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For Clinton, Winning Is Nice But Delegates Are Better

Hillary Clinton speaks at the Lyman & Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History in Massachusetts on Monday.
Justin Sullivan
Getty Images
Hillary Clinton speaks at the Lyman & Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History in Massachusetts on Monday.

If you want to understand Clinton's Super Tuesday strategy all you need to do is look at her travel schedule: Georgia, Arkansas, Tennessee and Monday in Massachusetts and Virginia.

In these states she's delivering a relatively new, more positive message. There's less drawing contrasts with her primary opponent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and more talk of "breaking down barriers" and "love and kindness."

"I want us to break down the barriers that stand in the way of people being successful, that stand in the way of America fulfilling our potential," Clinton told an enthusiastic crowd in Springfield, MA. "We have barriers. We have economic barriers don't we. A lot of people are working hard and feeling like they are just barely standing in place."

She adds racism and sexism to that list, among other barriers.

Clinton is also taking aim at the Republican field, in particular the insults and mean-spiritedness that have seemingly overtaken the race. She told a crowd in Springfield, Mass. that disagreements are part of the American DNA but "what we can't let happen is the scapegoating, the blaming, the finger pointing that is going on on the Republican side."

This new message served Clinton well in South Carolina where over the weekend she won a dominant victory, built on the strength of her support among black voters. She's hoping that support will also help her in Southern states like Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and Alabama.

A lot of those Southern states "are states that we expect to do well in," said Jen Palmieri, the campaign's communications director. "Some states like Massachusetts we are not confident that we can win."

Polls show the race in Massachusetts close, which explains why both Sanders and Clinton are campaigning there Monday. But for Clinton, it's not just about wins and losses (though she certainly wouldn't mind more landslides like she had on Saturday). As far as they're concerned Palmieri says: wins are nice, but delegates are more important.

"Even if you don't win the state, you can pick up delegates there," explained Palmieri. Democrats award delegates proportionally throughout the primary season. "And even if you're confident that you will win the state, you may want to spend more time there so you pick up more delegates because ultimately that's what's going to mean you get the nomination."

That's a lesson Clinton learned the hard way in 2008. This Super Tuesday she hopes not just to notch wins in key states, but to build a delegate lead that it will be nearly impossible for Sanders to overcome.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.
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