‘Rocket fuel’: How black voters could deliver a Super Tuesday windfall to Biden

“We’re giving him rocket fuel,” said Rep. Terri Sewell, a Biden endorser who represents Alabama’s 7th Congressional District, which is synonymous with the Civil Rights movement and where Biden visited Saturday to commemorate the 55th anniversary of Bloody Sunday.

Sewell’s district, which is 63 percent black, has elite status in the Democratic nominating process. Because of its track record for party candidates, it has eight delegates to offer — three delegates more than the next closest district, which offers just five.

Winning big in a congressional district like Sewell’s, Biden’s campaign hopes, will also help him carry the entire state and therefore collect even more delegates awarded on a statewide basis.

“It’s not so much a multiplier effect that Biden can enjoy as it is a boost, an extra something, a little ‘lagniappe’ as they call it in French,” said Matt Seyfang, an expert in delegate counting who was working for Pete Buttigieg’s campaign before the candidate called it quits Sunday night.

Seyfang said the key for Biden was his mammoth win in South Carolina’s majority-black Democratic primary, where he nearly won 50 percent of the vote Saturday and almost kept every opponent below the 15 percent threshold needed to win (Sanders was able to capture 19 percent of the vote).

“It was a resounding ass-kicking,” Seyfang said. “Black voters came through in a big way. My hunch is that South Carolina gave permission for black voters everywhere, and some white voters, to vote for Biden.”

In Virginia, Rep. Bobby Scott, who represents the minority-majority 3rd Congressional District, said Biden’s win echoed there and should help him rack up big margins and carry the state on Tuesday.

“It had a tremendous effect,” Scott said. “In South Carolina, he carried the white vote as well as the black vote in every county, regardless of African American concentration.”

In the 14 Super Tuesday states, eight of these majority or plurality African American superdistricts are in play in five states: Alabama, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. Beyond giving Biden a potential edge on Super Tuesday, these districts will also serve as indicators for his campaign’s performance in similar districts in upcoming primaries — particularly in Southeastern states like Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia and Florida.

Nationwide, Biden’s campaign is counting on boosting his margins in 24 majority-black congressional districts.

In all, 1,357 delegates are up for grabs on Super Tuesday; it takes 1,991 delegates to win the nomination on the first round of balloting at the Democratic National Convention.

Heading into Tuesday, Sanders leads Biden in delegates by 60 to 54. The Biden and Sanders campaigns expect that the Vermont senator will still lead after Super Tuesday, in part due to an expected big win in progressive California.

The biggest state on the Super Tuesday map, California has 415 total pledged delegates at stake and 32 majority-nonwhite districts, including 15 that are majority Latino districts, four considered black districts and two Asian seats. In contrast, Alabama has 52 delegates and one majority-minority district — Sewell’s.

In another Super Tuesday state, Texas, 228 total pledged delegates are to be awarded. Both Sanders and Biden’s campaigns are predicting victory there, with Sanders hoping to run up by margins in Latino districts and Biden looking to do well in them, carry black voters and boost his standing with white moderates.

Recent polling indicates Sanders is winning Latinos and, prior to South Carolina, some in Biden’s campaign worried he would not be able to meet the 15 percent statewide threshold to qualify for delegates. But his big Feb. 29 win powered the cash-strapped candidate with a free-media infusion in California. Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, who won’t be competing after dropping out and signaling they’ll endorse Biden, could net him their delegates under some scenarios.

If billionaire Mike Bloomberg had not saturated the air with $50 million in TV ads, Texas Democratic insiders predict Biden would beat Sanders in the state.

North Carolina Rep. G.K. Butterfield, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, said “the 29-point win in South Carolina is reverberating across the country, particularly in African American communities. I was somewhat nervous in North Carolina before Super Tuesday, I’m much more optimistic. … I’m predicting a resounding victory in [his own congressional district].

Butterfield’s district offers eight delegates, a contrast to the neighboring 3rd District, which has only four delegates.

In Alabama, Sewell said she witnessed firsthand on Sunday how South Carolina’s win rippled into her district, which stretches from Birmingham to Selma to Montgomery.

“If the reception he received at Brown Chapel on the 55th anniversary of the Selma-Montgomery march is any indication, Alabama should go the way of South Carolina,” Sewell said. “For my district, Joe has shared values and decades of being in the trenches with us on the issues that matter most: health care to education to voting rights to civil rights. It’s an earned loyalty.”

In contrast, Sanders didn’t appear at the event.

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