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Sanders poised for big Super Tuesday

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Goldman Sachs - Tipping point week for Trump, Biden, Congress, voters Biden and Schumer face battles with left if Democrats win big Push to expand Supreme Court faces Democratic buzzsaw 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 BidenNearly 300 former national security officials sign Biden endorsement letter Trump narrows Biden's lead in Pennsylvania: poll Florida breaks first-day early voting record with 350K ballots cast 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 ButtigiegButtigieg says it's time to 'turn the page' on Trump administration Sunday shows preview: Coronavirus cases surge in the Midwest; Trump hits campaign trail after COVID-19 Biden town hall questioner worked as speechwriter in Obama administration: report MORE and Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Klobuchar Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing Senate Democrats seek to alleviate public concern about some results not being available on election night Washington flooded with Women's March protesters ahead of Barrett confirmation vote 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 TrumpNearly 300 former national security officials sign Biden endorsement letter DC correspondent on the death of Michael Reinoehl: 'The folks I know in law enforcement are extremely angry about it' Late night hosts targeted Trump over Biden 97 percent of the time in September: study 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 Health Care: Trump takes criticism of Fauci to a new level | GOP Health Committee chairman defends Fauci | Birx confronted Pence about Atlas Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing Government watchdog to investigate allegations of Trump interference at CDC, FDA 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 Steyer2020 election already most expensive ever TV ads favored Biden 2-1 in past month Inslee calls Biden climate plan 'perfect for the moment' 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 DuckworthAmy Coney Barrett's extreme views put women's rights in jeopardy Trump slight against Gold Star families adds to military woes McConnell focuses on confirming judicial nominees with COVID-19 talks stalled MORE (D-Ill.) and Reps. Veronica EscobarVeronica EscobarPocan won't seek another term as Progressive Caucus co-chair Trump's illness sparks new urgency for COVID-19 deal Hispanic caucus report takes stock of accomplishments with eye toward 2021 MORE (D-Texas), Bobby ScottRobert (Bobby) Cortez ScottDemocrats demand answers from Labor Department on CDC recommendations for meatpacking plant Pelosi urges early voting to counter GOP's high court gambit: 'There has to be a price to pay' Congress must finish work on popular conservation bill before time runs out MORE (D-Va.), Jennifer WextonJennifer Lynn WextonVirginia voter registration website back up after outage on last day to register House advances bill aimed at imports tied to Uyghur forced labor This week: Supreme Court fight over Ginsburg's seat upends Congress's agenda MORE (D-Va.), Don Beyer (D-Va.), Debbie Wasserman SchultzDeborah (Debbie) Wasserman SchultzFlorida Democrat introduces bill to recognize Puerto Rico statehood referendum Five things to watch at the Democratic National Convention Michelle Obama wishes Barack a happy birthday: 'My favorite guy' MORE (D-Fla.) and Greg StantonGregory (Greg) John StantonUS Chamber of Commerce set to endorse 23 House freshman Democrats Arizona lawmaker warns Pence state may end coronavirus testing due to shortage Sanders poised for big Super Tuesday MORE (D-Ariz.). Party leaders such as former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and former Sens. Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidBottom Line Biden owes us an answer on court-packing Progressive group: Feinstein must step down as top Democrat on Judiciary panel MORE (D-Nev.) and Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden, Harris launch Trump offensive in first joint appearance Bottom line Polls show big bounce to Biden ahead of Super Tuesday 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.”