Your Voice Your Vote 2020

The Note: Sanders' rivals look to slow down accelerating primary process

The race for delegates has become a race against time.

The TAKE with Rick Klein

The race for delegates has become a race against time.

The campaign that has seemed to last forever -- capped by this month, which has felt like years -- masks the fact that the Democratic primary season is accelerating at a pace that's uncomfortable for all the candidates, save the front-runner.

The challenge now for the candidates not named Bernie Sanders is to slow the clock and start winning, while not running out of money in the process. That has to start with a victory Saturday in South Carolina by someone other than the Vermont senator, with the hope that momentum and demographics combine -- and fast.

"If you send me out of South Carolina with a victory, there will be no stopping us," former Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday in accepting the endorsement of Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C.

The Biden campaign is hoping the race can follow a 1992-like trajectory, when Bill Clinton won only one of the first 11 contests before starting to lock down an insurmountable delegate lead.

But a front-loaded Super Tuesday -- the 15 contests next week include primaries in the two most populous states, California and Texas -- combined with a much-changed media environment, make historical comparisons imprecise at best.

If anyone can close out the primaries early, it's Sanders -- something the candidate himself realizes. After Clyburn endorsed Biden, Sanders continued to take aim at the former vice president.

"To defeat Trump, you cannot run a conventional campaign," Sanders said. "Same old, same old is not gonna do it."

The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks

The pending threat of the coronavirus is providing a chance for the Democrats to both point fingers at President Donald Trump and contrast themselves and their experiences with each other. Together as a party, Democrats have used this moment to rally their base and appeal to uneasy Americans, by arguing the president has been slow to respond to a possible health crisis and cavalier with details and facts.

"For almost two years, the Trump Administration has left critical positions in charge of managing pandemics at the National Security Council and the Department of Homeland Security vacant," Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, blasting the administration's response.

"The president from the beginning is saying basically, don't worry, no problem," former Biden said Wednesday night. "We ought to be doing something."

Trump has said the virus in the U.S. is under control, and he announced new plans and proposals for government funding on Wednesday to deal with future issues.

While much of the discussion in the Democratic primary has focused on what the candidates would choose to do, this health scare is a reminder that presidents spend much of their time responding to circumstances they cannot foresee or control.

Commander in chief also means crisis manager in chief, executive of the largest institutions in the country.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren has pointed voters back to her plans, which includes one to specifically deal with preventing and containing infectious diseases.

Biden and Bloomberg have used the moment to underscore their different, but impressive, experience as executives.

The TIP with Kendall Karson

The home stretch of the South Carolina primary hasn't been marked by many surprises so far: Biden clinched the weighty endorsement of the House majority whip on Wednesday during an emotional press conference and Sanders is benefiting from sole front-runner status after back-to-back wins in New Hampshire and Nevada. But one unexpected story coming from the Palmetto State is the subtle rise of Tom Steyer -- the other billionaire in the presidential race, spending $22.4 million to blanket the airwaves across the state -- who is unsettling what should be a settled contest.

Steyer's disruption of the last early contest could offer a preview of the Michael Bloomberg playbook for Super Tuesday, when the New York billionaire seeks to use his national name recognition and over $160 million in TV ads across the 14 states to reset the race in his favor.

In a recent NBC News/ Marist poll, Biden is only narrowly leading Sanders -- by four points -- potentially in part because Steyer, who has vigorously campaigned across the state more recently, is gaining ground and cutting into the former vice president's vote share. Steyer is currently sitting comfortably in third place, according to FiveThirtyEight's averages of state polling, a far better position for the former investment manager than in national polls.

In his aggressive campaign to win over black voters, a core constituency he is hoping will buttress his long-shot bid moving forward, Steyer is relying more on his alternative appeal, telling a predominantly black crowd at the National Action Network Ministers' Breakfast in North Charleston on Wednesday, "We don't have to go with a socialist who thinks the government has to take over big parts of the economy. We don't have to go with a Republican who did stop and frisk. The Democrats in South Carolina, get to make a reset. It's two-thirds African Americans. That is appropriate."

THE PLAYLIST

ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast. Thursday morning's episode features ABC News White House correspondent Karen Travers, who discusses the Trump administration's response so far to the coronavirus. Then, ABC News' Briana Stewart tells us how Democrats have been courting black voters ahead of South Carolina's primary. http://apple.co/2HPocUL

ABC News' "Powerhouse Politics" Podcast. Anita Dunn, a senior adviser and strategist for Joe Biden's presidential campaign, told ABC News' Political Director Rick Klein and Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl that she believes the former vice president will get a "real bump" out of his performance in the upcoming South Carolina primary. https://apple.co/2RgxmLL

FiveThirtyEight Politics Podcast. In a late-night installment of the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast, the crew reacts to the South Carolina Democratic primary debate. Sen. Bernie Sanders and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg took the brunt of the attacks, while former Vice President Joe Biden fought for a win in South Carolina. https://apple.co/23r5y7w

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY

  • President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump participate in an African American History Month reception at 6 p.m. in the East Room of the White House.
  • Vice President Mike Pence will deliver remarks to the Conservative Political Action Conference at 12:25 p.m. in National Harbor, Maryland.
  • Tom Steyer attends the Rural Health Care Orangeburg Leadership Breakfast at 8:30 a.m. in Orangeburg, South Carolina, and then hosts a meet-and-greet event with Dorchester Democrats at 6 p.m. in Summerville, South Carolina.
  • Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg holds a rally in Houston at 9:30 a.m. (CST), he then holds a rally in Oklahoma City at 3 p.m. (CST), followed by a rally in Bentonville, Arkansas, at 6:30 p.m. (CST).
  • Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, holds a town hall in Sterling, Virginia, at 9:30 a.m.
  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., attends a roundtable on voting rights in Greensboro, North Carolina, at 10 a.m., then holds a grassroots event in Raleigh, North Carolina, at 1 p.m.
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., holds a rally and march to vote in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, at 11:30 a.m., he then holds a rally in Richmond, Virginia, at 3:30 p.m., followed by a rally in Spartanburg, North Carolina at 7:30 p.m.
  • Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg attends a Health Equity Roundtable in Greenville, South Carolina, at 2:30 p.m. and hosts a town hall in Rock Hill, South Carolina, at 6 p.m.
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., holds a town hall with former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro in San Antonio at 4:30 p.m. (CST).
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden holds a community event at 6 p.m. in Conway, South Carolina.
  • The Conservative Political Action Conference continues at 8 a.m. with conservative lawmakers speaking in National Harbor, Maryland.
  • Download the ABC News app and select "The Note" as an item of interest to receive the day's sharpest political analysis.

    The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the day's top stories in politics. Please check back tomorrow for the latest.