(CNN)A third of all pledged delegates in the Democratic presidential race will be doled out on Tuesday across 14 states — from California to Maine — in the single biggest day of the 2020 contest.
So, what’s going to happen? Good question! Below, I outline the five most likely scenarios to play out on Super Tuesday, with a special focus on California (415 delegates) and Texas (228 delegates).
5. Warren surprises (somewhat): There’s a reason that even as the field has rapidly narrowed in the last few days, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has insisted she is staying in: Unlike, say, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who looked likely to get embarrassed on Super Tuesday, Warren has a decent chance of actually surprising some people with her delegate haul.
In both California and Texas, which have the most delegates up for grabs and, therefore, matter most today, Warren is running a solid third behind Sen. Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. And, more importantly, she is above the 15% threshold to win delegates in each. If Warren can stay above that 15% number in both of those states, Tuesday will be a very good day for her campaign, no matter what else happens. (One kind-of caveat: Warren looks likely to lose her home state of Massachusetts to Sanders, which isn’t a great look.)
And if Warren does finish, say, third in the number of delegates behind Sanders and Biden after Super Tuesday, she would have very little incentive to leave the race — at least in the near term. Remember that Warren raised $29 million in February alone, more than she had raised in any three-month period prior. What that means is she will have the resources to continue forward — especially if she can get to a solid third place in the delegate hunt on Super Tuesday.
The continued presence of Warren in the race — through March and perhaps beyond — would be a bad thing for Sanders, who needs to consolidate as much liberal support behind him in as short a period of time as possible. But if Warren keeps collecting delegates and stays within shouting distance of the top two in the race for 1,991 (delegates, that is), there’s not a ton of incentive for her to bow out before the party convention this summer. Of course, that all depends on her ability to collect a significant chunk of delegates on Super Tuesday.
4. Bloomberg underperforms: The last 72 hours have been former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s worst-case scenario: Biden crushes in South Carolina’s primary and a rapid lining-up of centrist former candidates behind him occurs. The entire premise of Bloomberg’s candidacy is that Biden is too weak to win the nomination. And now, on the day Bloomberg’s campaign has focused all its efforts (and money) since he began running for president, he finds Biden with all the momentum.
Given the amount of money Bloomberg has spent on ads, staff and, well, everything else on Super Tuesday states (well more than $500 million), it has to be considered a major disappointment if he doesn’t make the 15% threshold for delegates in California and Texas. Polling in both states suggests Bloomberg is slightly below the cut-off line in each state; if he doesn’t make viability statewide in either one, it’s very, very likely that Bloomberg has a bad night — regardless of what happens elsewhere in the country.
One other area to think about: The South. Again, Bloomberg is the biggest spender — by FAR — in these southern Super Tuesday states. But if Biden’s stunningly strong performance in the black community in South Carolina is any indication, Bloomberg may struggle to get to 15% in places like Alabama and Tennessee, which would, again, spell trouble for his campaign’s future.
3. Sanders leads delegate chase and there is