On the trail: 2020 Democrats blanket Super Tuesday states with eye on delegates

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Democratic U.S. presidential candidate and former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event at Booker T. Washington High School in Norfolk
Democratic U.S. presidential candidate and former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event at Booker T. Washington High School in Norfolk, Virginia, U.S., March 1, 2020. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz

March 2, 2020

(Reuters) – Front-runner Bernie Sanders, a reinvigorated Joe Biden, and the other remaining Democratic candidates in the U.S. presidential race fanned out on Monday to many of the 14 states that will hold Super Tuesday nominating contests.

The Super Tuesday contests offer the biggest one-day haul of the 1,991 delegates needed to win the party’s nomination at its national convention in July, with about 1,357 delegates, or nearly one-third of the total number, up for grabs.

Biden, fresh off a resounding victory in Saturday’s South Carolina primary, is aiming for a strong showing to demonstrate he is the leading moderate alternative to U.S. Senator Sanders, a democratic socialist from Vermont.

Billionaire former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg makes his first appearance on primary ballots in Super Tuesday states, where he has bet hundreds of millions of dollars of his own money to boost his campaign.

Six contenders remain for the nomination to take on Republican President Donald Trump in the November election, down from more than 20 earlier in the race.

Here is what is happening on Monday.

BIDEN SEEKS TO SEIZE MOMENTUM

Biden’s high-stakes triumph in South Carolina, where his campaign had said his popularity with black voters would propel him to victory after early disappointing finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire, helped force two of his rivals out of the race.

Billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer ended his campaign on Saturday night after a third-place finish in the Southern state in which he had invested most heavily.

On Sunday, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg suspended his campaign to avoid helping Sanders’ odds in hopes that voters would coalesce around a more moderate alternative, a campaign adviser said.

It was not immediately clear who Buttigieg’s withdrawal could boost. A Morning Consult poll taken Feb. 23-27, before Buttigieg exited the race, showed that 21% of his supporters named Sanders as their second choice, 19% picked Biden, another 19% chose U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and 17% favored Mike Bloomberg.

Biden and Buttigieg spoke on Sunday night, but advisers would not comment about whether Buttigieg may endorse the former vice president or when.

Biden still lags his rivals in spending and organization in Super Tuesday states and beyond, but his campaign said on Sunday it had raised more than $10 million over the preceding two days.

Biden will hold events in Houston and Dallas, in Texas, on Monday, and Los Angeles in California, on Tuesday, two delegate-rich Super Tuesday states.

DELEGATE-HEAVY CALIFORNIA

Speaking to a crowd of about 15,000 in Los Angeles on Sunday night, Sanders urged voters in California to go to the polls in record numbers to help him rack up delegates and build a lead that will propel him to the nomination.

“The candidate who wins in California has an excellent chance to win the Democratic nomination,” Sanders declared to cheers.

Sanders’ campaign on Sunday reported that it raised $46.5 million in February and would launch new television ad buys in nine states with primaries later in March after this week’s Super Tuesday contests. Sanders is campaigning on Monday in Minnesota and his home state of Vermont.

Further complicating projections about the impact of Buttigieg’s departure are several Super Tuesday states that hold early voting, including California, where millions of ballots have already been returned. Early voting in Texas and North Carolina ended on Saturday, with more than a million ballots already cast in Texas and more than 800,000 in North Carolina, according to party officials.

Ahead of a rally in the Los Angeles area, Warren on Monday announced proposals related to protecting agricultural workers and reducing the power of agribusiness. More than one-third of U.S. farm workers are in California, according to the Center for Farmworker Families.

Warren also released new components of a plan to combat the spread of coronavirus by creating an emergency paid-leave program and a $400 billion federal stimulus package.

BLOOMBERG’S GAMBIT

Bloomberg was in Washington on Monday to address the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a lobbying group.

The media billionaire and former mayor did not compete in the first four states, making Super Tuesday the first test of his self-financed campaign. He has tried to position himself as the best moderate candidate to deny Sanders the nomination, and he criticized the Vermont senator in his AIPAC speech.

“Not all of my fellow Democrats in this race have attended an AIPAC conference. One of them, Senator Sanders, has spent 30 years boycotting this event. And as you’ve heard by now, he called AIPAC a racist platform,” Bloomberg said.

Bloomberg will also be campaigning on Monday in Virginia, while U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota will be in Colorado, Utah and Oklahoma. All are Super Tuesday states.

Nominating contests will also be held on Tuesday in Massachusetts, Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas and Maine, as well as American Samoa. Democrats living abroad will also begin voting on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Amanda Becker, Michael Martina, Tim Reid, Jarrett Renshaw and Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Robert Birsel and Jonathan Oatis)

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