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In the lead-up to the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses and the Feb. 11 New Hampshire primary, I’ll offer my analysis while on the ground in those two states about who won the last 24 hours in the 2020 presidential contest. It’s crunch time, and every day in the primary race really matters. Many voters are finally tuning in, and history is filled with examples of how one late move made the difference. Some winners in this feature will be obvious, others will be contrarian, and sometimes the victor of the last 24 hours might not be a presidential candidate at all. — James Pindell

Who won the 24 hours between Tuesday morning and Wednesday morning?

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Winner: Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont

Sanders seems to be peaking in the Democratic presidential contest at exactly the right time — and his rivals appear dumbfounded.

Sanders is now the front-runner in Iowa and New Hampshire, according to the Real Clear Politics polling averages. In the modern era, everyone who won both states went on to win the nomination.

But it is not just the early states. A Tuesday poll showed Sanders with a solid lead in the biggest prize of all: delegate-rich California. Sanders led Elizabeth Warren there, 26 percent to 20 percent. Also on Tuesday, Sanders announced that he will begin television advertising in California and the other major Super Tuesday state, Texas.

The biggest problem for his rivals is that polling consistently shows the Vermont senator’s supporters are more committed to him than those who say they are leaning toward other candidates but are still making up their minds.

And it’s not just the polls. While he is in Washington at the impeachment trial, his supporters are flooding his events in Iowa to see campaign surrogates. Rival events without the actual candidate don’t come close.

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Moderates like Joe Biden and Amy Klobuchar have tried to use Sanders as a foil to galvanize their supporters. For example, Biden even invoked his name in a fund-raising e-mail, citing the Sanders campaign’s “enormous war chest." And on the stump, Biden has used Sanders to bolster his own claim that he is more electable than anyone else in the field.

On the left, Warren bypassed an opportunity on PBS to draw distinctions with Sanders and simply noted their friendship, as she did when she was the front-runner in the early fall.

To be clear, Sanders is a long, long way from being crowned the Democratic nominee at this summer’s convention, but another 24 hours just went by, and his rivals have done nothing to stop him.

Something could easily trip up Sanders, though. Maybe it will be an off-color remark. Maybe his ground game isn’t what is promised. Maybe his health fails. Maybe it is a new, well-funded television ad set to air Wednesday morning in Iowa featuring residents saying they don’t think Sanders can win. In the ad, one person even mentions his October heart attack.

But, so far, nothing seems to be stopping his momentum.

Even though Sanders has been stuck in Washington unable to campaign, he is still a winner, at the moment.


James Pindell can be reached at james.pindell@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamespindell.