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How Bernie Sanders Could Win Super Tuesday ... Or Lose Really Badly

Supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders cheer and hold up signs, including one of Sanders, during a campaign rally at Colorado State University Sunday.
Jacquelyn Martin
Supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders cheer and hold up signs, including one of Sanders, during a campaign rally at Colorado State University Sunday.

Hillary Clinton goes into Super Tuesday with a 26-pledged-delegate lead (91-65) over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. She also has a 433-superdelegate lead (453-20).

In crunching some numbers, an NPR analysis finds one very rosy scenario for Sanders in which he comes out with the majority of pledged delegates on Super Tuesday. This is considered unlikely, but it's his best possible day.

The analysis also shows close to Clinton's best day, including winning Colorado, Massachusetts and Oklahoma — all places Sanders is targeting. It gives Sanders big wins in Vermont and Minnesota.

That second scenario would give Clinton a 151-delegate win. So our range for Tuesday in pledged delegates appears to be something like Sanders plus-1 to Clinton plus-151.

Here are scenarios:

1. The Sanders win – 433-432

Wins in Colorado with 60 percent; Massachusetts (55 percent); Minnesota (70 percent); Oklahoma (60 percent); and Vermont (90 percent). Clinton would be held to 55 percent in delegate-rich Texas and Virginia; 57 percent in Arkansas, where her husband was governor and she was first lady; 60 percent in Alabama and Georgia, two states where half the Democratic electorate is black; 55 percent in Tennessee; and 58 percent in American Samoa. (Of course, with superdelegates factored in, Sanders is still swamped, but don't consider that for the sake of this analysis.)

2. The Clinton blowout – 508-357

Clinton wins big in Texas (60 percent); Alabama and Georgia (70 percent each, like in South Carolina); Arkansas and Tennessee (65 percent each); Virginia (60 percent); and takes Colorado and Massachusetts (with 55 percent each), where Sanders is hoping to do well; as well as Oklahoma (53 percent); and even gets the extra delegate out of American Samoa with 60 percent; Sanders would be held to 60 percent in Minnesota and 75 percent in his home state of Vermont.

The reality, as usual, is probably somewhere in between.

Either way, neither will have enough delegates out of Super Tuesday to mathematically be the nominee (2,383) — though two very different storylines would emerge.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit

Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.
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