Super Tuesday: What each candidate needs to do

Super Tuesday is the biggest single day in the Democratic presidential race.

The contest has been shaken up by the resounding victory of former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenSenate holds longest vote in history as Democrats scramble to save relief bill Ex-Trump appointee arrested in Capitol riot complains he won't be able to sleep in jail Biden helps broker Senate deal on unemployment benefits MORE in Saturday’s South Carolina primary and by the withdrawals of Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley: China implicated in Microsoft breach | White House adds Big Tech critic | QAnon unfazed after false prediction FDA signals plan to address toxic elements in baby food Sen. Tina Smith calls for eliminating filibuster MORE (D-Minn.) and former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - Senate begins marathon vote-a-rama before .9T COVID-19 relief passage The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Virus relief bill headed for weekend vote Biden turns focus to next priority with infrastructure talks MORE (D).

With the race in flux, what do the candidates need from the 14 states that vote on Tuesday?



Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersMcConnell makes failed bid to adjourn Senate after hours-long delay Senate holds longest vote in history as Democrats scramble to save relief bill Democrats break COVID-19 impasse with deal on jobless benefits MORE (I-Vt.)

Sanders goes into Super Tuesday as the front-runner. But he needs to solidify his advantage in key ways.

Sanders is leading in delegates 60 to 54 over Biden, with the rest of the field trailing. He will be looking to expand that lead significantly.

The Vermont senator will be looking at California, in particular. The Golden State is very favorable territory for Sanders, and it is the biggest prize of the whole nomination process, with a total of 415 delegates up for grabs.

Sanders is expected to win the state easily. He has a 14-point lead in the RealClearPolitics polling average for the state.

Other cards in California could also fall in his favor. Candidates there need to score more than 15 percent of the vote in order to get any statewide delegates. It is plausible that Sanders will be the only one to clear that bar — even though Biden’s chances of doing so have increased markedly since winning South Carolina.


At the high end of expectations, Sanders could have a spectacularly good night that will leave his rivals badly weakened.

He leads polls in the second-largest state, Texas, as well as in Colorado. He is basically assured victory in his home state of Vermont, where he will hold an election night rally. He would also be expected to do well in Maine, where there has been little polling.

One key question for Sanders is how he does in Southern states. Alabama, Arkansas, North Carolina and Tennessee all vote on Tuesday. Black voters will be crucial to the outcome in those states, and Sanders underperformed with African Americans in South Carolina.

His skeptics will be scrutinizing the Super Tuesday results for signs of further weakness in that regard.

But a really good night for Sanders could build a delegate lead that is close to insurmountable.


Former Vice President
Joe Biden

Biden has had a remarkable few days, encompassing his South Carolina win, the exit of both Klobuchar and Buttigieg from the race, and their joint appearance with him at a rally in Texas on Monday evening.

The Democratic establishment is weighing in on Biden’s side. Former Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidBiden turns focus to next priority with infrastructure talks How to pass legislation in the Senate without eliminating the filibuster Who is the Senate parliamentarian and why is she important? MORE (D-Nev.) and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice both endorsed Biden on Monday.

But there are still major questions as to whether Biden can translate his momentum into serious gains on Super Tuesday.

His main goals are notching some wins and stopping Sanders from opening up a huge delegate lead.

The Southern states mentioned above could be fertile ground for Biden. He has a polling lead in North Carolina and could replicate that kind of performance elsewhere in the South, where polling has been sparse.

It’s absolutely vital for Biden that he finishes ahead of Mike Bloomberg on a day when the latter’s name appears on ballots for the first time.

Biden’s South Carolina win reestablished him as the main alternative to Sanders, and it would be a disaster for him if he lost that mantle to the former New York City mayor on Tuesday.


Biden does not have to be the dominant figure on Tuesday — that will likely be Sanders. 

But if he is still in close contention by the time the night is over, that will likely be good enough for him, especially as centrists rally to his side.


Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg

The rubber is about to hit the road for Bloomberg.

There’s no doubt about his main asset: the $500 million or so he has spent since launching his campaign in late November.

But his major liabilities are also clear: His debate performances have been very poor, and there is an understandable resistance on the part of many Democrats to having one of the world’s richest men buy the party’s nomination.


Bloomberg needs to somehow get past Biden on Super Tuesday — an objective that has been greatly complicated by the former vice president’s South Carolina victory.

In 11 polls released on Sunday and Monday from various organizations covering California, Texas, North Carolina and Massachusetts, Bloomberg never placed better than second. 

He led Biden only in three of the 11 polls.

If Bloomberg’s performance is eclipsed on Super Tuesday by both Sanders and Biden, it’s hard to see what the rationale would be — vanity aside — for continuing his campaign.

But any surprise for Bloomberg — particularly if he notched an actual win anywhere — could change the calculus.


Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenSenate rejects Sanders minimum wage hike Philly city council calls on Biden to 'cancel all student loan debt' in first 100 days Hillicon Valley: High alert as new QAnon date approaches Thursday | Biden signals another reversal from Trump with national security guidance | Parler files a new case MORE (D-Mass.)


Survival is the name of the game for Warren.

Her home state of Massachusetts is an absolute must-win. There are no guarantees Warren will do it. Sanders has led her there — though mostly by very narrow margins — in the four most recent major polls.

Warren’s underperformance in the primaries to date has been startling. In the first four states, she has finished third, fourth on two occasions, and fifth.

Warren got a boost on Monday when EMILY’s List endorsed her. 

And a Sunday memo from her campaign manager, Roger Lau, outlined a long war for the nomination.

Lau asserted that no candidate would have enough delegates to claim the nomination before the Democratic National Convention, set for Milwaukee in July. He also said the Warren campaign had booked more than $4 million in advertising targeting states that vote later this month.

But Warren doesn’t really seem to have a chance of a Super Tuesday win anywhere but Massachusetts. She is well down the field even in the couple of polls conducted in Oklahoma, the state where she was born and raised.

It’s Massachusetts or bust for Warren. 

If she’s vanquished there, it could be the end.