Six states hold presidential primaries on March 10 and, despite Joe Biden’s Super Tuesday revival, it is not unrealistic to say that the Democratic Party nomination is still attainable for both Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT). The polls are all over the place, but there is little doubt that the former vice president has some “Joementum” going into the battle for 352 delegates. One almost feels that Sanders can see this race slipping away.
In the total pledged delegate count, Biden leads Sanders by a little more than 100 delegates, though the precise number depends upon which source one follows. Biden could sweep all six states, which would give him a massive, if not mathematically insurmountable, lead – assuming that he will go on to win the majority of Florida’s 219 pledged delegates. The Sunshine State’s primary will take place on March 17. By March 20 – or thereabouts – Biden could be sitting on more than 1,000 delegates in the race to 1,991.
Eyes on the Prize
The six-state sweep is certainly not written in stone, though. Sanders has more than a good chance of winning Idaho and maybe North Dakota. The Vermont senator is competitive in Washington, and, if some polls are to be believed, Michigan is within his reach. Mississippi and Missouri, though, look reasonably safe for his main opponent.
Michigan, with its 125 delegates, is being touted by some as the make or break contest for Sanders. That may indeed be the case: This state accounts for about half of the total delegates up for grabs in this mini-Super Tuesday.
At this point for Sanders, closing the gap with Biden is the name of the game. Unless Bernie pulls off the kind of comeback Biden managed the previous week, he is unlikely to make much of a dent in his current deficit. Winning Michigan would give him at least a fair chance of doing that.
Notably, Sanders is not exactly racking up endorsements from former candidates, who have instead flocked to his rival. In a blow to the hopes of the party’s progressive wing, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has remained silent since her withdrawal from the race. Though mere speculation, Warren could be looking at the writing on the wall and wondering how much an endorsement of Sanders would hurt her chances of securing a Cabinet position in a Biden administration.
Looking Past March 10
Even after March 10, there are a large number of delegates still to be won: Illinois, Ohio, New Jersey, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Maryland are some of the remaining primary states with well over 100 each to be claimed. New York has more than 200.
For both of the leading Democrat contenders, the question is how great the separation in the delegate math becomes before one concedes the race to the other. Trailing Biden by more than 100 delegates, Sanders must think ahead to see what the numbers look like for him beyond March 10. If Biden significantly increases his delegate lead, does the senator have real prospects for overcoming that margin before the party’s convention in July? Can he count on some big wins in three or four of those delegate-rich states and, even then, would he be far enough ahead of Biden to avoid a contested convention, which is unlikely to go his way?
Whether Michigan is really a make or break for Sanders depends upon not just who wins the state but the margin of victory. Unless he scoops up the lion’s share of Michigan’s delegates, the democratic socialist, as he apparently wishes to be thought of these days, will find his bid for the nomination on life support. Then he will have to decide whether his remaining in the race only hurts his party’s chances of removing President Trump from the White House in November.
Read more from Graham J. Noble.