In the event you’re a California Democrat freaked out in regards to the prospect of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders dragging the social gathering right into a disastrous pummeling by President Trump, you should intently watch South Carolina’s main.

Perhaps Democrats shouldn’t be freaked. Maybe it’s overreacting.

However in case you are, maintain on to your California mail-in poll till the South Carolina outcomes are introduced Saturday night time. You’ll nonetheless have till eight p.m. Tuesday to get it postmarked or vote in particular person.

In case your fundamental aim is to ship Trump packing in November — and it’s for at the least half the Democratic main voters, in accordance to polling — then be guided by how the candidates emerge from South Carolina.

Select the strongest reasonable who appears to have the most effective probability of stopping front-runner Sanders earlier than he can nail down the social gathering nomination on the Democratic Nationwide Conference in July.

That in all probability could be former Vice President Joe Biden, if he can recuperate from humbling losses in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada. Lesser good bets are former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, based mostly on South Carolina polls.

Klobuchar and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who competes with Sanders for liberal voters, could possibly be pressured to quickly drop out of the race. They’re operating low on money. And their cash wells will dry up with out sudden robust showings in South Carolina and on Tremendous Tuesday, when California and 13 different states maintain primaries.

Klobuchar for VP.

California hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer has poured tons of his personal cash into South Carolina TV adverts and moved into third place behind Biden and Sanders, based mostly on polls. However come on, he doesn’t actually belong on the identical stage. He should run for governor or U.S. Senate — higher but the U.S. Home — earlier than operating for president.

Former New York Metropolis Mayor Michael Bloomberg possesses much more billions and has purchased hundreds extra TV spots, however has credible credentials to search the presidency: He was elected thrice to lead the nation’s largest metropolis.

However Bloomberg isn’t on the South Carolina poll. His first check earlier than voters can be on Tremendous Tuesday. So if all different moderates are trying weak, California Democrats might roll the cube on him.

There’s one all-important quantity to bear in mind. And that’s 15.

These are not simply magnificence contests as they had been in pint-sized Iowa and New Hampshire. There, victories had been all about exhibiting electability and gaining momentum. Now the primaries are about profitable lots of delegates.

California will provide a monstrous variety of pledged delegates, 415. There’ll even be 79 unpledged so-called superdelegates. Mixed, California will ship 494 delegates to the conference in Milwaukee — practically one quarter of the overall wanted to win the nomination.

Of the pledged delegates, 271 can be awarded inside the state’s 53 congressional districts. A candidate will want to obtain at the least 15% of the vote to win a delegate. Equally, 144 delegates can be awarded based mostly on statewide voting totals and, once more, there’ll be a 15% threshold for every candidate.

Proper now, Sanders is operating away with the California race, based mostly on polls, and it’s conceivable he might virtually sweep the state’s pledged delegates, or at the least win the lion’s share.

So Democrats who want to gradual him down should do the mathematics and vote for the reasonable with the most effective probability of breaking via the 15% barrier. And we’ll know extra about who that is perhaps after South Carolinians vote.

However whereas the Democratic institution has the jitters over Sanders and lots of moderates do, too, voters within the early contest states clearly didn’t. They made him the front-runner.

Sanders is an attention-grabbing character — a grandfatherly scold with a jabbing finger — who by no means emits any political doubletalk. I’ve all the time felt that his paradoxical enchantment to younger folks is just not merely based mostly on his liberal concepts — reminiscent of tuition-free public faculty — however his easy demeanor.

There are not any subtleties in Sanders-speak. He comes to the purpose instantly. Doesn’t waste phrases. Speaks clearly. And is constant.

Sanders campaigns the way in which most reformers profess to like: He doesn’t beg cash from particular pursuits or rich “fats cats.” He has raised greater than $96 million from 5 million-plus particular person donors who have given a median of $18 per contribution. That’s virtually exceptional in politics.

Californians have given him practically $24 million in small donations.

And Sanders reveals up. He has held greater than 30 marketing campaign occasions in California.

He has a really spectacular nationwide community of grassroots volunteers, the type of group most politicians discover an excessive amount of bother to arrange. In California, he has 23 places of work and 105 paid staffers.

“We’ve knocked on greater than 1 million doorways in California and made greater than 5 million calls to California residents,” says marketing campaign spokesperson Anna Bahr.

However the worry is that Trump would butcher him over being a self-described democratic socialist, dragging down your entire Democratic ticket and dropping management of the U.S. Home. Perhaps.

His “Medicare for all” fantasy could be attacked. Nevertheless it might by no means go Congress anyway. Higher to increase on Obamacare, as Biden advocates.

And face it, Sanders praising Fidel Castro for his literacy packages was simply plain dumb. He’d higher do a mea culpa in Florida or he can kiss off that state.

Quickly, Democrats should both unify behind a reasonable to beat Sanders or unify behind him to oust Trump.