WASHINGTON, USA – And then there were 5.
The Democratic Party set records last year for the size and diversity of its field of candidates seeking to challenge President Donald Trump.
Fast-forward to Super Tuesday, when 14 states vote in what could be the most consequential day of the nomination race, and the party has just 5 hopefuls left in the fight.
Three have called it quits since Saturday, February 29, while the top 3 remaining are all septuagenarian white men.
So where do the 5 candidates stand as the party struggles to find a leader who can unite its competing factions and defeat Trump in November?
Sanders, 78, had been the clear winner of the nomination battle until recently, emerging as the frontrunner after early votes in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada.
But on Saturday he finished a distant second in South Carolina's primary behind Joe Biden, raising the prospect of a comeback by the former vice president.
The success of Sanders, a leftist senator from Vermont, has generated alarm among party moderates who fear his policies are too radical and make him an easy target for Trump.
"They're getting nervous," Sanders told rally attendees Sunday, March 1, in California.
Sanders still has momentum heading into Super Tuesday, given his polling lead in California and the next largest state, Texas.
Trump has signaled he would prefer to go head to head with Sanders – who he has dubbed a "communist" – and has repeatedly mocked Democrats for scrambling to coalesce around a moderate alternative.
"It's rigged against Bernie, there is no question about it," Trump said Monday, March 2.
Barack Obama's vice president is proud of the loyalty he has earned among many black voters, and they came through for him in a big way in South Carolina.
Concern had grown that Biden's performances in debates and poor results in early states put him at a major disadvantage to Sanders.
By trouncing Sanders in the southern state, he revived his sagging campaign and knocked 3 rivals out of the race, including fellow moderates Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar.
Biden, 77, now credibly claims he is the Democratic centrist who can do battle against Sanders and bring American voters from various socio-economic backgrounds and disparate political ideologies together.
"The country is hungry, hungry to be united," he said Monday in Houston.
Bloomberg, a billionaire US media tycoon, sat out the first 4 early nomination contests and makes his Democratic ballot debut in the 14 states that head to the polls on Super Tuesday.
The former New York mayor, age 78, is focusing on California, with the single biggest delegate haul, and other prize states like Virginia.
But the late-starter is a major contender in the overall race, boosted by his vast, self-financed campaign budget – he has poured a staggering $500 million into advertising, a record.
Bloomberg says he offers the best chance of defeating Trump.
After disappointing results in the first 3 contests, the 70-year-old senator from Massachusetts tried to regain ground with effective attacks on Bloomberg in the past two debates.
But she failed to move the needle in South Carolina, finishing back in fifth spot.
As a progressive, Warren has suffered from Sanders' rise, and her prospects look to be fading.
But she has remained committed to the campaign, and is advertising or has booked air time in at least 11 states that vote after Super Tuesday, including Florida, Michigan, and Ohio, according to tracker Advertising Analytics.
The congresswoman from Hawaii has never been a strong contender for the nomination, but she has outlasted several better funded rivals.
Gabbard, 38, holds isolationist foreign policy views and is demanding US military withdrawal from Iraq as well as Syria.
In January she filed a lawsuit against the 2016 Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, for calling her a "Russian asset." – Rappler.com