Quick Hit Friday: The 2020 Democratic Primary Calendar

The Iowa Caucuses, the first contest of the 2020 primary calendar, are scheduled for February 3, which is now just four months away. It kicks off a month of four early contests before the primary goes national with Super Tuesday. I’m going to make frequent references to this calendar in the coming months, including in this Monday’s Power Rankings, so I thought it best to have a brief post giving you an overview of when the contests are and how much each are worth.

First, some important facts to know:

  • There is no greater resource on the following than The Green Papers. Most of my information comes from that site.
  • From Iowa on February to June, there will be 57 primaries and caucuses — one for each state, Washington DC, the five United States territories, and Democrats Abroad.
  • The purpose of these contests is to elect delegates to the 2020 Democratic National Convention that will support certain candidates.
  • Each contest will have a certain number of pledged delegates up for grabs. The number of pledged delegates is determined by state population and the strength of the Democratic Party in each state, as seen through the number of elected Democrats they have and how frequently they vote Democratic in recent presidential elections.
  • Although these numbers are subject to change in minor ways, as of now the primaries and caucuses will elect 3,769 pledged delegates to the Convention. If that number holds, a candidate would need 1,885 delegates to reach a majority on the first ballot.
  • Unlike past years, the infamous superdelegates of the party don’t get to vote on the first ballot. Only if no candidate wins on the first ballot will these party leaders get to vote on each subsequent ballot. As of now, there are 766 superdelegates. Therefore, if no candidate wins a majority on the first ballot, the total number of possible delegates grows on the second ballot to 4,535, of which 2,268 would be needed for a majority.
  • However, I expect that most analyses, including mine, will look at those first ballot numbers, as an open convention, thanks to delegate allocation rules (more on that below) is pretty darn unlikely. (Sigh.) It’s essentially a race to 1,885 delegates, give or take a few.

Okay? Okay. Here’s the calendar:

Date Name of Caucus Pledged Delegates
3 Mon. Iowa caucuses 41
11 Tue. New Hampshire primaries 24
22 Sat. Nevada Democratic caucuses 36
29 Sat. South Carolina Democratic primary 54
Mar 3. ((Super Tuesday)) ((1357))
Alabama primaries 52
American Samoa Democratic caucus 6
Arkansas primaries 31
California primaries 415
Colorado primaries 67
Maine primaries 24
Massachusetts primaries 91
Minnesota primaries 75
North Carolina primaries 110
Oklahoma primaries 37
Tennessee primaries 64
Texas primaries 228
Utah primaries 29
Vermont primaries 16
Virginia primaries 99
Democrats Abroad primary 13
10 Tue. Idaho primaries 20
Michigan primaries 125
Mississippi primaries 36
Missouri primaries 68
North Dakota Democratic caucuses 14
Washington primaries 89
14 Sat. Northern Marianas Democratic convention 6
17 Tue. Arizona Democratic primary 67
Florida primaries 219
Illinois primaries 155
Ohio primaries 136
24 Tue. Georgia primaries 105
29 Sun. Puerto Rico Democratic primary 51
4 Sat. Alaska Democratic primary 14
Hawaii Democratic primary 22
Louisiana primaries 50
7 Tue. Wisconsin primaries 77
Wyoming Democratic caucuses 13
28 Tue. Connecticut primaries 60
Delaware primaries 21
Maryland primaries 96
New York primaries 274
Pennsylvania primaries 186
Rhode Island primaries 26
2 May. Guam Democratic caucus 6
Kansas Democratic primary 33
5 May. Indiana primaries 70
12 May. Nebraska primaries 25
West Virginia primaries 24
19 May. Kentucky Democratic primary 46
Oregon primaries 52
2 Tue. District of Columbia Democratic primary 17
Montana primaries 16
New Jersey primaries 107
New Mexico primaries 29
South Dakota primaries 14
6 Sat. Virgin Islands Democratic caucuses 6
July 13-16: Democratic National Convention ((3769))

Wikipedia organizes the contests into a handy color-coded map for us, used in today’s headline image:


Eight final thoughts on the above:

  1. The delegates of each contest will be distributed to candidates who receive at least 15% support in the primary or caucus, which is pretty important in a field this size. That means:
    • If only one candidate earns 15% in a contest, that candidate gets all the contest’s delegates.
    • If only two candidates win 15% of the vote in a state, they split all the delegates in proportion to their results. Even a third-place candidate who wins 14% of the vote (I’m looking at you, Bernie Sanders) will get zero delegates from that contest. This rule should help the party avoid an open convention. I suspect we’ll see two candidates winning nearly all of the delegates starting in March.
    • If more than three candidates are consistently winning 15 percent of the vote, we might get that open convention after all! (I’m looking at you, Bernie Sanders!) But that’s unlikely.
  2. The February contests combined only amount to 155 delegates, which isn’t much. However, the momentum of the February contests is everything, because whoever does well in those will look good heading into the first Tuesday in March — “Super Tuesday” — and this year…
  3. …Super Tuesday is worth 36% of the total delegates. Over a third! This math helps explain why the candidate leading after Super Tuesday has won every primary of both parties since 1988. Candidates who do well in February are the only ones deemed viable on Super Tuesday.
  4. California, the motherlode of all Democratic primaries, is an enormous Super Tuesday contest and will be the most important post-February state. Look for Biden, Warren, Sanders, and California’s Kamala Harris to give it everything they have to either get to 15 percent or hold competitors under 15 percent. Just 15 percent of California’s 416 delegates is 62 — weightier than any of the February contests and most of the other Super Tuesday primaries.
  5. Though barely half California’s size, Texas is the second largest primary and is also held on Super Tuesday — fertile ground for Texans O’Rourke or Castro if they are viable.
  6. If the primary is still competitive after Super Tuesday, March 17, with its 577 delegates, will be the next big day to monitor.
  7. After that, the primary will slow down until April 28th’s “I-95 Primary,” where six northeast states will total 543 delegates.
  8. I’d be shocked if the primary is still in doubt heading into May. If it is, the last 13 contests (ten states, 2 territories, and the District of Columbia) played out over six weeks will be incredibly dramatic. Maybe this is the year the US Virgin Islands play king(or queen!)maker.

18 thoughts on “Quick Hit Friday: The 2020 Democratic Primary Calendar”

  1. […] Slowly passing a Buttigieg Campaign stuck in neutral, Bloomberg is up to about 8 percent in an average of national polls, and he even hit double digits in two of the last seven national surveys. Considering he’s not even competing in some states, it’s likely he’s approaching that all-important 15% in some specially targeted areas. I would expect he’s already at 15% in delegate-rich New York, whose 274 pledged delegates makes it the second most valuable prize of the Democratic Primary. New York doesn’t hold its primary until the big Northeast Primary Day on April 28: […]


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