Bernie Sanders takes the stage in New Hampshire. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Some top Democrats tell Axios that if the split 2020 field persists through Super Tuesday, Bernie Sanders could build an insurmountable delegate lead while the moderates eat each other up.
Why it matters: With California's massive delegate trove as part of Super Tuesday on March 3, whoever winds up as the survivor against Sanders could be in a deep delegate hole by the time the field thins.
A Democratic campaign shared these scenarios to argue Sanders could walk away from Super Tuesday in control:
- Scenario #1: Bernie's Super Tuesday vote share is five points ahead of the second candidate (say, 30% to 25%). Bernie would net 96 delegates more than the next-highest-performing candidate. At that point, it would be possible but difficult to overtake Sanders: To become the nominee, that survivor would need to beat Bernie by an average of 53% to 47% in in remaining contests.
- Scenario #2: Bernie's Super Tuesday vote share is 10 points ahead of the second candidate (say, 30% to 20%). Bernie would net 198 delegates more than the next-highest-performing candidate. Overtaking Sanders would be unlikely: The field would need to clear, the and survivor would need to win each remaining contest on average 55% to 45% over Bernie.
- Scenario #3: Bernie's Super Tuesday vote share is by 15 points ahead of the second candidate (say, 35% to 20%). Bernie would net 328 delegates more than the next-highest-performing candidate. The race would be all but over.
A veteran Democratic operative told me: "Obama showed in '08 and Clinton showed in '16 [that] once you get a lead in the Democratic primary, it is very hard to lose it. Because we don’t have winner-take-all states, the front-runner is always accumulating delegates."
- "Trump would not have been the nominee in '16 had the non-Trumpers consolidated. They never did and he got the nomination. We are looking at the same scenario."
Go deeper: Bernie Sanders' uneasy New Hampshire win