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Senator Bernie Sanders is running away with the Democratic nomination for president by securing a plurality of the delegates with first- or second-place finises in each race so far. He is expected to finish second in Saturday’s South Carolina primary. Billionaire Mike Bloomberg hopes he finishes first.
The lanes have been long-established between the two radical progressives—Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren—and the rest of the candidates who are all fighting in the “moderate” lane. Mayor Pete Buttigieg is leading in that lane, but he is expected to finish fourth at best in South Carolina and not receive any delegates. Warren likely won’t sniff many delegates, either, as she also hopes for a “strong” fourth-place finish. As for Senator Amy Klobuchar, she’s ready to get South Carolina over with so she can head into Super Tuesday with a chance of winning her first primary in her home state of Minneapolis.
Former Vice President Joe Biden is currently leading the polls in South Carolina with billionaire Tom Steyer trying to pass Sanders for second-place. And while a third-place finish for Sanders will make most of the candidates happy as it will be his first sign of weakness, Bloomberg is hoping for the opposite. His nomination calculus requires a whittled down field for Super Tuesday. That would only happen if Sanders surprises everyone and wins South Carolina.
Bloomberg needs the other candidates in the moderate lane to drop out before then. It’s highly unlikely any of them will unless there are big surprises on Saturday. But even if they all stay in for three more days so they can see where they stand after Super Tuesday, it still behooves Bloomberg if Sanders wins South Carolina. It would be a signal to voters that none of them other than possibly Bloomberg—who has not appeared on a ballot thus far—has a chance of derailing Sanders’ momentum or overcoming his lead. Sanders will almost certainly get the most delegates on Super Tuesday regardless of how he performs on Saturday, but a packed field means Sanders has an opportunity to sweep all or most of the delegates in certain states, including California.
This year’s new DNC rules stipulate a candidate must receive 15% of the vote statewide or in the denoted divisions within the states. The most recent California polls show Sanders with a decent lead, but more importantly they show either one or no other candidates hitting the 15% threshold. They’re splitting the non-Sanders vote relatively evenly with Warren getting 16% in one poll and Biden getting 17% in another. Otherwise, none of the candidates are projecting to get many delegates from California.
Most of the other states aren’t much better for the field.
If Biden comes in second in South Carolina, it could be the trigger for voters who are concerned about a Sanders nomination to consolidate behind the billionaire who has already spent over $500 million on the campaign so far and has promised to spend much more to get himself the nomination. Though Americans in general and Democrats in particular frown on wealthy people “buying” elections, the fear of a Sanders nomination is palpable among those in the Democratic Establishment. Reports have been coming in the DNC is in full-blown panic mode. Our EIC received a tip that there are even powerful Democrats trying to convince candidates to stand down before Super Tuesday. It’s a total mess.
For Mike Bloomberg and the DNC to take (steal?) the nomination from Bernie Sanders, they’ll need some of the other candidate to be disheartened enough to not push forward to Super Tuesday. But the clock’s ticking. Is a Sanders-Trump matchup inevitable?
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