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Mar 1, 2016 2:00 PM

Steinhauser: Why Massachusetts matters in Super Tuesday Clinton-Sanders showdown

NH1 News Political Director

BOSTON – Massachusetts is far from the biggest state to vote on Super Tuesday, but in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, it arguably may be the most influential.

With 116 delegates at stake and the final two polls of likely Bay State Democratic primary voters indicating she had a single digit lead over Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Hillary Clinton tag-teamed with her husband to campaign in the three largest cities in Massachusetts on Monday. And former President Bill Clinton also spent Tuesday morning stumping for his wife.

Monday, at a rally at the historic Old South Meeting House in Boston, the former secretary of state criticized her rival for the nomination without mentioning his name.

“I do have a difference with my esteemed opponent who wants free college for everybody. First of all that makes it really hard to control the costs. You gotta have some cost control in there,” said Clinton, jabbing at Sanders’s proposal for free public college tuition.

And Clinton also knocked Sanders over his record on gun control, telling the audience that “one of my biggest differences with my opponent, he voted against the Brady Bill five times. He voted for some really unfortunate legislation like giving immunity to the gun makers and sellers.”

Since her overwhelming victory Saturday in South Carolina’s primary, Clinton has trained most of her fire on Donald Trump and the rest of the Republican presidential field. While Clinton did knock them during her remarks in Boston, taking shots at Sanders appeared to be a sign of how much she’d like to top her Democratic nomination rival in a state that seems tailor made for him.

With a mostly Caucasian electorate in a progressive state stocked with younger voters compliments of its many colleges and universities, Massachusetts should be ideal for Sanders. But with polls suggesting a narrow Clinton victory, the Clintons launched a last minute full court press. Besides her stop in Boston, Hillary Clinton also campaigned Monday in Springfield. And the former President held a late night rally in Worcester. Tuesday Bill Clinton made four stops.

With Clinton expected to perform well in the delegate rich southern states that vote on Super Tuesday, Sanders needs to win big in his home state of Vermont, take the two states holding caucuses, Colorado and Minnesota, and possibly win Oklahoma. But the biggest prize for him would be winning Massachusetts.

At a large rally Monday night in Milton, Sanders was optimistic.

There are 895 Democratic delegates up for grabs on Super Tuesday and Sanders told the crowd “we anticipate winning many of them and a majority of them right here in Massachusetts.”

And Sanders also took numerous shots at Clinton over her vote in support of the war in Iraq, the big bucks Wall Street firms have contributed to a super PAC backing her campaign, and over her refusal to make public transcripts of her past speeches to major financial firms.

“My own view is if you’re going to give a speech for $225,000, must be a hell of a good speech and you ought to share it with the American people,” Sanders said to cheers.

Suffolk University Polling Director David Paleologos says Super Tuesday is all about takeaways.

"Clinton's takeaway has already been written - she'll claim accelerated delegate trajectory from her wins in Nevada and South Carolina. If she loses Massachusetts, she builds a wall around Bernie Sanders claiming he's only a northeast candidate with no broad appeal to the Democratic electorate nationally. But if she wins Massachusetts, she strikes at the heart of Sanders base, both regionally and philosophically, and that damage could be irreparable," Paleologos told NH1 News.

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