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The Path Ahead For Bernie Sanders After Super Tuesday


The Democratic presidential contest is quickly becoming a two-candidate race. Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg suspended his campaign today and endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden. That's after Biden's strong showing last night - Super Tuesday. Biden currently holds a delegate lead over Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who had this to say earlier today.


BERNIE SANDERS: Now, I haven't seen the latest delegate count, but my guess is that after California was thrown into the hopper, it's going to be pretty close. We may be up by a few; Biden may be up by a few. But I think we go forward basically neck and neck.

SHAPIRO: NPR political correspondent Scott Detrow is with the Sanders campaign in Burlington, Vt.

Hi, Scott.


SHAPIRO: So tell us what else Sanders said at that news conference today that we just heard a snippet of.

DETROW: He really clarified what we've been hearing from the Sanders campaign for the last week or so, and that is they are going to focus going forward on sharp critiques of former Vice President Joe Biden's record, particularly his long voting record in the Senate. Here's what Sanders said today.


SANDERS: Joe Biden is somebody I have known for many years. I like Joe. I think he's a very decent human being. Joe and I have a very different voting record. Joe and I have a very different vision for the future of this country. And Joe and I are running very different campaigns.

DETROW: And take Sanders at his word; he does personally like Joe Biden. But he sees issues as very fair game, and he is going to be criticizing Biden's track record - his vote for the war in Iraq, his vote for trade deals like NAFTA, for a bankruptcy bill that is very unpopular with large chunks of the Democratic base. He's going to be doing that a lot going forward. And this morning, the Sanders campaign announced that they are featuring these issues in ads they're going to be running soon - that NAFTA vote on an ad that runs in Michigan and Biden's past position of wanting to rein in Social Security in Florida, very on-point topics for those two states.

SHAPIRO: Yeah. What did Sanders say today about voter turnout? Because for months, he's been promising that he can turn out young voters, infrequent voters, and so far that just hasn't happened.

DETROW: It hasn't happened at all. This is something he says at every single rally, and it's the big argument he makes for why he's the more electable candidate than Joe Biden. He was pretty blunt about the fact that so far it has not been what he's wanted to see.


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 into the political process. It is not easy.

DETROW: And this is an interesting evolution to this argument. Before Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada in particular, Sanders was promising if we have the biggest turnout this primary or caucus has ever seen, we will win. Now the argument from him and some of his surrogates is, well, it's coming, just not until November.

SHAPIRO: Scott, let me pivot you to the Biden campaign. A lot of late-deciding voters broke for Biden in the past several days. How can his campaign keep up the momentum for the next round of states ahead?

DETROW: Well, it's hard to have 15-point-or-so shifts over the course of the day going forward. But certainly, Biden is hoping to continue to have that energy, that increased vigor that you've seen on the campaign trail in the last few weeks or so. I think one thing he has going for him is the next few sets of states to vote, Mississippi and Missouri next week, those are the types of states Biden could do well in - Florida and Ohio after that on March 17.

I think next week, Michigan is the big showdown, not in terms of delegates but the symbolism and the narrative. This is one of those states that Trump flipped to win in 2016 and Democrats need to win back. It's Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania - there has been a year-plus conversation about which Democrat is best positioned to win those states, and Michigan is the first state which offers a real-life chance of which Democrat do voters there want to see as the nominee.

SHAPIRO: As you mentioned, today's big news is Mike Bloomberg dropping out and endorsing Biden. What is that likely to bring to the Biden campaign beyond money, which I'm sure the campaign is hoping for?

DETROW: (Laughter) I think the biggest question is how quickly Bloomberg converts his campaign into some sort of Biden-aiding superPAC. As much as Mike Bloomberg himself disappointed on the campaign trail, he had really polished advertising that just inundated the United States of America. That's something that Joe Biden has been lacking, and he's been vastly outspent by a lot of his opponents. If Bloomberg is on the air quickly with ads for Biden, that could make a big difference.

SHAPIRO: And Elizabeth Warren's team says she's assessing the path forward. Does she have one?

DETROW: It's really hard to see it, especially after coming in third place in her home state, trailing Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. That's something that many candidates don't come back from. Sanders was asked today whether he's talked to Warren. He said they had a conversation earlier today. He spoke very carefully when answering that question, and he said he's going to leave her to make up her own mind in the race. If he does get out, though, I don't think it's a guarantee that the bulk of her supporters would go to Bernie Sanders.

SHAPIRO: All right.

NPR's Scott Detrow, thank you.

DETROW: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Detrow is a White House correspondent for NPR and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast.