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Sanders poised for big Super Tuesday

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Next steps in the Trump impeachment Sanders selling sweatshirts with his famous inauguration pose for charity Former Sanders spokesperson: Biden 'backing away' from 'populist offerings' 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 BidenMcCarthy says he told Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene he disagreed with her impeachment articles against Biden Biden, Trudeau agree to meet next month Fauci infuriated by threats to family 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 ButtigiegThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden's crisis agenda hits headwinds Biden signs order to require masks on planes and public transportation Senators vet Buttigieg to run Transportation Department MORE and Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharDemocrats seek answers on impact of Russian cyberattack on Justice Department, Courts A Day in Photos: The Biden Inauguration Senators vet Buttigieg to run Transportation Department 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 TrumpMcCarthy says he told Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene he disagreed with her impeachment articles against Biden Biden, Trudeau agree to meet next month Trump planned to oust acting AG to overturn Georgia election results: report 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 WarrenOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden's Interior Department temporarily blocks new drilling on public lands | Group of GOP senators seeks to block Biden moves on Paris, Keystone | Judge grants preliminary approval for 0M Flint water crisis settlement Senate approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee House approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee 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 SteyerOn The Trail: The political losers of 2020 Biden Cabinet picks largely unify Democrats — so far Late donor surges push election spending projections to new heights 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 DuckworthOvernight Defense: Austin takes helm at Pentagon | COVID-19 briefing part of Day 1 agenda | Outrage over images of National Guard troops in parking garage National Guard back inside Capitol after having been moved to parking garage Senate approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee MORE (D-Ill.) and Reps. Veronica EscobarVeronica EscobarHouse Judiciary Democrats ask Pence to invoke 25th Amendment to remove Trump 7 surprise moments from a tumultuous year in politics House Democrats push Biden's Pentagon pick on civilian control of military MORE (D-Texas), Bobby ScottRobert (Bobby) Cortez ScottDeLauro wins Steering Committee vote for Appropriations chair National reading, math tests postponed to 2022 amid coronavirus surge Trump officials approve Georgia plan to remove healthcare.gov as enrollment option MORE (D-Va.), Jennifer WextonJennifer Lynn WextonPorter loses seat on House panel overseeing financial sector Democratic lawmakers call for Pence to invoke 25th Amendment, remove Trump from office 7 surprise moments from a tumultuous year in politics MORE (D-Va.), Don Beyer (D-Va.), Debbie Wasserman SchultzDeborah (Debbie) Wasserman SchultzHouse Democrats unveil resolution to censure Rep. Mo Brooks over Capitol riots Democrats poised to impeach Trump again House Democrats pick DeLauro to lead Appropriations panel MORE (D-Fla.) and Greg StantonGregory (Greg) John StantonHouse Democrat to introduce bill requiring Capitol Police to use body cameras House Judiciary Democrats ask Pence to invoke 25th Amendment to remove Trump Chamber-endorsed Dems struggle on election night MORE (D-Ariz.). Party leaders such as former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and former Sens. Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidSchumer becomes new Senate majority leader Biden faces tall order in uniting polarized nation Senators vet Mayorkas to take lead at DHS MORE (D-Nev.) and Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerTrump administration halting imports of cotton, tomatoes from Uighur region of China Biden inaugural committee to refund former senator's donation due to foreign agent status Questions and answers about the Electoral College challenges 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.”