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California will award 10 percent of all Democratic delegates. How are voters deciding?

More than 1,300 Democratic delegates are at stake on Super Tuesday. The biggest prize by far is California, where 10 percent of all Democratic delegates will be awarded. With three candidates leaving the race since the South Carolina primary, Golden State voters now face a narrower field of choices. Amna Nawaz reports on how they are deciding in this key contest on the path to the nomination.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Four hundred and fifteen delegates, nearly a third of all those up for grabs tomorrow, are in California.

    Amna Nawaz has been talking to voters in the Golden State ahead of this key race on the path to the Democratic nomination.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Well, what do you have growing there?

  • Susan Martin:

    Well, let's see. That's an orange tree.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Raised Republican in California's Central Valley, Susan Martin says she couldn't support Donald Trump in 2016, and now wants to see a Democrat defeat him.

  • Susan Martin:

    I want to know that they're going to approach it from a conservative, middle-of-the-road, commonsense point of view. If you have Trump here and our most liberal candidate there, I'm about here.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Susan lives in Modesto, and agriculture is big here, the area John Steinbeck once called America's breadbasket.

    Like a record 16 million Californians, she's had a mail-in ballot at home for weeks. And for her vote to count, she's got until Super Tuesday to mail that ballot in.

    The problem? She still doesn't know who to vote for.

  • Susan Martin:

    There's so many candidates, and it takes a lot to sort out all their different positions on things and figure out who is your best choice.

    I just want to wait until I have the best chance to make an effect with my one small vote.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Ninety miles north, in the sprawling suburbs of Vallejo…

  • Deborah Dickson:

    I have six grandkids.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    … we visit the home where Deborah Dickson gathers her grandkids before the family votes…

  • Deborah Dickson:

    We sit down, and we discuss each candidate. My young people, they have their thoughts about it. And I try to straighten them out. OK?

    (LAUGHTER)

    Good, bad or indifferent, these are the decisions that we made.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Like Susan, Deborah's had her ballot in hand for a while. But nothing she's seen, nor heard, she says, inspired her.

    What was the missing piece of information?

  • Deborah Dickson:

    It was more of an inspirational feeling. The words that were coming out of their mouths were not — to me, they were just — they were just mouthing them. They weren't really feeling them. And they didn't make me feel it.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Deborah says she just bit the bullet and filled out her ballot for Joe Biden.

  • Joe Biden:

    Thank you, thank you, South Carolina!

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • Amna Nawaz:

    The day after his decisive South Carolina win.

    What's the feeling when you finally get to check a box? Is it excitement? Is it relief?

  • Deborah Dickson:

    I'm going to say it's more of a resignation.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Another 30 miles away, the narrow city streets of San Francisco, where Stephen Prestwood and his husband have lived for over 20 years.

  • Stephen Prestwood:

    With having so many candidates in the primary, it's made it very difficult to determine who will be the best candidate to go up against President Trump. And I don't want to waste my vote.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Over the last several weeks, he's had his ballot. He's looked at everyone, from Bernie Sanders to Elizabeth Warren to Joe Biden. But he's given himself a deadline, sort of.

    You said your deadline is Super Tuesday.

  • Stephen Prestwood:

    It is.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    That's a whole day.

  • Stephen Prestwood:

    It'll be in the morning. I have to go to work.

    (LAUGHTER)

    So…

  • Amna Nawaz:

    That's the only thing giving you a deadline.

  • Stephen Prestwood:

    Yes. Yes.

    I may be turning on the dime and making the decision right then.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    So, the political landscape here in California changes with the geographic landscape. But the state is so vast that candidates can't campaign here the same way they did in early states. They have to be strategic about where they spend their time.

  • Paul Mitchell:

    California's really hard to move the needle just on doing coffee klatches.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Paul Mitchell is the vice president of Political Data, Inc., in Sacramento. He says California's 53 districts offer candidates 53 distinct chances to pick up delegates on Super Tuesday.

  • Paul Mitchell:

    We have districts that are maximizing the coastal vote, maximizing the African-American or Latino vote or Asian vote, even maximizing the LGBT population vote. And in that way, it has created this opportunity for candidates to come in and, even if they can't win statewide, to be able to target certain congressional districts.

    In the Central Valley, if you're the fourth-ranked presidential candidate and you show up to a barbecue, it's like big news.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Another factor for candidates to consider in California? Massive early voting and mail-in voting means momentum from earlier states is muted here.

    Mitchell says 5 percent of California's Democratic electorate had already voted before Bernie Sanders was named the winner in New Hampshire, 25 percent before his decisive victory in Nevada, and a likely 40 percent before voters in South Carolina brought Joe Biden's campaign back to life.

    So, does that mean that the contest in California is already decided?

  • Paul Mitchell:

    Well, you could say that the contest in California is 40 percent decided.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Polls show Sanders poised to do well in California, with questions over how his rivals could limit his delegate lead.

    For moderates who have yet to turn in their ballots, could Pete Buttigieg's and Amy Klobuchar's exits mean more delegates for Elizabeth Warren or Mike Bloomberg? Or will Joe Biden's South Carolina surge win voters over?

    This year in California, it may be up to the millions of late deciders to determine which way the state's political winds will blow.

    Voters here in California will have until Super Tuesday to drop those ballots in the mail. As long as they're postmarked by then, they're fine. But with millions of ballots still out, counting them and verifying them could take days, even weeks, some say, unless, Judy, there is a clear and resounding winner on Super Tuesday.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Thank you, Amna.

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