Politics

Strong showing expected for Bernie Sanders on Super Tuesday

Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders greets supporters in Nashua, New Hampshire, in June. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

Sen. Bernie Sanders is expected to perform well on Super Tuesday when voters in 14 states and American Samoa vote in the Democratic primary, but it is unclear if he will emerge from the March 3 contests with a clear path to the nomination.

After a top two finish in Iowa and winning in Nevada and New Hampshire, Sanders has spent the past two weeks feverishly campaigning in key Super Tuesday states, including California and Texas.

But on Saturday, Sanders’ momentum slowed as former Vice President Joe Biden took a decisive win in South Carolina, with the Vermont senator a distant second. 

Since the South Carolina primary — two moderates — former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., have dropped out of the race with plans to endorse Biden.

On Sunday, the Sanders campaign, meanwhile, reported it had received $46.5 million in donations during February — a record amount for a Democrat in this election cycle.

Sanders and the former vice president both enter Super Tuesday neck and neck in total pledged delegates — the Vermont senator with 56 and Biden with 48 — and with the field narrowing, the nomination appears to be coming down to two candidates in their 70s.

Sanders leads the polls in California, Texas, Virginia, Massachusetts and other states but it remains unclear how many delegates of the more than 1,300 delegates up for grabs he will end up with after  Tuesday.

What you need to know

Polls will be open in most states, including Vermont, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Voters will decide how the 1,357 delegates in play — a third of what will be apportioned in the nomination process, are distributed.

Candidates must receive at least 15% of the vote to be awarded any delegates, in what is known as the “the 15% rule.” If candidates cross that threshold, delegates are distributed proportionally.

The top states by delegates

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California (415 delegates)

In 2016, Sanders lost California by nearly 8 points to Hillary Clinton. That contest saw the former secretary of state claim 53.4% of the vote while Sanders had 45.7%.

This election, in a much more crowded field, the Vermont senator is leading Biden and others by a large margin, according to recent polls.

An Emerson College poll, conducted between Feb. 29 and March 1, had Sanders at 38%, with Biden in second with 21%. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren was third with 16% and billionaire former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was fourth with 11%.

Among those who voted for Clinton in 2016, 40% now support Joe Biden, 18% support Sanders and 15% support Warren, according to the poll. Among those who voted for Sanders in 2016, 63% still support him, and 22% have migrated to Warren.

Texas (228 delegates)

The 2016 contest was a one-sided affair with Clinton taking 65.2% of the vote while Sanders only managed 33.2%.

Sanders had momentum in Texas coming off his victory in Nevada, the result of strong support among Latino voters for the Vermont senator.

It is now a tight race between Sanders and Biden in the Lone Star State, with the Vermont independent holding a 5-point lead, according to recent polling

Sanders is averaging 30% with Biden just behind him with 24%. The next closest rival is Bloomberg with 16% and Warren is just missing out on the 15% threshold.

North Carolina (110 delegates)

Recent polling is projecting a close head-to-head between Sanders and Biden, but Bloomberg also has the potential to perform well there.

In 2016, Clinton won the state with 54.6% of the vote compared with 40.8% for Sanders.

A poll conducted by East Carolina University, has Biden at 29% in first and Sanders in second with 25%, the only two candidates who will be awarded delegates.

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Virginia (delegates 99)

Sanders has put money and resources into winning Virginia and held rallies in the state on the day of the South Carolina primary.

There has been no polling since Biden’s win on Saturday, but prior to the past weekend, Sanders, Bloomberg and Biden were bunched together with similar numbers, and all well above the 15% mark.

In 2016, Sanders managed 35.2% of the vote — well behind Clinton’s 64.3%.

Massachusetts (91 delegates)

The Vermont senator has also been campaigning hard in the Bay State, and as it stands now Sanders leads by a razor thin margin over Warren in her home state.

On Saturday morning, as people in South Carolina trickled in and out of the polls, Sanders held a rally in Boston, Massachusetts, drawing a crowd 13,000 strong in Warren’s home state.

“People don’t get their own states walled off for them,” Jeff Weaver, senior adviser to Sanders, told the New York Times.

A Feb. 29 Suffolk University poll has the Vermont independent leading the pack with 24% and the Massachusetts senator 2 points off the pace with 22%. That poll has Bloomberg third with 13% but missing out on collecting any of the state’s delegates.

The 2016 Massachusetts primary was also a close race, but it went to Clinton who collected 50% while Sanders ended the night with 48.7%.

Minnesota (75 delegates)

In 2016, Sanders won Minnesota with 61.6% of the vote, but in 2020 the contest has been rated by FiveThirtyEight as a toss-up between Sanders and Klobuchar.

But now with the Minnesota senator leaving the race and endorsing Biden, it is unclear which way support will swing.  

The Vermont senator plans to hold a rally at the 18,000-seat St. Paul River Centre Monday evening, on the eve of the primary, reports the Star Tribune.

Colorado (67 delegates)

Here is another state Sanders won in 2016, receiving 59% of the vote, and again in 2020 he is expected to carry Colorado.

Polling has him up 12 points on Warren (15%) and the rest of the field, with the two senators from New England the only candidates with enough support to collect pledged delegates.

Tennessee (64 delegates)

The polling is scarce, but Biden is expected to win. A survey from the summer of 2019 has Biden with 33% support, Warren at 18% and Sanders with 13%.

In 2016, Clinton took Tennessee with 66% — Sanders managed 32.4%.

The other contests

In the other six states, including Vermont, there are a combined 189 delegates in play with another 13 to be awarded from “Democrats abroad” and six to be awarded in the American Samoa caucuses.

Biden is expected to take Alabama, Oklahoma and Arkansas while Sanders is forecasted to perform well in Utah, Maine and Vermont.

Vermont is expected to overwhelmingly support Sanders and the Green Mountain state’s 16 delegates may end up being key in adding to the home state senator’s overall lead or, if another candidate performs well, become crucial in keeping the Democratic field tightly bunched as it moves beyond Tuesday’s contest.

Sanders will return to Vermont on Tuesday where he will cast his vote in the state’s primary and hold an event in Essex Junction

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Kit Norton

About Kit

Kit Norton is the general assignment reporter at VTDigger. He is originally from eastern Vermont and graduated from Emerson College in 2017 with a degree in journalism. In 2016, he was a recipient of The Society of Environmental Journalists' Emerging Environmental Journalist award. Kit has worked at PRI's weekly radio environmental program, Living on Earth, and has written for the online news site Truthout.

Email: [email protected]

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