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Asked during a press conference Monday if he still had a pathway to victory, Sanders said the answer was simple: “The short three-letter answer is: Y-E-S.”
But even he acknowledged that defeating Clinton in the party’s nomination fight will not be easy and he is facing a long, uphill battle.
“This is about is a slog, if I may use that word, state by state by state,” he said.
Looking past South Carolina, where Sanders continues to lag significantly in the polls ahead of the state’s primary on Saturday, the campaign is focused instead on "Super Tuesday" states and beyond.
As of today, Sanders and Clinton are virtually tied in terms of the number of committed delegates awarded from Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada (Clinton: 52, Sanders: 51). A candidate must secure nearly 2,400 delegates to win the party’s nomination and another 880 are up for grabs on March 1.
Of those "Super Tuesday" states, Sanders is making trips and spending money in Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Oklahoma. He is counting on a win in his home state of Vermont, where he has a commanding lead over Clinton. A victory in the delegate rich (and college campus heavy) state of Massachusetts in particular would go a long way to offset what could be ugly defeats for him in the deep southern states like Alabama and Arkansas.
Sanders himself has said many times, however, that he is planning to run his race all the way to the party’s convention in July. His campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, argued that the voting schedule is front-loaded in the South, which benefits Clinton. Bernie's campaign has its eye on states in the Rustbelt, mountain regions and far West, where Sanders could pick up much needed delegates.
“After ‘Super Tuesday,’ there are only two southern states left,” Weaver said in an interview with ABC News. “Then we go into the industrial Midwest where I believe the terrain is much more sympathetic to Senator Sanders' economic message, particularly around trade and the impact bad trade deals have had in places like Michigan and Ohio and Illinois.”
Weaver went on to talk about the support Sanders has received in small (and very white) states like West Virginia, Utah and Montana. “They don’t have ton and tons of delegates, but it’s a big country,” he continued. “It just happens that's an area that is core to the Clinton campaign on the front end, but that doesn’t take away from the support he has in all these other states.”
After the caucuses, Sanders’ Iowa state director was moved to Michigan, a sign of the importance the campaign is placing on the state, which does not vote until March 8. Sanders is taking time this week to visit Ohio and Missouri too, which both vote March 15. According to Eastern airlines staff, which runs Sanders’ charter plane, the campaign has signed a contract until the second week in March, more evidence that Sanders will be in this fight a little longer.