Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersFilibuster becomes new litmus test for Democrats Gallego says he's been approached about challenging Sinema Democrats call on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans 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 BidenNew York woman arrested after allegedly spitting on Jewish children Former Sen. Donnelly confirmed as Vatican ambassador Giuliani associate sentenced to a year in prison in campaign finance case 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.
Former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden talks, Senate balks Airlines suspend US flights in response to 5G deployment AT&T, Verizon to delay 5G rollout near certain airports MORE and Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharEffort to overhaul archaic election law wins new momentum Hillicon Valley — Senate panel advances major antitrust bill Senate panel advances bill blocking tech giants from favoring own products 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 TrumpJudge rules Alaska governor unlawfully fired lawyer who criticized Trump Giuliani led fake electors plot: CNN Giuliani associate sentenced to a year in prison in campaign finance case 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 WarrenDemocrats call on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans Biden stiff arms progressives on the Postal Service Trump by the numbers: 2024 isn't simple 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.
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 SteyerYouth voting organization launches M registration effort in key battlegrounds Overnight Energy: 'Eye of fire,' Exxon lobbyist's comments fuel renewed attacks on oil industry | Celebrities push Biden to oppose controversial Minnesota pipeline | More than 75 companies ask Congress to pass clean electricity standard Celebrities push Biden to oppose controversial Minnesota pipeline 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.
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 DuckworthThese Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Democrats call on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans We must learn from the Afghanistan experience — starting with the withdrawal MORE (D-Ill.) and Reps. Veronica EscobarVeronica EscobarDesperate Dems signal support for cutting Biden bill down in size Jan. 6 brings Democrats, Cheneys together — with GOP mostly absent In their own words: Lawmakers, staffers remember Jan. 6 insurrection MORE (D-Texas), Bobby ScottRobert (Bobby) Cortez ScottProposed Virginia maps put rising-star House Democrats at risk Industry, labor groups at odds over financial penalties in spending package Historically Black colleges and universities could see historic funding under Biden plan MORE (D-Va.), Jennifer WextonJennifer Lynn WextonVirginia Supreme Court approves new lines for key swing districts Proposed Virginia maps put rising-star House Democrats at risk The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Rising prices undercut Biden agenda MORE (D-Va.), Don Beyer (D-Va.), Debbie Wasserman SchultzDeborah (Debbie) Wasserman SchultzFlorida Democrats call on DeSantis to accept federal help to expand COVID-19 testing Democrats quietly explore barring Trump from office over Jan. 6 Omar allies dig in on calls for Boebert punishment MORE (D-Fla.) and Greg StantonGregory (Greg) John StantonPoll shows Sinema's popularity dropping further among Arizona Democrats House GOP campaign arm expands target list after brutal night for Dems Sinema trails potential primary challengers in progressive poll MORE (D-Ariz.). Party leaders such as former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and former Sens. Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Connected Commerce Council - Biden faces reporters as his agenda teeters Biden hits one-year mark in dire straits 'All or nothing' won't bolster American democracy: Reform the filibuster and Electoral Count Act MORE (D-Nev.) and Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerBass raises nearly million since launching LA mayor campaign Harry Reid, political pugilist and longtime Senate majority leader, dies Congress can prevent another Jan. 6 by updating a key elections law 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.”