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Sanders 'Going After Every Last Vote' Ahead of Key Tuesday Primaries

The Democratic candidates are scrambling across five states in the lead-up to Tuesday's match-ups in Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Illinois, and Missouri.
Photo by Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP

The presidential campaign that wouldn't seem to end goes into another round on Tuesday with major primary contests in a handful of large states. For the Democrats, Tuesday represents an opportunity for Hillary Clinton to grow her delegate lead, while for Bernie Sanders its a make-or-break moment to stem the tide and keep his campaign in the race for the nomination.

Sanders is gaining on Clinton in two of the five states holding primary contests on Tuesday. Both campaigns acknowledged the tightening race in last-minute appeals for cash from supporters ahead of the contests in Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Illinois, and Missouri.


On Monday, the Sanders campaign sent out an email to supporters saying that ahead of the Tuesday primaries "we are so damn close."

"Let me tell you, Bernie is going after every. last. vote. today. Before midnight he'll hold five rallies in four of the states with a primary tomorrow: Ohio, North Carolina, Missouri, and Illinois," the campaign wrote in the email.

Clinton sent out a similar written plea for campaign contributions, telling supporters: "I'm fighting my heart out for every vote."

Unlike some of the Republican primaries on Tuesday that are winner-take-all, all Democratic contests hand out their delegates proportionally so even close losses for either candidate on Tuesday could result in a near-tie in the delegate count. Sanders, who has focused his efforts on a small number of winnable states on past primary days, is now shifting his campaign strategy to pick up as many delegates as possible, even in states he knows he will lose.

Clinton is on track to win more delegates in the key state of Florida, which 246 delegates, the most up for grabs on Tuesday night. She is currently leading by a wide margin there, but Sanders is currently falling within the margin of error in polling in several of the other states. Wins for Sanders in the upcoming contests would boost his momentum, but he will need to capture a significant number of the 780 delegates up for grabs on Tuesday to put him on a track to win the nomination. The former secretary of state currently has 766 pledged delegates to the senator's 551.


"The goal Tuesday is to win as many delegates as we can. And if we can win states, too, that's a big plus," Sanders campaign strategist Tad Devine told Market Watch. "Now we have to build a foundation of delegates. A lot of delegates are in play [on Tuesday]. We can get a lot of them, we think. The advertising in some of these [Florida and North Carolina] markets may make the difference."

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In Illinois, where recent polling shows that Sanders has climbed back from a 20-point disadvantage last month to just 2 percent behind Hillary Clinton, the campaign is hoping for an upset, similar to the one he seemingly pulled out of nowhere in Michigan last week. One of Sanders' tactics this week has been to distance himself as much as possible from embattled Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and highlight his deep ties with the Clintons.

"Hillary Clinton proudly lists Mayor Rahm Emanuel as one of her leading mayoral endorsers," Mr. Sanders said at a rally in Illinois on the weekend. "Well let me be as clear as I can be: based on his disastrous record as mayor of the city of Chicago, I do not want Mayor Emanuel's endorsement if I win the Democratic nomination."

Emanuel is a former senior advisor to Bill Clinton who worked on the controversial 1994 crime bill, which many have blamed for bringing in an era of mass incarceration that discriminated against minorities, particularly African Americans. And the mayor has been in hot water both in Chicago and nationally over his handling of the Laquan McDonald shooting.


Sanders did not go as far as echo public calls for Emanuel's resignation over the shooting, which have reached a crescendo in recent months. But the senator did chastise Emanuel failing to prevent widespread violence across Chicago, and accused him of closing schools and firing teachers as well.

The issues of police brutality and gun violence will also resonate with voters in Missouri on Tuesday, where polls show the open primary contest between the Democrats is currently too close to call. Ferguson, Missouri was ground zero for protests that broke out after the August 9, 2014 police shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown, which gave rise to the Black Lives Matter movement. The latest Public Policy Polling survey has Sanders slightly ahead at 47-46 in Missouri, where African-Americans account for 11 percent of the electorate.

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In delegate-heavy Florida, a recent poll has Clinton well ahead of Sanders, besting the senator by as much as 30 percentage points. Last week, the candidates battled it out over immigration at a debate in the state, which has the third largest Hispanic population of any state in the country. Hispanics make up 23 percent of Florida's population. The state also has significant black and elderly populations, both of which have showed overwhelming support for Clinton's campaign in other states this election cycle.


Clinton is also currently polling well ahead of Sanders in North Carolina. A win there on Tuesday would continue her sweep of Southern states with larger black populations. But Sanders hasn't been ready to give up on the state yet, and recently outspent Clinton 3-to-1 on TV ads there.

"Senator Sanders has proven time and again that he's going to compete for every vote in this campaign, and his supporters are working hard to help him win," Clinton wrote in an email to supporters Monday. "They raised $5 million in a single day after they won Michigan, and they're going to outspend us in some of these states tomorrow, just as they did in Michigan, New Hampshire, Colorado, and more."

In Ohio, polling has been jumpy this month, with some surveys putting Clinton ahead by up to 30 points, while others indicate just a 5-point gap in the secretary's favor. Pollsters have had to readjust their methods of surveying after Michigan, which Sanders narrowly won last week despite predictions he would lose by double digits.

The Sanders campaign caused a little stir in Ohio last week when they filed a lawsuit against the Republican secretary of state, Jon Husted, claiming that he changed a state law allowing 17-year-olds to vote in order to prevent them from participating in the presidential primaries. On Friday, an Ohio judge handed the campaign a small victory, ruling that teens who will turn 18 before Election Day in November will be allowed to vote in the state's presidential primary on Tuesday after all.

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Follow Liz Fields on Twitter: @lianzifields

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