Super Tuesday scenario: Can Bernie Sanders slow Hillary Clinton?

Posted at 4:32 PM, Mar 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-01 16:32:40-05

Super Tuesday is here, and as the presidential race goes national, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are hoping to put themselves way ahead. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio need strong turnouts to show they can fight Trump over the long-term. And Bernie Sanders hopes to stem Clinton’s momentum with a few wins of his own.

Voters of both parties in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and Virginia go the polls or caucus Tuesday. Democrats also caucus in Colorado and Republicans will do the same in Alaska.

The lay of the Democratic land is pretty clear.

Clinton, coming off a massive 48-point South Carolina blowout win, is likely to parlay her strength among minority voters into wins in Texas, Georgia, Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama and Arkansas.

Sanders, meanwhile, is targeting states that are whiter and, mostly, farther north: Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma and his home state of Vermont. But only Vermont is a guaranteed win for him. If Clinton can carry her success in South Carolina across the rest of the South and pick off a couple of Sanders’ targets, he’d be hard-pressed to catch her.

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And even if he locks them in, Clinton’s stronger states outnumber his, nearly two to one, in the delegate count.

Barring disaster, Clinton’s delegate lead is certain to grow Tuesday. And given her long list of superdelegate endorsements, she could make it tough for Sanders to ever catch up.

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton

The real date Clinton and her supporters have circled on the calendar is March 15. It’s when Florida, Ohio, Illinois, North Carolina and Missouri all vote — and when Clinton’s backers hope they can land the knockout blow.

She’s already looking forward to the general election, taking on Trump in speeches while de-emphasizing attacks against Sanders.

Sanders is set to raise $40 million in February, according to the campaign, so he will be competitive for the foreseeable future. The problem is he needs to find new voters.

His New Hampshire win and close call in Iowa came on the backs of white voters. But faced with a more diverse electorate in the past two races, he has faltered. Minority voters in Las Vegas helped Clinton win the caucuses there and the primary in South Carolina.

Sanders has worked for months to reach out to minority voters — particularly, in recent days, by portraying Republican attacks on President Barack Obama as racially motivated. But to keep the delegate count close, he’ll have to succeed Tuesday where he failed just Saturday.

It’s an increasingly important challenge for Sanders. After Tuesday, the next major states to vote are Michigan, followed by five on March 15, all with significant minority populations.

There are four key states to watch for Sanders on Tuesday.

Wins in Colorado and Oklahoma could bode well for Sanders’ ability to rack up delegates in more rural western states throughout the latter half of March and early April.

A win in Minnesota is a good sign as Great Lakes states begin to vote. And a win in Massachusetts would underscore the strength of his support among liberals — the types of people he hopes will eventually help him win California, and therefore, the nomination, on June 7.

But that’s a very rosy scenario that doesn’t look likely right now.