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14 States Will Participate In Super Tuesday's Nominating Contests

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Well, the race for the Democratic presidential nomination is finally going national this week. It has been state by state until now, but tomorrow, voters in 14 states will have their say. If we look at the delegate count, the front-runners are Bernie Sanders, who has won two of the four contests so far, and Joe Biden, who secured a big victory in South Carolina over the weekend. They will be up against one fewer candidate after Pete Buttigieg ended his campaign last night. He addressed his supporters in his hometown of South Bend, Ind.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PETE BUTTIGIEG: I hope that everyone who has been part of this in any way knows that the campaign that you have built and the community that you have created is only the beginning of the change that we are going to make together.

(CHEERING)

GREENE: So what, if any, impact could Buttigieg's departure have? I want to begin that conversation with Karen Finney, who is with us this morning. She was director of communications at the DNC, also a spokesperson for Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign. And we should say, she's been skeptical of Bernie Sanders' electability in the past and has criticized the behavior of some of his supporters online. Karen, thanks for coming in again. We always appreciate having you here.

KAREN FINNEY: Great to be with you.

GREENE: So who, if anyone, do you see benefiting from Buttigieg's departure?

FINNEY: It's most likely that it will be Biden, given that he had such a big night on Saturday, which has, I think, refueled his campaign but also have - made a lot of donors and, I think, voters take a much more serious second look. And with Mayor Buttigieg out of the race, Biden looks - and since it's looking like it's going to come down to Biden and Bernie, I think his voters will likely move over to Senator - former Vice President Biden.

GREENE: Well, let me just ask you about that if - and why you believe that because, you know, I was looking at this Morning Consult poll recently - 21% of those who backed Buttigieg said they would turn to Sanders; just 19% saying Biden. So what makes you confident that they're going to go for Joe Biden here?

FINNEY: Well, I wouldn't say I'm confident. It just (laughter) - because I - you know, one thing I always say, after having been in politics a long time, you never know what voters are going to do. It's...

GREENE: Right. And that's...

FINNEY: ...Human behavior.

GREENE: ...The beauty of a democracy, right? Yeah.

FINNEY: Exactly (laughter). Exactly. Right, as much as we try to predict. No, I - look - I think if you - for the people who are looking for a moderate solution, you know, Vice President Biden is the person in this race who offers that. Now, it may be the case that we come out of Super Tuesday with it being much more clearly a Biden-Senator Sanders competition and, you know, that there are more splits within some - you know, we've got some Tom Steyer supporters out there, as well as Pete Buttigieg supporters out there.

GREENE: Or couldn't it be Sanders running away with this, possibly? I mean, he has tremendous financial advantage right now. He also won big with Latinos in Nevada, and there are Latino voters that are going to be voting on Super Tuesday. I mean, is it fair to say that he has the advantages right now, that Biden still has a lot of work to do to get back in this race and make it a two-person race?

FINNEY: Oh, no question. I mean, look - I think for Vice President Biden, I think he said this; he's got a lot of work to do. He - you know, he was fortunate that South Carolina - it was a pretty delegate-rich state. And I think it's important that we remember, in addition to the number of votes, this is really about the delegate count right now. And we know that, you know, tomorrow's Super Tuesday - Texas, California, two of the biggest hauls, and the first four early states represent 4%, actually, of the total number of delegates you need. So it just gives us a very early picture.

I think we could come out of Super Tuesday with a clear front-runner. It could be, you know, separated between three people, four people. That's the beauty of it. We just don't know.

GREENE: I want to ask you - I mean, there are Bernie Sanders supporters - and you could say the candidate himself - who has talked about the party kind of being against his candidacy. But, you know, I look back to 2016. I mean, you had former DNC chair Donna Brazile writing extensively about these discoveries that the DNC had been financing Hillary Clinton's campaign at the cost of Bernie Sanders in 2016. Can you reassure Sanders supporters that the party is not lining up against him to try and stop him from winning this nomination even if he gets the votes?

FINNEY: Well, couple of things, though, on that, actually. The - that is - what Donna wrote about was actually a little bit different than how you just described it. And remember that the party did change the rules so that he could actually run as a Democrat.

GREENE: But, I mean, she said that a lot of the finances were being controlled by Clinton allies, is that fair?

FINNEY: Well, it's because the DNC was broke, and they were going to really not be able to make payroll, and they asked both campaigns to do joint fundraising agreements. Senator Sanders didn't want to do it; Hillary was willing to put the money in.

GREENE: I mean, I don't want to relitigate that.

FINNEY: No.

GREENE: But what can you tell Sanders supporters....

FINNEY: Yeah.

GREENE: ...To convince them that the world is different today?

FINNEY: Well, look - I mean, Senator Sanders and - had a number of people involved both in the platform process but also, more importantly, in the reform process that happened after the election. That is why there were some changes to the caucus process that - you know, Senator Sanders wanted caucuses. There were people who wanted to do away with caucuses. There were - you know, he wanted to do away with superdelegates. There were some people who wanted to do - away with superdelegates and wanted to change the rules.

And so the rules that we're operating under now he had a big say in creating, and so I think that's part of why you heard Elizabeth Warren and others suggesting that his taking a - you know, changing his position is problematic, given that there was such a process that he was involved in this time to create these rules.

GREENE: The few seconds we have left - what's the one state you're looking at most tomorrow to see where this race is going?

FINNEY: Texas, both because, you know, based on just what we're seeing in polling but turnout. I mean, one of the things is - for Democrats, we're most concerned about is we've got to see bigger turnout and enthusiasm for turning out in the fall.

GREENE: Karen Finney was the spokesperson and head of communications for the DNC and a spokesperson for Clinton's 2016 campaign. Thanks so much for joining us.

FINNEY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.