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An internal memo between top Bloomberg aides dated Feb. 17 warned that Sanders, a Vermont senator and self-avowed democratic socialist, is poised to leave the Super Tuesday primary contests on March 3 with a 400-delegate lead over Bloomberg that would be almost "all but impossible" to overcome. Remaining delegates would be divided among former Vice President Joe Biden, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
"If Biden, Buttigieg and Klobuchar remain in the race despite having no path to appreciably collecting super delegates on Super Tuesday (and beyond), they will propel Sanders to a seemingly insurmountable delegate lead by siphoning votes away from [Bloomberg]," the memo said. Axios first obtained a copy of the memo.
Bloomberg's top strategist Kevin Sheekey stressed the need for the centrist Democrats to coalesce to prevent a possible Sanders victory.
"The fact is if the state of this race remains status quo — with Biden, Pete and Amy in the race on Super Tuesday — Bernie is likely to open up a delegate lead that seems nearly impossible to overcome," Sheekey told Axios.
The sentiment inside the Bloomberg camp was echoed by David Plouffe, Barack Obama's 2008 campaign manager. In response to a delegate projection from FiveThirtyEight Editor-in-Chief Nate Silver, which showed Sanders likely capturing 41 percent of delegates through Super Tuesday, Plouffe said Sanders "would have a pledged delegate lead he'll never relinquish."
On the heels of back-to-back victories in Iowa (which he tied with Buttigieg) and New Hampshire, a national aggregate of polls by RealClearPolitics found Sanders with a commanding double-digit lead over Biden, in second, and Bloomberg, in third. Sanders is expected to have another strong showing in the Nevada caucuses on Saturday and in South Carolina on Feb. 29.
Because he did not enter the campaign until November, Bloomberg did not compete in the four early-voting states and is so far untested nationally. The three-time New York City mayor will make his debate debut in Nevada on Wednesday, where he's expected to field a litany of attacks from both progressive and moderate 2020 rivals.
The dire warning from Bloomberg's campaign stands in stark contrast to the stance it's taken publicly. During a Tuesday call with reporters, Bloomberg states director Dan Kanninen, who's listed as an author of the memo, said the race boils down to three candidates: Bloomberg, Sanders and President Trump.
“We are really down to a race where there are three people left who could really be considered viable to be sworn into office next year, and that’s Bernie Sanders, Mike Bloomberg and Donald Trump,” he told reporters. “And of that bunch, only Mike Bloomberg has a chance to beat Donald Trump in the fall election.”