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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Sanders, Biden and Bloomberg panning for big nuggets in the Golden State

Bernie Sanders, seen in February at a high

Bernie Sanders, seen in February at a high school in Santa Ana, Calif., is the likely front-runner for California's primary, which offers about a third of Super Tuesday delegates. Credit: AP/Damian Dovarganes

Numbers alone tell you why California becomes the supersized prize of the Super Tuesday states.

Consider that there are 1,357 pledged Democratic National Convention delegate spots at stake in Super Tuesday's 14 states.

Of that total, 415, or more than 30%, will come from California, which has a staggering 8.6 million registered Democrats.

But Tuesday's front-runner, who at the moment is expected to be Bernie Sanders, won't take all. Second place could be a huge deal when the results are reported.

That's where the suspense lies.

In California, 271 delegates are picked based on results per congressional district. To win any share of delegates from a district, a candidate must get 15% or more of the total vote.

Another 144 delegates are picked based on the statewide vote. Same deal in that group: Only those with 15% or more can win delegates.

So the difference between a second-place finisher — perhaps Joe Biden — getting 14% or 15% of the ballots statewide could mean his coming out of the Golden State with, say, 250 delegates, rather than 150.

One hundred delegates aren't chump change in a volatile contest like this. A candidate must win 1,991 pledged delegates to win the convention on the first ballot, and the survivors are still expected to be in a long slog from here.

Mike Bloomberg, the late entry facing national primary voters for the first time, has reportedly spent tens of millions of dollars in the state, including an estimated $36 million in its exceptionally expensive television market.

The question, of course, is whether his spending will pay off. On Monday, Bloomberg was campaigning in Virginia. It's another state that votes Tuesday — 99 delegates — and he has a lot of his own money supporting other election candidates.

Texas has the second-largest number of delegates at stake — 228 — followed by North Carolina, with 110. In Texas, recent polls showed Bloomberg and Elizabeth Warren hovering around the same make-or-break 15% mark.

In California, early voting began last month, which means that some candidates who have dropped out, such as Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg and Tom Steyer, will see at least a smattering of ballots cast for them.

Politically, California reigns as the prime blue state.

The Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, represents the San Francisco area. Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff is elected from Los Angeles County. Sen. Kamala Harris, a homegrown product of the state Democratic Party, attempted to gain presidential traction before dropping out in December.

The state government in Sacramento clashes regularly with President Donald Trump's administration in court and elsewhere. Vehicle emissions standards, immigration "sanctuary," public land use and the census have been political flash points for three years.

Last month, Joe Grogan, director of Trump's Domestic Policy Council, tweeted: "Just landed in California. POTUS power swing through occupied territory."

Take that as a hint that the president has all but ceded the state's 55 electoral votes for November to the Democratic nominee, whoever that may turn out to be.

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