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Super Tuesday: Democrats Sprint Into 16-State Frenzy That Will Shape 2020 Race

15 Feb 2020

The Democratic presidential candidates have spent their summers at the Iowa State Fair and fall weekends at New Hampshire diners, trying to win over one voter at a time in the two early states that can make or break a campaign. #SuperTuesday

Now, the campaign explodes into a geographic and demographic battle that will test the candidates’ national appeal, their fundraising prowess and their staying power. All five top-tier candidates seem likely to get to the next big contest, Super Tuesday on March 3.

Only two or three might come out the other side, and one of them hopes to be Michael Bloomberg, the self-funding billionaire who has reshaped the race without even being on a single ballot yet.

For all the hubbub surrounding the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, five candidates have split less than 2% of the delegates to the Democratic presidential nomination. Now it’s a mad dash for another 44% up for grabs in the next three weeks.

“The rest of the nation is out there,” Joe Biden said.

The next stops offer the first chance for large numbers of non-white voters to have their say: the Nevada caucuses on Feb. 22 and the South Carolina primary on Feb. 29.

Then comes Super Tuesday, a 14-state contest where candidates hope to do well in the biggest prizes -- California and Texas -- but clever candidates could pick up lots of delegates by picking off smaller states that will be less traveled, like Arkansas and Minnesota.

“The road to the Democratic nomination is not paved with statewide winner-take-all victories,” Elizabeth Warren campaign manager Roger Lau wrote in a state-of-the-race memo released Tuesday. “This is not a race for governor, the U.S. Senate or the state treasurer’s office. This is a district-by-district contest for pledged delegates awarded proportionally.”

The big contest sets up particularly well for Bernie Sanders, who led the popular vote in Iowa and New Hampshire, is leading in California surveys and showing surprising strength in Texas. With his tailwind out of Iowa and New Hampshire, he is the candidate to stop on Super Tuesday.

Nipping at his heels is 38-year-old Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who surprised everybody with a steady strategy that has made him the delegate leader and a candidate to watch. A late surge by Amy Klobuchar vaulted her into third place in New Hampshire.

Many of the others will limp into the multi-state battle. Biden’s campaign insists he was never going to win the overwhelmingly white Iowa and New Hampshire and his best was yet to come in Nevada and South Carolina.

Warren is looking to hang on until Super Tuesday and focus her energy and resources on defeating Biden and Sanders.

“In that three-way race, Elizabeth Warren is the candidate with the highest potential ceiling of support and the one best positioned to unite the party and lead the Democratic ticket to defeat Donald Trump,” Lau said in his memo.

Watching is Bloomberg, who skipped the first four contests and has spent $357 million on advertising in the Super Tuesday states. He is picking up black support from a fading Biden, despite new audio of a speech he gave in 2015 in which he defends the stop-and-frisk policy in New York City by saying the best way to reduce gun violence in minority communities is to “throw them up against a wall and frisk them.” He has apologized again for that policy.

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