The Note: Divided field makes it easier for Sanders to conquer Democratic Party
If the nomination is now Sanders’ to lose, might his rivals help him win?
The TAKE with Rick Klein
With one last debate before Super Tuesday, and one final contest before the race goes national, this week will be defined by attacks on Sanders from all -- yes, all -- of the major candidates still running. Amid confusion and contradictions in the field, time is ticking down on stop-Sanders efforts – assuming it’s not already too late.
The still-incomplete numbers out of Nevada tell the story of why it’s so hard to catch a front-runner -- and maybe this front-runner in particular. Sanders was the first choice of roughly a third of Nevada caucusgoers, meaning two-thirds showed up Saturday with another favorite in mind.
But Sanders’ support grew when non-viable candidates fell away in round two of caucusing, and he will walk away with more than half of the state’s delegates. Being able to compete and hit delegate thresholds virtually everywhere is a huge advantage, through Super Tuesday and beyond.
There’s ample evidence in entrance polls that Sanders is more in line with the party’s mainstream than many Democrats would want to admit. As in Iowa and New Hampshire, “Medicare for All” is proving enormously popular among Democratic voters, and Sanders’ Nevada victory cut across income and education levels and was he was particularly dominant among younger and Latino voters.
There is interest and then some in the party and among the candidates in keeping Sanders from becoming the nominee. There is also no shortage of potentially damaging information available to harm his standing.
But having lots of potential rivals could weaken them all -- and actually strengthen the man who has gotten the most votes, and who now has the most delegates.
The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks
In Nevada, Sanders demonstrated his ability to grow his base of support among voters. The question now: Can he change the hearts and minds of more party officials back in Washington?
Nevada was the first racially and ethnically diverse state to vote this year, and, according to entrance polls, Sanders won over 50% of Hispanic voters and 25% of black voters.
The only other candidate with double-digit support among both Hispanic and black voters was former Vice President Joe Biden.
Tom Steyer won 16% of black voters in the entrance poll.
Still, on ABC’s “This Week,” House Majority Whip James Clyburn said he thought Sanders’ affiliation as a democratic socialist would be an “extra burden” for House candidates to contend with, if Sanders were at the top of the ticket. He added that in his state, he felt South Carolina voters were “leery” of the term.
While Sanders might not like it, or agree with it, the Democratic Party rules stipulate a candidate needs a majority of pledged delegates to win the nomination outright at the convention. Sanders may be the front-runner, but with such a crowded field that's a goalpost that none of the Democratic candidates are very likely to sail over, meaning having friends and party officials who are not anxious about your candidacy could still be the key to any nomination.
The TIP with John Verhovek
No two Democrats in the race have more at stake for their candidacies as the campaign swings to South Carolina than Joe Biden and Tom Steyer. For Biden and his campaign, the Palmetto State continues to represent their "firewall" that they believe can spark a comeback. But even if the candidate or his campaign won't say it out loud, a poor showing in this week's primary could spell the beginning of the end of his third quest for the presidency.
Steyer, coming off a disappointing finish after investing millions in Nevada, has to see dividends from the tens of millions he's poured into advertising in the state to give any credence to his argument that he can assemble the diverse coalition he says is needed to defeat President Donald Trump.
Both men headed straight to the state following Sanders' rout in Nevada. And while Steyer's inroads with black voters in the state are undeniable, Biden brushed off the California billionaire's spending when asked how big of an impact it could have on primary day.
"I think the same amount he took in Nevada. Nothing,” Biden said with a smile, after speaking at a Baptist church in North Charleston on Sunday.
ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast. Monday morning’s episode features ABC News Deputy Political Director MaryAlice Parks and FiveThirtyEight Managing Editor Micah Cohen who break down the Nevada caucuses and how Democrats are approaching Sen. Bernie Sanders’ front-runner status. And, former Department of Homeland Security acting undersecretary and ABC News contributor John Cohen analyzes the responses from Sanders and President Donald Trump to reports of Russian election interference. http://apple.co/2HPocUL
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This report was featured in the Feb. 24 episode of “Start Here,” ABC News’ daily news podcast.
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