Jessica Tarlov and Josh Holmes discuss Joe Biden’s delegate lead and what Bernie Sanders needs to do to change the momentum

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DETROIT — Democrats, who once marveled at the sheer enormity of their presidential field like East Germans at an American supermarket, don’t have much left in the way of candidate choices.

It’s down to two guys who have been in the principal rival wings of the party since the Vietnam War. And right now, it’s not looking any better for the Yippies than it did back in ‘68.

Far out.

But if Democrats can’t do much now to change the tune, today they can at least set the tempo.

Front-runner Joe Biden is a little bit more than a third of the way to the 1,991 delegates he needs to win the Democratic nomination outright. A big finish today would put Biden more than halfway home even before a majority of delegates have been allocated – an up-tempo number to an early clinch.

If Biden doesn’t build on his Super Tuesday surge, however, it could mean a repeat of 2016’s grinding, embittering Democratic contest, with Bernie Sanders’ chasing him to the last contests or, conceivably, even revive the prospect of a contested convention. That sounds more like a work song or even a funeral march.

The map today looks good for Biden – as you will see in the tables below. Michigan is the big prize, and it, like Missouri, boasts a large African-American population as well as a significant number of suburbanites: Both keys to his Super Tuesday resurrection last week.

Sanders isn’t even bothering to contest Mississippi, where as much as three quarters of the electorate today may be African-American.

Sanders is mostly looking out West, where he performed well last week and last cycle – particularly to Washington. He won there in 2016 and the Pacific Northwest has remained a hotbed of Bernie-ism. But there’s considerable downside this time around.

The Evergreen State is holding its first presidential primary since 2000, ditching the low-turnout caucus system that helped Sanders and his activist core so much four years ago. In the non-binding primary vote on the ballot in 2016, the result flipped with Clinton winning an easy victory. It’s a similar story in delegate-light Idaho, where Democrats haven’t had a primary since 1984.

Sanders’ best shot is in North Dakota, which has maintained the caucus system for awarding its handful of delegates. It was big for Bernie in 2016.

If Biden does about as well in the six states holding contests today as his middling average performance in the first 18 states, he would win something shy of 180 delegates. That’s basically meeting the minimum requirement to become his party’s nominee on the first ballot.

Let’s call this “The Clintonista.” In this scenario, Biden would do as his predecessor Hillary Clinton did before him: He’d perform at the low end of the acceptable range but not well enough to officially clinch the nomination and dispatch Sanders for another couple of months.

That would give Sanders (and the Trump campaign) plenty of time to raise doubts and sew discord ahead of a fraught but anticlimactic convention in Milwaukee. It would also give Biden plenty of time to deepen doubts about his own candidacy. Every debate and every interview Biden would be obliged to do would run the risk of deepening the inevitable buyers’ remorse that voters will feel.

If Biden falls much short of that mark, the prospects of a contested convention will rear up like on Democrats like a bad pastrami sandwich. Let’s call that one “The Milwaukee Two Step.” It seems unlikely given the rush we’re seeing toward Biden, but that’s Sanders’ only chance today to credibly keep alive the idea of a convention battle that results in his nomination.

But the one that Biden and the rest of the mainstream Democrats are hoping for is a win big enough to relegate Sanders to gadfly status and let Biden go home and rest for a grueling general election. That would mean the front-runner consolidating the support that went to Michael Bloomberg last week, keeping turnout high and snagging two thirds of the available delegates.

If Biden hauls out 230 or so delegates out of today it will be a happy Irish tune for him: “The Scranton Reel.”



Past results – 2008: Primary not sanctioned by DNC; 2016: Clinton 48.3 percent, Sanders 49.7

2016 general election – Trump 47.3 percent, Clinton 47 percent

Other key races on the ballot today – None

Race notes – Michigan will be the biggest prize today and it’s clear by the amount of attention the state has been receiving from both campaigns. While Sanders is hoping to repeat his stunning upset 2016 victory in the Wolverine State, recent polling shows a strong lead for Biden. Sanders garners a lot of support from younger voters and members of the Arab American community, but his campaign struggles with support from African Americans, suburban women and voters outside of metro Detroit, which could be his downfall in Michigan. Voter turnout in 2016 broke state records at 2.5 million when there was an open seat for president in addition to competitive down ballot races in both parties. Sanders needs younger voters to come out in force, or Biden could be well on his way to the nomination.



Past results – 2008: Obama 67.6 percent, Clinton 31.2 percent; 2016: Sanders 72.7 percent, Clinton 27.1 percent

2016 general election – Clinton 52.5 percent, Trump 36.8 percent

Other key races on the ballot today – None

Race notes – Washington moved up its primary in an effort to take on a more active role in the primary process, but that hasn’t seemed to work out. The two remaining campaigns have little activity on the ground, with no official watch parties scheduled for tonight. A reason for campaign absence could be due to the large number of diagnosed Coronavirus cases in the state. But, thanks to the states all-mail election, voters are expected to be active nonetheless. State elections officials say they’re looking at a robust possible voter turnout record with reports of nearly 1.6 million ballots already in – about 35 percent of the state’s registered voters – as of Monday afternoon.



Past results – 2008: Obama 49.3 percent, Clinton 47.9 percent; 2016: Clinton 49.6 percent, Sanders 49.4 percent

2016 general election – Trump 56.4 percent, Clinton 37.9 percent

Other key races on the ballot today – None

Race notes – While Biden holds solid support from the I-70 corridor from Kansas City to mid-Missouri and St. Louis, Sanders is trying to offset it with support from the rural northern and southern parts of the state. Biden has the backing of the Democratic establishment in the state including an endorsement from Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, one of the state’s ten Superdelegates. Sanders benefits from high volunteer numbers and a base of supporters that have been with him since his narrow loss in 2016. The delegate count today will be determined as follows: The statewide vote will determine 24 delegates while the other 44 will be distributed based on the results in each congressional district.


Past results – 2008: Obama 61.2 percent, Clinton 36.7 percent; 2016: Clinton 82.5 percent, Sanders 16.6 percent 

2016 general election – Trump 57.9 percent, Clinton 40.1 percent

Other key races on the ballot today – All four U.S. House members will face primary challenges today: Rep. Trent Kelly, (R), Rep. Bennie Thompson (D), Rep. Michael Guest (R) and Rep. Steven Palazzo (R).  On the Senate side, incumbent Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith is running for her first full six-year term after beating Democrat Mike Espy in the 2018 special election. It is expected that she will face Espy again come November.

Race notes – If there is any state to expect a Biden landslide, it’s Mississippi. After the former vice president’s solid performance so far in the South we don’t expect anything less today. Watch for the possibility of Sanders falling short of the viability threshold and a Biden delegate sweep.


Past results – 2008: Obama 79.5 percent, Clinton 17.2 percent; 2016: Sanders 78 percent, Clinton 21.2 percent

2016 general election – Trump 59.3 percent, Clinton 27.5 percent

Other key races on the ballot today – None

Race notes – Idawho? Democrats have mostly ignored the predominantly red Gem State. So much so that none of the candidates attended the state Democratic Party’s key event, the Frank and Bethine Church Gala, last weekend. The Biden and Sanders campaigns both sent video messages and surrogates to represent them instead. Sanders is expected to do well after his strong performance in 2016 in addition to his money spent on ads in the state, where Biden hasn’t spent a dime. Sanders also holds solid support in Boise, the state’s capital and largest city.



Past results – 2008: Obama 61.2 percent, Clinton 36.6 percent; 2016: Sanders 64.2, Clinton 25.6 percent

2016 general election – Trump 63 percent, Clinton 27.2 percent

Other key races on the ballot today – None

Race notes – Will Sanders dominate from Fargo to Fairview and Bismarck to Bottineau? Oh yeah, you betcha.

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.

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