How Sanders Stays Alive on Super Tuesday

He's got to win big in certain states and up the delegate count
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 29, 2016 8:29 AM CST
How Sanders Stays Alive on Super Tuesday
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during a campaign rally at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo., on Sunday.   (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

With Super Tuesday just a day away, these are the hurdles Bernie Sanders needs to clear to remain a viable candidate against Hillary Clinton:

  • He's got to connect with minority voters. And quickly. The New York Times has Clinton—who killed Sanders by an 87-to-13 margin among black voters in South Carolina—poised for "a sweep of the South," as black voters make up the majority in key Super Tuesday states. And though Sanders' strategy seems to be to win states with a heavier white population, a Dem strategist tells USA Today Sanders can't give up the minority vote. "If you can't win non-whites in this party, you cannot win the nomination," he says. Among Sanders' biggest issues: Many black voters just don't know him, and the social media outreach his campaign has heavily leaned on isn't reaching older voters.

  • Significant wins in at least five non-Southern states. Per Politico, Sanders needs these wins to "prove that Super Tuesday isn't his final stand." Colorado, Minnesota, Massachusetts, and Oklahoma, and his home state (all where he's invested in TV ads) are what he's banking on, plus a nail-biter in Virginia. He would still need Clinton to not win by a landslide in states with larger African-American populations to keep the delegate count within reach, though the Times notes he'd likely have to "win nonblack voters by one-third as much as Mrs. Clinton wins black voters" to stay in the game. If he pulls this off, that would give him the momentum to head into what FiveThirtyEight calls more the "favorable terrain" of Western states in late March—followed by the "big blue finale" of New York, Pennsylvania, and California.
  • It all comes down to the delegates. An analyst for the "Cook Political Report" lends more dire-sounding specifics with the numbers, telling USA Today that Super Tuesday is "critical" for Sanders. "If Clinton were to match patterns of support she's received in primaries to date, she would win between 75 and 100 more delegates than Sanders on March 1," he explains. "That would mean that Sanders would need to win approximately 58% of the remaining pledged and undeclared superdelegates to tie Hillary Clinton by the end of the primaries. That's virtually impossible." Sanders' campaign is hoping to gain the lead in pledged delegates, as "the pressure on the superdelegates not to go against the will of the voters is going to be enormous," his senior media adviser says. How he could do that: capitalize on the caucus format like Obama did in 2008, the Times notes.
(More Bernie Sanders stories.)

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