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Sanders, Biden Campaigns Face Challenges As Primaries Continue

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Joe Biden is now the front-runner in the Democratic primary after dominating Super Tuesday. Bernie Sanders is back on his heels, but might that energize his fight for the nomination? And the race goes on. Key states, including Missouri, Michigan, Arizona and Florida, will have their say in the days ahead. NPR senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro is with us to help us understand the dynamics of this race and how they've changed. Hi, Domenico.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel.

MARTIN: Let's start with Bernie Sanders and how he has responded to Super Tuesday. He's been talking a lot about turning out the youth vote. That did not happen, though, for him. Did it?

MONTANARO: Right. You know, Bernie Sanders' whole theory of the case for why he's the most electable candidate is because he promises that he can have record turnout and that nothing is more at the heart of that, frankly, than turning out young voters. So far, though, even Sanders is admitting that's not happening. Listen to what he had to say about that yesterday.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BERNIE SANDERS: Have we been as successful as I would hope in bringing young people in? And the answer is no. We're making some progress. But historically, everybody knows that young people do not vote in the kind of numbers that older people vote in. I think that will change in the general election. But I am - be honest with you, we have not done as well in bringing young people in (unintelligible). It is not easy.

MONTANARO: It's quite the admission from Sanders. I mean, the numbers don't lie. The only state where young voters have made up a greater share of the electorate from 2016 to 2020 is Iowa. And in every Super Tuesday state with exit polls or entrance polls from 2016, the share of young voters has gone down. And, you know, this is partially Sanders saying to his base of voters, look; I need you now, or I might not win this nomination.

MARTIN: Right. But what are they going to do about it? I mean, he says he thinks it's going to change in the general election, but he's not going to get to the general election unless he can get them out.

MONTANARO: And these are Democratic voters who should be more open to his message than a general election electorate.

MARTIN: So let's talk about Joe Biden. He's been really successful connecting with African American voters. But what kind of foothold does he have with Latino voters? I mean, arguably, Sanders is doing far better with that group, as demonstrated by Nevada and California.

MONTANARO: Yeah. You know, look; Sanders has really worked hard and invested in Latino communities since 2016. Places like Texas, he'd lost by a lot to Hillary Clinton; he's significantly improved this time around. Biden has done better with Hispanics on the East Coast rather than the Southwest.

And the lesson the Biden campaign has to take away from this is that you have to be in Latino neighborhoods and build trust and recognition. You know, frankly, Biden's team hasn't been as well-organized or done the kind of door-to-door grassroots campaigning the Sanders campaign prides itself on, and that's showing up in Latino communities. Biden, so far, has really banked on his name.

MARTIN: Michael Bloomberg - he's out of the race. But as several of our colleagues have pointed out on our air in the last couple of days, his biggest impact on the race could be yet to come, right?

MONTANARO: Yeah. I mean, the guy's spent half a billion dollars on this campaign, and he figures to spend more than that in a general election helping whoever becomes the Democratic nominee. You know, he certainly could pull up a chair and let Biden and his campaign team into their offices and just swap out the signs.

(LAUGHTER)

MONTANARO: That's certainly something that Biden's team is probably open to. Sanders, on the other hand, has said it's a hard no, that he would not take Bloomberg's money. Now, he's - was a little more equivocal last night on MSNBC talking about whether or not he'd be open to Bloomberg, you know, opening up a superPAC that might support him. Now, that's a little different than what he's been sort of selling to his base of supporters, but, you know, look; to beat Donald Trump, Democrats know that they're going to have to take every resource they can.

MARTIN: Right. All right. So as we look ahead to the next contest, can you help us do the delegate math? What are we looking at?

MONTANARO: You know, currently, Biden is in the lead with - ahead by 65 delegates. Sixty percent of the delegates are still at stake, and almost all of them are up for grabs between now and the end of next month. On Tuesday, we've got big Tuesday coming up, as we're calling it, another 300...

MARTIN: Big Tuesday - not so super, but big.

MONTANARO: Not so super - only 352 delegates - the big states - Michigan, Washington and Missouri. Bernie Sanders really has to run up the score in Michigan if he hopes to change the momentum here.

MARTIN: All right. NPR senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro, thank you.

MONTANARO: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.