Bernie Sanders' Plan to Survive Super Tuesday

It won't be easy to pull off, but Sanders has said he expects to win four states, and exceed expectations in a fifth

Coming off a tough loss in South Carolina, Bernie Sanders is facing an uphill battle on Super Tuesday — but he has a plan to try and stay in the race. Credit: Jacquelyn Martin/AP

If Bernie Sanders' political revolution really is coming, tonight — once the Super Tuesday returns roll in — is when we'll know.

It won't necessarily be easy for Bernie. The demographics in states like Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Texas and Virginia are more similar to South Carolina, where Sanders took a nearly 50-point bruising last weekend, than to New Hampshire, where he ran up a 20-point victory against Hillary Clinton last month.

Sanders himself knows Super Tuesday is going to be tough — but he has a plan to hang on, and make up any delegate deficit he incurs in bigger, later contests in New York and California. He's got enough money to hunker down for the long haul, too; on Monday, Sanders' campaign announced that it raised more than $40 million dollars in February alone.

Sanders has said he expects to win four states on Super Tuesday, and to exceed expectations in a fifth. Here's his game plan.

Vermont
First and foremost is Sanders' home state of Vermont, where Bernie will be watching the returns alongside alt-rocker Ben Folds tonight. Sanders has a long history in the land of Ben & Jerry: He was mayor of the state's biggest city, Burlington, before representing Vermonters in the U.S. House and, now, the Senate. Leading by an average of 75 points in the polls, he is all but guaranteed a blowout victory, and with it, a very good chance of taking home all 16 of the state's delegates.

Minnesota and Colorado
Not a lot of polling has been done in these two overwhelmingly white Midwestern states, but they are both caucus contests, a feature that encourages the Sanders campaign. Conventional wisdom holds that caucuses favor the candidate with the more dedicated and motivated supporter base; those voters are the ones who will convince family and friends to turn out, and who can sway uncommitted caucus-goers to their side. That said, it will be an uphill battle for Bernie: The two polls that have been conducted in Minnesota and Colorado both show Clinton up by more than 20 points, and she also benefits from the endorsements of both states' governors. Sanders has rallied massive crowds in both places, though, and observers on the ground predict the contests will be close.

Oklahoma
Oklahoma could be a surprise win for Sanders — his campaign has been ramping up efforts in the reliably conservative state as surveys show middle- and lower-middle-class voters responding to his campaign's message. A poll released Monday had the senator up five points over Clinton in the Sooner State, and he's drawn increasingly large crowds in Oklahoma despite his opposition to fracking — or perhaps because of his acknowledgement that fracking is likely behind an increase in earthquakes in the state.

Massachusetts
Both New Hampshire, where Sanders won big in February, and Vermont, where he is expected to win even bigger on Tuesday, border Massachusetts. As you might expect, voters in the three states bare a striking resemblance to one another: They're mostly white, and very progressive. The state should have been a lock for Sanders — and he said just a few days ago he still expects "to do really well" there — but Clinton has waged a formidable campaign, lining up the backing of nearly every Massachusettsian in Congress, with the notable exception of Elizabeth Warren. Warren has, officially, stayed on the sidelines, despite signals that she prefers Sanders to Clinton and intimations from Sanders that he would consider selecting her as his running mate if he won. Even without her explicit support, Sanders has managed to make huge gains in the state, coming back from a 25-point deficit this fall. Will it be enough? Recent polls are close, and split.