Six reasons why Bernie Sanders became the Democratic front-runner

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Image: Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, speaks after winning the Nevada caucus while at a campaign stop in Texas on Feb. 22, 2020.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, speaks after winning the Nevada caucus while at a campaign stop in Texas on Feb. 22, 2020.Drew Angerer / Getty Images

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By Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Carrie Dann

WASHINGTON — Our new NBC News/Marist poll of South Carolina captures all of the different ingredients that could result in Bernie Sanders wrapping up the Democratic nomination in just a month.

One, you have the winner of Iowa and close second-place finisher of New Hampshire (Pete Buttigieg) sitting at just 4 percent among likely African American Democratic primary voters. Call it the Reverse Obama — the Iowa winner unable to play in the South and with African American voters.

Two, you have the slight Democratic leader in South Carolina (Joe Biden) at just 27 percent among all likely South Carolina Democratic primary voters after his fourth place in Iowa and fifth in New Hampshire — much lower than Hillary Clinton’s 74 percent that carried this state in 2016.

Three, you have one billionaire without a single delegate so far (Tom Steyer) at 15 percent and peeling away support from Biden — after spending some $20 million over the South Carolina airwaves.

Four, you have another billionaire who’s not even on the ballot in South Carolina (Michael Bloomberg) who continues to suck up oxygen in the race and who will make his second debate appearance tonight.

Five, you have candidates mired in single digits in South Carolina (Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar) who aren’t leaving this Democratic race anytime soon with Super Tuesday just a week away.

And six, you have Sanders trailing Biden by only 4 points in South Carolina and improving demographically across the board from 2016 — he’s at 20 percent among African Americans in South Carolina after getting 51 percent of the Latino vote in Nevada.

Add them all up, and you see not only why Sanders is the Democratic front-runner and why he could put away the Democratic race on Super Tuesday.

You also see how he might even win in South Carolina, a state he lost by nearly 50 points in 2016.

As far as tonight’s debate goes (more on that below), if a “Stop Bernie” effort doesn’t work, then it’s either fast consolidation or a slow coronation for Sanders.

Breaking down our South Carolina poll

One important point from our NBC News/Marist poll of South Carolina: It was conducted Feb. 18-21 – so all before the Nevada caucuses, which Sanders won by more than a 2-to-1 margin.

Here are the overall numbers among likely Democratic primary voters: Biden 27 percent, Sanders 24 percent, Steyer 15 percent, Buttigieg 9 percent, Warren 8 percent and Klobuchar 5 percent.

Among likely African-American Democratic primary voters: Biden 35 percent, Sanders 20 percent, Steyer 19 percent, Warren 7 percent, Buttigieg 4 percent, Klobuchar 2 percent.

Among likely white Democratic primary voters: Sanders 26 percent, Biden 18 percent, Buttigieg 17 percent, Steyer 10 percent, Warren 9 percent and Klobuchar 9 percent.

Also in the poll: 72 percent of Sanders backers say they strongly support the Vermont senator, versus 61 percent for Biden’s supporters and 60 percent for Steyer’s.

Bloomberg’s damage-control TV ad on women

Here’s Mike Bloomberg’s newest TV ad featuring testimonials from women who have worked with him. Here are the on-camera comments from a series of women:

"Working with Mike Bloomberg was one of the most empowering experiences that I've had."

"It's important to talk to the people who know him personally."

"I worked for him for eight years in City Hall."

"I've been working for Bloomberg for 27 years."

"25 years.

"30 years."

"There's nobody that I respect more and felt more respected by."

"Mike believes excellence is not defined by gender."

"Mike built a culture that advances women."

"First woman ever appointed to be counsel to the mayor."

"He expects excellence out of everyone. But he also provides the kind of support that allows you to be that person."

"Mike called to tell me you should be proud of what you've done and your name should be on that project."

"He has faith in you. He believes in you was about always showing up in doing your best."

"I always knew that he had my back."

"He was raised by an extraordinary woman."

"She supported him all along the way, and that's very much a part of who he is."

"Mike supports women. He promotes women and he respects women."

2020 Vision: Ready for Debate No. 10?

On the campaign trail today: Seven Democratic candidates – Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer – have qualified to participate in tonight’s debate from Charleston, S.C.

The debate airs on CBS News beginning at 8:00 pm ET, and it’s co-hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus Institute and Twitter.

Dispatches from NBC’s campaign embeds

Priscilla Thompson reports that Pete Buttigieg is changing up his stump speech to lean into a humility message: “’Campaigning is about humbling yourself,’ he told the crowd of roughly 100 people. ‘It is especially humbling to be asking for the trust of African-American voters,’ Buttigieg said, outlining the significance of a vote ‘that was hard won through blood and sweat.” All this led him to say, “I know that when I ask for your vote, I'm asking you to trust your life and your family's future to me.’ The former mayor went on to discuss, in overarching terms, his record in South Bend -- again emphasizing humility. ‘I can talk about all the things that we did together that we're proud of, but being mayor too is an exercise, not only in hope but in humility, he said. ‘I was humbled, again and again by the challenge, and by the intractability of some of the issues that we faced, knowing that we have so much more work to do to confront the impact of institutional racism.’”

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … 1,031.61 (or 3.56 percent)

1,031.61 points (or 3.56 percent).

That’s how far down the Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped yesterday at close after more coronavirus cases outside of China prompted worry about a global economic slowdown.

It was the worst day for the Dow in two years, as investors dumped stocks in favor of assets like gold.

At publication time, U.S. futures did point to a potential rebound when markets open Tuesday morning.

The Lid

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we delved into the state of the endorsement primary — as Joe Biden is poised to pick up a big backer in South Carolina.

ICYMI: News clips you shouldn’t miss

Hosni Mubarak has died.

South Carolina’s The State newspaper has endorsed Pete Buttigieg. (He’s also going up in Super Tuesday states.)

Yes, some Democrats are wringing their hands about the idea of a Sanders nod, but some in the Senate think he’s well equipped to take on Trump.

Catholic support for Trump is up, but as a whole, American Catholics still favor Democrats in 2020, according to a new survey.

Some are calling for Democrats not named Sanders or Biden to drop out. Their response: Why would I do that?

The White House wants $2.5 billion to fight coronavirus. Democrats say that’s not enough.

Trump Agenda: Bomb-ays away

The president has spent plenty of his time in India lambasting his rivals.

A group led by Ginni Thomas, Clarence Thomas’s wife, is among those pushing for the White House to purge those viewed as disloyal to Trump.

Meanwhile, speaking of the court, Trump says he wants Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg to recuse themselves from some cases.

Trump and Indian Prime Minister Modi are friendly, but that doesn’t mean that they’ll close a trade deal.

Richard Grenell’s paid consulting work before becoming the ambassador to Germany included a chunk done for a nonprofit funded almost entirely by the Hungarian government, the Washington Post writes.

2020: Breaking down our new poll

Here’s what you need to know from our latest South Carolina poll.

Mike Bloomberg plans to set his sights on Bernie Sanders in tonight’s debate.

An Arizona congressional candidate has suspended his campaign after a drug overdose.