Super Tuesday could leave race even more unsettled, as Biden aims to check Sanders’ momentum

On the eve of Super Tuesday, a confident Joe Biden glanced back to his landslide victory over the weekend and looked ahead to what he thinks will be a very good night.

The former vice president told supporters in Houston that “we won in South Carolina, and we’ll win in Texas tomorrow.”

SUPER TUESDAY GUIDE: THE STATES AND THE STAKES

Texas is the second biggest prize on Super Tuesday – when a third of all Democratic presidential nomination delegates are up for grabs.  Fourteen states from coast to coast hold primaries on a single day.

Biden  – who nearly pulled even with front-runner Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont in the delegate hunt thanks to a larger than expected victory in South Carolina – is aiming to prevent Sanders from capturing a large lead in the crucial battle for convention delegates. Biden’s goal is to firmly cement his status as the moderate alternative to Sanders – the populist lawmaker who describes himself as a democratic socialist.

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks after being endorsed by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., at a campaign rally Monday, March 2, 2020 in Dallas. (AP Photo/Richard W. Rodriguez)

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks after being endorsed by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., at a campaign rally Monday, March 2, 2020 in Dallas. (AP Photo/Richard W. Rodriguez)

Just a week ago, that seemed like a daunting task. Sanders was poised to carry his big victories in the early states into Super Tuesday and become virtually uncatchable in the delegate game. But as Biden’s South Carolina win prompted rivals to drop out and close ranks behind him, the former vice president is now a viable threat to Sanders. And Super Tuesday, in turn, may not settle things as much as previously thought.

If Biden becomes that alternative, such a scenario would likely lead to a two-candidate battle that could extend to the end of the primary calendar and potentially could lead to the first contested presidential nominating convention in more than half a century.

But Biden’s mission is also shared by former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, the multi-billionaire business and media mogul who’s poured more than half a billion dollars of his own money into his campaign since announcing his candidacy in late November.

Biden got a big boost on Saturday – with his shellacking of Sanders and the rest of the field in South Carolina. And he got another gift on Sunday and Monday when two fellow centrist candidates – former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota – suspended their own White House bids. They joined the former vice president on the stage at an event in Dallas on Monday night  to formally back his presidential campaign.

“I can’t think of a better way to end my campaign than joining this,” Klobuchar emphasized as she stood next to Biden.

Biden also landed a slew of endorsements Sunday and Monday from current and former governors, senators, and House members, in including former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and former Democratic presidential candidate and congressman from Texas Beto O’Rourke – who also joined Biden at the Dallas rally.

The moves by Buttigieg and Klobuchar to drop out came as establishment Democrats and party leaders have become increasingly terrified in recent weeks at the prospect of Sanders becoming their party’s standard-bearer – thanks to his partial win in Iowa’s caucuses, an outright win in New Hampshire’s primary and a massive victory in Nevada’s caucuses. That fear spurred an increase in their calls for the remaining centrist or moderate presidential candidates to drop out of the race to allow for a consolidation around Biden.

Bloomberg – who’s on the ballot for the first time on Tuesday after skipping the four early voting states to concentrate his time and resources on the delegate-rich states that vote in March and April  – is apparently far from heeding those calls.

BLOOMBERG WON’T BUDGE AS BUTTIGIEG AND KLOBUCHAR DROP OUT AND BACK BIDEN

“I’m in it to win it,” Bloomberg told reporters on Monday during a campaign event in Virginia.

California – with 415 delegates at stake on Super Tuesday – has by far the biggest haul of up for grabs during the entire presidential nominating calendar.

Sanders has spent a lot of time and poured a ton on resources into the state this cycle.  And he drew nearly 25,000 people to rallies the senator Sunday in Los Angeles and San Jose.

“The candidate who wins California has an excellent chance to win the nomination,” he told the massive crowd in Los Angeles.

The latest polls – taken over the weekend before the Buttigieg and Klobuchar news – indicated Sanders enjoying healthy double-digit leads over Biden and Bloomberg.

California-based Democratic strategist Addisu Dimessie predicted that the exiting of Buttigieg and Klobuchar will boost the former vice president, saying “it could help Joe Biden significantly” by pushing him over the 15 percent statewide and congressional district thresholds to win delegates.

Dimessie, a veteran of the 2008 Barack Obama campaign and the 2016 Hillary Clinton campaign who also managed Sen. Cory Booker’s 2020 White House bid, said the Buttigieg and Klobuchar departures could also benefit Bloomberg and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, the only other major Democratic presidential candidate left in the race.

“With only four candidates in the race, it becomes easier to reach 15 percent,” he stressed. “If you’re flirting with 15 percent, this can only be good for you.”

Sanders is banking on a big win in California to haul in delegates. He’s also looking for strong finishes in Colorado and Utah, Minnesota, and New England, where his home state of Vermont as well as Massachusetts and Maine hold contests. And he hopes to repeat his strong showing with Spanish speaking voters in Nevada last weekend with a similar result in Texas, where 228 delegates at stake in a longtime red state that Democrats hope may trend blue.

The latest polls in Texas indicate Sanders leading Biden and Bloomberg – but vary dramatically by how much he’s ahead. And the surveys were all taken before Buttigieg and Klobuchar dropped out and nearly entirely before Biden’s massive victory n Saturday night.

One place that Sanders may not emphasize are the southern states that vote – such as Alabama, Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

“Black voters continue to be Bernie Sanders kryptonite,” Mo Elleithee, the founding executive director of Georgetown University’s Institute of Politics and Public Service and a Fox News contributor, said.

Pointing to the results in South Carolina, Elleithee emphasized that Sanders “had a terrible night, only marginally better with black voters in South Carolina than he did four years ago (when Hillary Clinton beat him by a nearly three to one margin overall). In states like North Carolina and Virginia and other states that are going to have significant black turnout on Tuesday, that’s going to be a big problem.”

Elleithee, a senior spokesman for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign who later served as communications director for the Democratic National Committee, also pointed to Sanders’ underperformance with older voters according to South Carolina exit polls, and an apparent inability so far to expand the electorate as he’s promised.

But he said “I still think Sanders is in the driver’s seat in large part because of his commanding lead in California…and that’s going to give him a pretty big springboard on Tuesday.”

Demissie noted that Biden mission is not only to stay close to Sanders in the delegate haul, but also that “Biden needs to be significantly ahead of Bloomberg and Warren because that will allow him to be the clear alternative to Sanders.”

And he warned that if Sanders scores major gains on Super Tuesday, it spells serious trouble for Biden.

“I think it’s really hard to close a gap of a couple of hundred delegates,” he pointed out.

Bloomberg’s aiming for a nomination battle with no clear favorite that would extend to the July convention in Milwaukee.

At a Fox News town hall in Virginia on the eve of Super Tuesday, Bloomberg argued that “the most likely scenario for the Democratic Party is that nobody has a majority, and then it goes to a convention, where there’s horse-trading, and everybody decides to compromise on — it doesn’t even have to be one of the two leading candidates.”

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