropped out of the race on Sunday and Monday, respectively, and plan to get behind Biden over fears that Sanders will lose the general election to President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE if he’s the party’s nominee.

Yet in addition to strong finishes in California and Texas, Sanders also appears headed for victories in Colorado, Utah, Maine and Vermont. With Klobuchar out of the race, Sanders is the favorite to win Minnesota, and he’s pushing to win in Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWarren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Joint Chiefs chairman says he regrets participating in Trump photo-op | GOP senators back Joint Chiefs chairman who voiced regret over Trump photo-op | Senate panel approves 0B defense policy bill Trump on collision course with Congress over bases with Confederate names MORE’s home state of Massachusetts.

Biden’s best-case scenario involves a sweep in the South, where voters in Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee will be casting ballots.

But those victories are not guaranteed, particularly with former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg on the ballot for the first time. Sanders is running at or near the top of the polls in Virginia and North Carolina, where Biden needs to do well.

“No question, Bernie will still be the front-runner after Super Tuesday, he’ll have the most delegates,” said one Democrat who has raised money for Biden. “Biden’s entire plan is to win where he can, mostly in the South, and come in second in other places. Anything that keeps the delegates math close is a win for Biden right now.”

It’s unclear whether the hundreds of millions of dollars Bloomberg has spent on a national ad campaign will translate into hard votes on Tuesday. 

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Texas could be a key swing state. Sanders has led the polls but recent surveys show rising support for Biden, despite competition from Bloomberg.

Biden’s campaign is hoping that Bloomberg fits the pattern of businessman Tom SteyerTom SteyerBloomberg wages war on COVID-19, but will he abandon his war on coal? Overnight Energy: 600K clean energy jobs lost during pandemic, report finds | Democrats target diseases spread by wildlife | Energy Dept. to buy 1M barrels of oil Ocasio-Cortez, Schiff team up to boost youth voter turnout MORE, the billionaire who flamed out after spending hundreds of millions of his own money on a national advertising campaign that lifted him in the polls but not at the ballot box.

“Bernie has cleared the left and now Joe has cleared the center, nobody needed a well-meaning Republican billionaire to come in and save the party, we’re doing it ourselves,” said Howard Gutman, a former Obama administration ambassador who supports Biden. “Bloomberg ought to get out today. Every vote he takes from Joe is a vote for Donald Trump.”

Warren faces a must-win contest in her home state of Massachusetts. Sanders is looking to slam the door shut on her there, drawing thousands to rallies across the Bay State over the weekend.

But Warren has the resources to stick around, raising nearly $30 million in February after taking down Bloomberg at the Las Vegas debate. Warren’s campaign has stated its intention to stay in the race through the convention, hoping she can prevail there if no other candidate wins a majority of delegates.

“Our grassroots campaign is built to compete in every state and territory and ultimately prevail at the national convention in Milwaukee,” campaign manager Roger Lau said in an email to supporters.

Sanders is feeling pressure to win outright before the convention.

While the political world buzzed about Biden’s comeback, Sanders rolled on, announcing a $46 million February cash haul and drawing 25,000 people to rallies in Los Angeles and San Jose, Calif.

The FiveThirtyEight model shows a tightening race, with Sanders and Biden effectively forecast to split the 14 states up for grabs.

Polls in North Carolina and Virginia point to a close contest, with Sanders or Biden positioned to win depending on how late-breaking voters decide.

Sanders’s allies are confident. They say early voting and their candidate’s strategically smart campaign will lead to victories. Sanders has been harvesting mail-in ballots from the thousands who have attended his rallies in California to deliver them in bulk to county registrars ahead of Election Day.

“Bernie has already locked in a strong showing and will most likely win the largest basket of delegates, not just because of the millions of votes already cast in early voting before South Carolina, but because of the campaign organizing that has been working exceptionally hard for many months, an infrastructure that no amount of South Carolina momentum can overcome,” said Jonathan Tasini, a progressive strategist and Sanders supporter.

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Still, momentum has swung sharply in Biden’s direction since South Carolina.

After struggling to raise money for the past year, the Biden campaign pulled in an astonishing $5 million in the 24 hours after his South Carolina victory.

Establishment and centrist Democrats are rallying behind Biden’s campaign, boosting his case as the strongest alternative to Sanders.

Since the Saturday election, Biden has won endorsements from Sen. Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthWarren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Senate panel votes to require Pentagon to rename bases named after Confederates Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk MORE (D-Ill.) and Reps. Veronica EscobarVeronica EscobarThe DACA recipients protecting all Americans The Hill’s 12:30 Report: Pence visits Orlando as all 50 states reopen The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – Mnuchin, Powell: Economy may need more boost; Trump defends malaria drug MORE (D-Texas), Bobby ScottRobert (Bobby) Cortez ScottAm I racist? The coronavirus crisis has cut the child care sector Lack of child care poses major hurdle as businesses reopen MORE (D-Va.), Jennifer WextonJennifer Lynn WextonDemocratic lawmaker calls for Peace Corps, Americorps volunteers to be eligible for unemployment benefits Black voters propel Biden to big wins in Virginia, NC, Alabama Biden notches major win in Virginia primary MORE (D-Va.), Don Beyer (D-Va.), Debbie Wasserman SchultzDeborah (Debbie) Wasserman SchultzVA initiates process to remove headstones with Nazi symbols Overnight Defense: Trump extends deployment of National Guard troops to aid with coronavirus response | Pentagon considers reducing quarantine to 10 days | Lawmakers push for removal of Nazi headstones from VA cemeteries VA secretary stops short of agreeing to remove Nazi headstones MORE (D-Fla.) and Greg StantonGregory (Greg) John StantonArizona lawmaker warns Pence state may end coronavirus testing due to shortage Sanders poised for big Super Tuesday The Hill’s Campaign Report: Centrists rush behind Biden to stop Sanders MORE (D-Ariz.). Party leaders such as former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and former Sens. Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidHarry Reid says he’s cancer free White House gets jolt from strong jobs report Murkowski, Mattis criticism ratchets up pressure on GOP over Trump MORE (D-Nev.) and Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerPolls show big bounce to Biden ahead of Super Tuesday Sanders poised for big Super Tuesday Establishment Democrats rallying behind Biden MORE (D-Calif.) also jumped on board.

“The race has always been Bernie versus Joe, it’s just been a lot of noise getting here,” said Gutman. “The question is whether the center wins out or the left. If the center holds, Joe is the guy.”

Campaign officials and party strategists are overwhelmed by the high degree of uncertainty in the race, where any number of factors could tip a state election in one direction or another.

“This is completely unprecedented,” said Andrew Feldman, a Democratic strategist. “It’s why the idea of a brokered convention doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility. We just have to wait and see.”

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