Sanders eyes South Carolina with new confidence following formidable Nevada victory

By Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver

Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders is on the cusp of leading the Democratic Party after a decisive win in Nevada’s primary and momentum that carries him into South Carolina on Saturday and toward the delegate-rich states that vote next week.

Sanders’s frontrunner status has put some Democrats on edge that the liberal revolutionary will harm the party’s chances to seize the White House and hurt down-ballot moderate Democrats who helped put their party in charge of the House in the last election.

The biggest problem facing establishment Democrats is eerily similar to what happened to Republicans in 2016 as they plotted to take down President Trump: a splintered field with no signs of anyone dropping out in the near future, making it tough for the party to coalesce behind anyone in order to stop Sanders.

“Someone needs to pull an Andrew Yang and be like, ‘I’ve done the math. I’m not going to win,’” said Yang, who pulled the plug on his campaign after New Hampshire, on Saturday night. However, the remaining campaigns are offering reasons for sticking in the race — namely, that they have the financial wherewithal or a viable path to the nomination.

The post-Nevada landscape, however, has left Democrats fretting about a potential Sanders nomination and a potential path to block his nomination. One House Democrat complained to the Morning Report that some candidates in the field need to drop out, starting with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Tom Steyer, arguing that neither has a path to the nomination and each pulls votes from rivals who have better chances to topple Sanders. Neither Klobuchar nor Steyer pulled 5 percent support in Nevada, according to the most recent results.

The lawmaker added that reactions to Sanders’s momentum are mixed among front-line Democrats who could be most at risk of losing their seats in districts Trump carried in 2016.

“A few are concerned, but think they will be able to weather it. And a few are absolutely freaking out,” the lawmaker told The Hill.

The New York Times: Sanders looks to knock out Biden as pressure builds on Democrats.

CBS News: In South Carolina, Biden’s lead narrows, with Sanders and Steyer on his heels.

New York magazine: No, you drop out: Why Bernie’s rivals are all stubbornly staying in the race.

The Washington Post: As Bernie Sanders’s momentum builds, down-ballot Democrats move to distance themselves.

Biden has long proclaimed that South Carolina is his primary to lose. However, Sanders’s ability to win support from African Americans and Hispanics voters put a dent in the former vice president’s claim that he’s the top choice in states that have diverse electorates.

However, Biden still leads in the Palmetto State and is expected to receive the endorsement of House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) on Wednesday (Politico). Clyburn, a powerful political force in South Carolina, told ABC’s “This Week” that he expects the Nevada results to have an impact in his state, which will also host the final Democratic debate on Tuesday night leading into Saturday’s primary and Super Tuesday (The Hill).

MSNBC Kasie Hunt interview: Biden: “I’d vote for Mickey Mouse against Donald Trump.”

RealClearPolitics South Carolina polling average: Biden, 24.5 percent; Sanders, 21.5; Steyer, 16.5; former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, 10.8; Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 9.5.

Also complicating matters is money. While Sanders (along with Steyer and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg) has the financial means to compete for the long haul, the same cannot be said of many in the race. By the end of January, none of the campaigns working for Biden, Warren, Buttigieg or Klobuchar had more than $10 million in the bank, although most of the four had strong fundraising surges this month. Nevertheless, financial challenges would make it tough for candidates to keep pace during or beyond the Super Tuesday blitz.

Julie Pace, The Associated Press: Sanders’s path has echoes of Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Reid Wilson, The Hill: Bernie Sanders and the paradox of choice.

The New York Times: Five takeaways from the Nevada caucuses (the big one: Sanders takes control).

The Hill: Sunday shows – 2020 spotlight shifts to South Carolina.

Publicly, some Democrats are signaling they could support Sanders as the nominee. For instance, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told “Meet The Press” he has no qualms with Sanders’s stance on gun control, which has moved increasingly left in the past four years (The Hill).

Outside of the campaigns, high-profile Democratic pundits are loudly sounding an alarm. James Carville, who has been blasting Sanders for weeks, equated nominating him to “political suicide,” adding that those who believe Sanders can beat Trump are as “stupid” as deniers of climate change. Rahm Emanuel, who served as White House chief of staff to former President Obama, added that Sanders is “stoppable” but only if moderates coalesce around a singular candidate (The Hill).

Trump’s team, however, welcomes Sanders’s standing as the front-runner for the nomination. The president lauded the senator’s achievement in Nevada on Sunday before he departed for India, calling it a “great victory.” Marc Short, chief of staff to Vice President Pence, told “Fox News Sunday” that the White House would “look forward” to a general election match-up against the Vermont Independent.

“I think it would show a stark contrast between a president who’s had unemployment rates of 3.5 percent, helped create over 7 million jobs versus a candidate who I think continues to embrace socialism,” Short said. “I think that’s a stark contrast and record [for] people to choose from.”

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