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One Super Tuesday Outcome Is 'Nightmare' for Democrats

That would be a second-place 'muddle' behind Sanders, writes one analyst
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 3, 2020 11:23 AM CST

(Newser) – Super Tuesday is here, and the stakes are huge. More than a third of all pledged delegates are at stake as 14 states vote. Joe Biden is riding big momentum, Bernie Sanders is hoping to grab an insurmountable lead, Elizabeth Warren hopes for a surprise strong showing that keeps her in the race, and Michael Bloomberg faces the first real test of his novel skip-the-early-states strategy. A sample of analysis and previews:

  • Spoiler alert: Sanders is a near lock to win the most delegates Tuesday because he is headed for victory in the biggest state at play, California, and he's also expected to win the second biggest, Texas. California alone has a whopping 415 delegates to dole out, and "the only question is how big is the size of Bernie Sanders' win," per Politico. This isn't winner-take-all, so Biden and the others can rake in delegates of their own, provided they meet the 15% threshold.
  • The 'real' question: "The real fight at the moment is not to beat Sanders in delegates collected on Super Tuesday," writes Chris Cillizza at CNN, because he sees that as impossible. Rather, it's "to be the person who takes the second most delegates, and, by extension, can make the case as the Bernie alternative." For Biden to do so, he'll need strong results in California and Texas, and big wins in the South. The Democrats' "nightmare scenario" is a second-place "muddle," Cillizza adds.

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  • 2nd place counts: To reiterate the importance of California, FiveThirtyEight notes this: "Finishing in second place with, say, 25% of the vote can represent the support of millions of people—and potentially win a candidate more delegates than were available in the four early states combined." Polls suggest Biden could indeed hit 25%, while Warren and Bloomberg are right on the cusp of the minimum 15% mark.
  • Warren's big fight: Cillizza thinks she has a "decent chance" of surprising people Tuesday night in a good way. For her, that would mean strong third-place finishes in California and Texas. The Hill, however, sees her home state of Massachusetts as a "must win" for her in order to remain a candidate, and Sanders has a strong chance of winning there.
  • Another key state: Much of the focus is on California and Texas, but Trip Gabriel at the New York Times writes that "perhaps nowhere more than in North Carolina will the strength of a potential Biden revival and a reset of the Democratic primary be calibrated." The state is No. 3 in the delegate total Tuesday, and it has demographics suited to Biden, including a decent number of African-American voters. Biden must do well here, as well as in the other Southern states of Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, and Arkansas.
  • Bloomberg: The nation is about to find out whether his $500 million bet has paid off, per NPR. Bloomberg seems to be now banking on the strategy that no single candidate will win enough enough delegates to cinch the nomination, thus leading to a brokered convention. (Indeed, per the Hill, he told reporters Tuesday, "I don’t think that I can win any other way.") For that to happen, he'll need strong results Tuesday to chip away at the frontrunners' totals. If he fails to collect delegates from either California or Texas, he might be in trouble.
(Read more Super Tuesday stories.)

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