By LAURA MECKLER – – – –
Top aides to Sen. Bernie Sanders said Wednesday that he would press ahead in his race for the Democratic presidential nomination, downplaying the Super Tuesday states as demographically favorable for his rival, Hillary Clinton.
Mrs. Clinton won across the South, all states with large shares of black voters who overwhelmingly favor her, the Sanders camp noted, predicting that he would thrive as the race moved to more favorable terrain.
“We still think we have a winning hand in this game, and we’re going to continue to play it,” said Tad Devine, Mr. Sanders’s chief strategist. He said that Mr. Sanders would overtake Mrs. Clinton with wins in upcoming states, starting this weekend with caucuses in Nebraska, Kansas and Maine, and then in Michigan’s primary on Tuesday.
Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook countered with a memo laying out Mrs. Clinton’s mathematical advantages and noting that her lead in pledged delegates is now larger than that which then-Sen. Barack Obama ever had against Mrs. Clinton in their drawn-out 2008 battle.
He said that Mr. Sanders may win in this weekend’s caucuses, but she will counter with victory in Louisiana, which also votes on Saturday. If Mr. Sanders wins in Michigan, Mr. Mook said, Mrs. Clinton will offset that with victory in Mississippi, which votes the same day.
“Over the upcoming weeks, we intend to steadily add to Hillary Clinton’s already sizeable lead in delegates, and as we do, it will become harder and harder mathematically for Sen. Sanders to ever catch up,” he wrote.
Under Democratic rules, delegates are awarded proportionally throughout the contest, which makes it hard for one candidate to pull away, but also makes it hard for a candidate to catch up once he falls behind, as Mr. Sanders has.
After Tuesday’s voting, Mrs. Clinton was assured of at least 581 pledged delegates, who are chosen by voters, with Mr. Sanders claiming at least 388. That includes two delegates Mrs. Clinton won in American Samoa, in addition to her haul across the South on Tuesday. The Mook memo contrasts Mr. Sanders’s biggest win in Vermont, where he netted 16 delegates, to Mrs. Clinton’s biggest victory of the night, in Texas, where she took 78.
Mrs. Clinton also has a huge lead among super delegates, party leaders who can vote for anyone. When those are included, her total tops 1,000, almost halfway to the number needed to clinch.