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Democrats ready for long primary with Clinton, Sanders

Julie Pace
Associated Press

Manchester, New Hampshire – — Just one week into primary voting, Democrats are preparing for a long and expensive head-to-head battle between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders that could go deep into the spring or even beyond.

Clinton and Sanders are both flush with campaign cash. Clinton has overwhelming support among Democratic Party leaders, but Sanders foresees staying competitive by drawing new and younger voters into the primary process. And while Clinton is seen as having an advantage in the delegate-rich states that vote in March, Sanders’ campaign is also mapping out plans to stay within reach during that all-important stretch.

“I believe he will have the resources to push this campaign well into the spring and we recognize this,” Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook told reporters this week.

On the heels of Clinton’s narrow victory in Iowa, both she and Sanders are competing aggressively in New Hampshire, which holds its primary on Tuesday. Sanders has held a solid lead here for weeks, leaving Clinton’s goal to pull off a stronger-than-expected finish.

But as they vie for victory in New Hampshire, their campaigns are zeroing in on contests that fall later in the primary calendar. More than half of the delegates up for grabs in the Democratic race are on the table in March, with a heavy concentration on the first of the month — an 11 state voting bonanza known as Super Tuesday.

Clinton’s campaign is particularly focused on seven Super Tuesday states with large minority populations, given that preference polls show Sanders lagging far behind in support from black and Hispanic Democrats. In a recent memo to donors, Mook singled out Alabama, Georgia and Texas, saying he expected more than half of Democratic primary voters in those states to be minorities.

Sanders sees opportunities on March 1 as well, particularly in Minnesota, Massachusetts and his home state of Vermont.

Even Sanders’ recent back-and-forth with Clinton over adding more debates was steeped in delegate strategy.

When Clinton requested a debate be held in Flint, which is dealing with a crisis over lead contamination in the city’s water, Sanders made sure the contest was scheduled before the state’s March 8 primary. He also successfully negotiated to hold another debate in California, which awards a large cache of delegates in its June primary.

Sanders wanted a debate in New York City, another delegate-rich target, but he was rebuffed. So now he’s turned his sights toward Pennsylvania, which offers a big delegate haul.

Clinton already has an edge in the primaries due to her overwhelming support from superdelegates, the party leaders who can support the candidate of their choice at the Democratic National Convention. When endorsements from superdelegates are included, Clinton has 385 delegates and Sanders has 29.

It takes 2,382 delegates to win the Democratic nomination for president.

GOP update

■A top New Hampshire member of the Republican National Committee and the state’s GOP U.S. senator are blasting ABC News’s decision not to include Carly Fiorina in Saturday’s debate in the first primary state, where the former technology executive has campaigned vigorously.

■Ted Cruz has mapped out a path to the White House that all but ignores the explosion of minority voters in America.

The Texas senator’s general election strategy depends almost wholly upon maximizing turnout among millions of conservative white voters — namely evangelical Christians and the white working class who didn’t vote in 2012. Cruz’s team also is banking on a sharp decline in black and Hispanic support for the 2016 Democratic nominee.