THE MORNING PLUM:

With the battle between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders for the spoils of New Hampshire already intensifying, ABC News gets a hold of an internal Clinton campaign memo that sheds new light on the degree to which she’s banking on nonwhite voters to prevail over Sanders in the many contests that follow:

“The voters of New Hampshire have a history of supporting candidates from New England. So it’s not surprising that Sanders maintains and double-digits lead in the polls there,” [campaign manager] Robby Mook wrote in the memo obtained by ABC News, referring to the Vermont senator’s double-digit lead in the Granite State.
“After New Hampshire, the races becomes considerably more challenging for Bernie Sanders as the contest moves to Nevada and South Carolina, states with electorates that strongly favor Hillary,” he added.
Mook noted that Clinton won a majority of the women, union members and minority voters in Iowa, demographics “critical towards winning the Democratic nomination.” He pointed out that seven of the 11 March 1 Super Tuesday states have large minority populations, specifically citing Alabama, Georgia and Texas as states that “are expected to see majority-minority turnouts.”

We’ve got a very real primary on our hands, folks. This is going to test one of the Clinton campaign’s crucial assumptions: that the early contests exaggerate impressions of Sanders’s support, because their electorates are whiter and more liberal than the Democratic Party is overall, meaning that when the full spectrum of Democratic voters begins to weigh in, Clinton will have a substantial advantage.

Now that it’s clear that we’re going to have a protracted Democratic primary, the Clinton camp’s bet presumably means a robust debate on issues that matter to minorities. Both the Clinton and Sanders campaigns appear to have anticipated this: prodded in part by the Black Lives Matter movement, they have already taken steps to showcase their records and positions on race and civil rights.

There’s sentencing reform: Hillary may be pressed to answer for Bill Clinton’s role in expanding mass incarcerations during the 1990s crime debates, which he has apologized for, presumably in anticipation of this coming moment. Meanwhile, Sanders has been stressing that decades ago, he fought for civil rights and school desegration, to answer criticism that he isn’t focused enough on race relations, and has vowed to do more than Clinton to combat institutional racism. There are likely to be debates over immigration (some of these states have large Latino populations), urban policy and voting access — an area where Clinton has rolled out ambitious ideas — and over the specific ways in which we might demilitarize police forces.

It’s worth noting that Clinton has an interesting built-in advantage here. Clinton is campaigning as the candidate of continuity, at least in the sense that she is promising to build incrementally on the Obama agenda, while Sanders is implicitly arguing that the change of the Obama era has been woefully insubstantial when compared with the scale of our challenges. Clinton’s positioning as the steward of the Obama agenda may alone give her an edge with nonwhite voters. But on top of that, our polling has shown that large majorities of nonwhite voters also view Clinton, not Sanders, as the one most likely to bring needed change, which suggests nonwhites may be less open to Sanders’s argument that what is needed is a scale of reform that dwarfs that achieved during the Obama years.

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* DONALD TRUMP REGROUPS AFTER YUUUUUGE LOSS: CNN reports that Donald Trump is unbowed by his Iowa loss as he heads into New Hampshire, where he holds a huge lead. CNN describes the questions Trump now faces:

Is it possible that his polling numbers elsewhere are overstating his true level of support, as they did in Iowa? Will the deficiencies in Trump’s political operation compared to the Cruz turnout machine in Iowa be repeated in later nominating contests? Was Iowa just a special case, or is Trump’s insistence on running a rule-breaking campaign based almost entirely on the buzz he earns from dominating the news media a strategy that will eventually bring him down?

All good questions, but as tempting as it is to believe that Trump is finished, all that has happened is that he came in second in Iowa, which under normal circumstances would hardly be catastrophic.

* HILLARY CAMP DOWNPLAYS EXPECTATIONS IN NEW HAMPSHIRE: With Bernie Sanders holding a large lead over Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire polls, Politico reports that the Clinton campaign is hoping to show that a Sanders victory there is inevitable and unremarkable:

The feeling at Clinton’s Brooklyn headquarters these days isn’t about pulling off an upset — it’s about closing the gap, and halting Sanders’ momentum by denying him an easy win in a state that should be a cakewalk….The campaign also appears to be turning its gaze to the battles that follow. Bill Clinton…will travel to South Carolina on Wednesday.

The Clinton camp must be desperate to get to those contests beyond Iowa and New Hampshire where the demographic and ideological makeup of the electorates is more favorable to her.

* TRUMP, SANDERS HOLD BIG LEADS IN NEW HAMPSHIRE: The latest UMass Lowell Tracking Poll shows that Donald Trump still leads Ted Cruz in New Hampshire by 24 points, while Sanders continues to lead Clinton by 29 points. Note this: “Rubio has gained slowly, but steadily, increasing two points each day since the poll’s release on Feb. 1.”

Rubio still has to get past Ted Cruz and a pile-up of “establishment lane” candidates like John Kasich and Chris Christie, who are hammering him relentlessly. But given the outpouring of media fawning over Rubio’s third place finish, imagine what we’ll be seeing if he places second in New Hampshire.

* MONEY GUSHES INTO BERNIE’S COFFERS: The Sanders campaign has announced that it raised an astonishing $3 million in the 24 hours after fighting to a virtual tie in Iowa. A Sanders spokesman says:

“Virtually all of the people who have donated to us have not ‘maxed out,’ unlike those giving to Secretary Clinton. They can donate again and again.”

The crucial point is that Sanders’s national following will keep the cash flowing every time he has a big victory, defeat, or otherwise noteworthy moment, meaning this battle could grind on and on.

* OBAMA TO VISIT MOSQUE: The President is set to travel to Baltimore today to visit the first Mosque of his presidency. The Associated Press comments: that this visit “comes as Muslim-Americans say they’re confronting increasing levels of bias in speech and deeds”:

The White House said he will focus on the need to speak out against bigotry and reject indifference. It’s the kind of effort that Muslim-Americans said they’ve been waiting for from America’s political and religious leaders.

It is not lost on the White House that this will contrast with a GOP nominating contest in which two frontrunners — Donald Trump and Ted Cruz — are wallowing in varying degrees of anti-Muslim demagoguery.

 * AND THE COUNTRY WILL BE DENIED THE BENEFITS OF PRESIDENT PAUL’S LEADERSHIP: Millions of Americans sob hot tears as Rand Paul drops out of the presidential race. What does that say about that vaunted libertarian moment?