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Sanders poised for big Super Tuesday

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersGOP is consumed by Trump conspiracy theories Manchin on collision course with Warren, Sanders Sanders on Cheney drama: GOP is an 'anti-democratic cult' 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 Biden 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 Buttigieg'Funky Academic:' Public has been 'groomed to measure progress by firsts' Biden administration in talks with LA Mayor Eric Garcetti for India ambassador post: reports Business groups target moderate Democrats on Biden tax plans MORE and Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharStrengthen CBP regulations to reduce opioid deaths Why isn't Washington defending American companies from foreign assaults? Republicans float support for antitrust reform after Trump Facebook ban upheld 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 TrumpDemocrats, activists blast reported Trump DOJ effort to get journalists' phone records Arizona secretary of state gets security detail over death threats surrounding election audit Trump admin got phone records of WaPo reporters covering Russia probe: 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 WarrenDebate over ICBMs: Will 'defund our defenses' be next? Manchin on collision course with Warren, Sanders Hillicon Valley: Broadband companies funded fake net neutrality comments, investigation finds | Twitter rolls out tip feature | Google to adopt 'hybrid work week' 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 SteyerTop 12 political donors accounted for almost 1 of every 13 dollars raised since 2009: study California Democrats weigh their recall options Why we should be leery of companies entering political fray 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 DuckworthSu's track record make her an excellent pick for Labor Department post Senate passes bipartisan B water infrastructure bill Senate panel advances Biden's Postal Service nominees MORE (D-Ill.) and Reps. Veronica EscobarVeronica EscobarFive things to watch in Biden's first joint address to Congress HuffPost reporter: DCCC will help Dems fend off progressive challengers to 'keep them happy' Democrat: Ex-Trump aide Miller should be jailed for human rights violations MORE (D-Texas), Bobby ScottRobert (Bobby) Cortez ScottDemocrats target Trump methane rule with Congressional Review Act Senators eye rollback of Trump methane rule with Congressional Review Act To Build Back Better, Biden must invest in modern apprenticeship system MORE (D-Va.), Jennifer WextonJennifer Lynn WextonAdministration withdraws Trump-era proposal to loosen protections for transgender homeless people Trump the X-factor in Virginia governor race Xinjiang forced labor complex is growing — President Biden should work with Congress to curb it MORE (D-Va.), Don Beyer (D-Va.), Debbie Wasserman SchultzDeborah (Debbie) Wasserman SchultzDemocrats fume over silence from DeSantis on Florida election Democrats warn Waters censure move opens floodgates Lawmakers react to guilty verdict in Chauvin murder trial: 'Our work is far from done' MORE (D-Fla.) and Greg StantonGregory (Greg) John StantonThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden: Back to the future on immigration, Afghanistan, Iran Ambitious House lawmakers look for promotions Energy Department announces million toward carbon capture, industrial assessment centers MORE (D-Ariz.). Party leaders such as former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and former Sens. Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidBiden's first 100 days is stylistic 'antithesis' of Trump The Memo: Washington's fake debate on 'bipartisanship' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - CDC in limbo on J&J vax verdict; Rep. Brady retiring MORE (D-Nev.) and Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerBottom line Trump 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 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.”