Super Tuesday 2020 Previewpalooza

Happy Super Tuesday! The first four states were less about the delegates as much as they were about momentum, media interpretations, and how those factors affect today, the day about 35% of pledged delegates are awarded. (Wishful thinking, am I right? Prepare for days of delegate-counting.)

Coming out of South Carolina, Joe Biden has picked up a slew of high-profile endorsements as the primary has evolved into what I expected: despite Sanders’s plurality support in the opening states, as the choices of non-Sanders candidates dwindles, there’s consolidation around Biden, the leading alternative.

Today, the stakes are clear. Sanders remains favored to win the most Super Tuesday delegates thanks to gargantuan California, but Joe Biden is alive, can claim the most states, and should be within reach of a comeback when the Super Tuesdust settles. Though state count doesn’t matter when picking the nominee, the coverage of the Democratic Primary can very much be shaped by it, keeping the Biden Campaign vigorous.

So the two main questions today are:

  1. Sanders will win the most delegates, but how dominant will that number be?
  2. Who wins the most states?

That’s what today’s preview and prediction post is for. Below are today’s states and their pledged delegation size:

Mar 3. ((Super Tuesday)) ((1344))
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 (3/3-3/10) 13 (not counted)

That’s 15 contests to be decided today, totaling 1344 delegates. (The Democrats Abroad primary would bring it to 1357, but I’m not counting them today since their quirky contest lasts for a week.)

Rather than preview them alphabetically, like the list above, I’ll order them chronologically. This ordering is appropriate because, conceptually speaking, we should picture Biden winning more delegates in the night’s first couple hours, building up the biggest lead possible before we start counting western delegates, culminating in the American Samoa caucuses California Primary polls closing at 11:00 PM EST. It’s at that point where Sanders will start to roar back and eventually take a delegate lead (though perhaps not until Wednesday or Thursday), the size of which will be determined by the extent of his California win and how much of a lead Biden was able to build up in the hours leading up to California. (Do you see how dramatic this all is?!)

Of course, coverage of these returns are unpredictable. Will networks take guesses about delegate allocation? The South Carolina estimates, for example, took 24 hours or so to shake out. It’s more likely the networks will emphasize state victories if only because that’s easiest. There will be delegate estimates, but perhaps only half of each state’s delegates will be allocated by the time you go to bed. You can use today’s preview to understand just how many delegates each state actually has versus how many delegates the networks have allocated in each one.

All contests use the 15% threshold for statewide and district delegates. The only quasi-exception is the American Samoa, which is neither a state nor a place with Congressional districts. All six of its pledged delegates are determined by the territory-wide vote. It’s also the only caucus today. The rest, thank goodness, are primaries.

Finally, here are some race-specific thoughts to consider before we get to the nitty-gritty and more numbers than you’d ever want to look at:

  • Watch for polls that were conducted before last Tuesday’s debate (2/25), Biden’s South Carolina win (2/29), and the campaign suspensions of Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar (who will be referred to as Buttichar for the rest of this piece). Biden has grown increasingly strong at each of those moments, so some polling data from as recent as one week ago is considerably outdated yet impacting some polling averages.
  • Though polls and momentum are bullish for Biden, the fact that early voting has been going on for some time in many states puts a bearish analysis in play. Many people voted before Joementum began, and it’s Sanders who had been dominating the early voting month. For example, dating back to mail-in ballots beginning on the third of February, 2.7 million Californians had voted by Thursday, before Biden’s big Palmetto State victory, to say nothing of the moderate consolidation behind Biden.
  • Similarly, how many early Buttigieg and Steyer voters would like their vote back? What about Minnesotan Amy Klobuchar voters? Many voters want a redo. Though there are still plenty of votes to be cast, the ascendant dreams of remaining candidates, chiefly Biden, are partially tethered to the desires of weeks-old votes.
  • And a random thought: might Coronavirus fears dampen turnout at crowded polling precincts today? That’d also be bad for Biden, but it’s total conjecture.
  • Finally, though this will be more relevant after Super Tuesday, remember that the primary is a race to 1,990 pledge delegates, as that would be a majority of the 3,979 pledged delegates who will vote on the first ballot at this year’s Democratic National Convention. Sanders currently leads with 60 to Biden’s 54, which, in the context of 3,979, looks virtually meaningless. Super Tuesday will determine what the true narrative will be for the remainder of the primary. I see five possible narratives coming out of today:
    1. Sanders has it essentially wrapped up, even if mathematically the clinch doesn’t happen for another month or two. (tied for least likely scenario)
    2. Sanders has a big lead that will be difficult for Biden to overcome, but it’s within the realm of possibility. (third most likely scenario)
    3. Sanders has a decent lead, but Biden has a good shot down the stretch assuming Bloomberg drops out. (the most likely narrative, in my opinion)
    4. Sanders’s slim lead isn’t big enough to hold off a unified moderate lane with momentum. (second most likely scenario)
    5. Sanders lost his lead, meaning Joe Biden is virtually assured of being the nominee. (tied for least likely scenario)

All right, that’s enough appetizers. Let’s get to the main course. Here are today’s contests in chronological order of poll closings (all times are Eastern Standard), their number of pledged delegates, and I’ll even venture an impossible estimate of how they’ll shake out.

Consider this post your viewing guide.


7:00

Vermont Primary: 16 delegates

Statewide delegates: 5
Congressional district breakdown: a single district with 11 delegates (essentially giving it 16 state-wide delegates)
Latest polling

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Breakdown: The first call of the night will go to Bernie Sanders as he overwhelmingly wins his home state. The only question will be whether all other candidates are kept below 15%, which would give Sanders all 16 delegates, or one or two other candidates eke out viability.

Biden’s pop from 5 to 16 makes sense, but I’m surprised at Warren’s surge from 9 to 16 over the course of the month. I think Warren voters think strategically at the last moment and give enough support to Sanders — and maybe even a little bit to Biden — that she’s kept under viability.

Prediction: Sanders LOCK (Delegates: Sanders 14, Biden 2)

Virginia Primary: 99 delegates

Statewide delegates: 34
Congressional district breakdown: 11 districts that have between 4-7 delegates for a total of 65.
Latest polling

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Breakdown: Virginia will take a bit longer to decide, as it has considerably more voters and will be a closer contest. The survey before these two, which took place from 2/23 to 2/25, had Sanders up 9, evidence of the sudden reversal of the race. Only after Nevada, where Biden finally showed some life, and after the debate, where candidates finally ganged up on Sanders, did Biden begin turning around the USS Joe.

Importantly, both South Carolina and Virginia are in the top ten of states ranked by black population percentage, and I suspect Virginia’s late break continues through polling.  Meanwhile, both Warren and Bloomberg are fading and will not meet viability.

Prediction: Biden LOCK (Delegates: Biden 58, Sanders 41)


7:30

North Carolina Primary: 110 delegates

Statewide delegates: 38
Congressional district breakdown: 13 districts that have between 3-9 delegates for a total of 72.
Latest polling

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Breakdown: If Biden keeps the delegate split close today, North Carolina will be the biggest reason why. Biden has no hope in California, while Texas is looking like a tight one. North Carolina is the day’s third largest contest, and I foresee a big Biden win. Bordering South Carolina with a big African American population of its own, North Carolina will follow a similar path to its southern neighbor.

Keep an eye on Bloomberg and Warren here. If they don’t hit 15%, that’ll allow a huge delegate haul for Biden. I’m picking against both. Warren’s North Carolina polling has plummeted. As for Bloomberg, even though he wasn’t on the South Carolina ballot, exit polls offered a test of what an African-American-heavy electorate thinks of him. He had by far the worst favorability numbers in the field. I think he peters across the board today.

Prediction: Biden LOCK (Delegates: Biden 81, Sanders 29)


8:00

Massachusetts Primary: 91 delegates

Statewide delegates: 32
Congressional district breakdown: 9 districts that have between 6-8 delegates for a total of 59.
Latest polling:

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Breakdown: We arrive at the second of Super Tuesday’s three home-state contests, and it looks like a tight three-way race. Warren has some fight in her, but I’ll guess that strategic progressive voters will support Sanders in liberal Massachusetts, just the latest sign that they don’t like Warren as much as one would assume.

These polls are instructive in another way: Buttigieg had a nice polling average right up until his dropout, and it looks like all his support — and Klobuchar’s — went to Biden. If that’s happening nationally as well, it’ll be a good day for the former Vice President. It also looks like a clearer moderate late props up Bloomberg near viability, but I think he falls short.

Prediction: Sanders LIKELY (Delegates: Sanders 35, Biden 30, Warren 26)

Tennessee Primary: 64 delegates

Statewide delegates: 22
Congressional district breakdown: 9 districts that have between 4-7 delegates for a total of 42.
Latest polling

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Breakdown: Just one poll out of Tennessee means it’s time for some serious extrapolation. It’s a southern-ish state with a black-ish population (ranked 11th in the nation), both good-ish signs for Biden. Historically, Tennessee prefers the establishment pick: most recently, it voted for Clinton over Sanders and Clinton over Obama. Before that, it also picked Kerry and Gore.

All that bodes well for a Biden victory, though not a dominant one. It’s hard to know if Warren and/or Bloomberg are toying with viability. Bloomberg would be the closer of the two, as he’s been the only one consistently on Tennessee airwaves.

Prediction: Biden LIKELY (Delegates: Biden 32, Sanders 19, Bloomberg 13)

Alabama Primary: 52 delegates

Statewide delegates: 18
Congressional district breakdown: 7 districts that have between 3-8 delegates for a total of 34.
Latest polling

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Breakdown: Again with just a single poll, we’ll have to rely on demographics and patterns. Sixth among states in share of African Americans population, Alabama ranks just one spot behind South Carolina. On Super Tuesday 2016, it overwhelmingly voted for Hillary Clinton with 78% of its vote. This might be Biden’s safest state of the day and could be called at 8:01 PM. I don’t think a third candidate hits viability.

Prediction: Biden LOCK (Delegates: Biden 37, Sanders 15)

Oklahoma Primary: 37 delegates

Statewide delegates: 13
Congressional district breakdown: 5 districts that have between 4-6 delegates for a total of 24.
Latest polling

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Breakdown: With Biden leading that Sooner poll over Bloomberg even before Nevada, the debate, and South Carolina, I already liked his chances of winning the Oklahoma Primary. Today’s Data for Progress poll just clinches it. Sanders had looked remarkably weak here, considering he won its primary four years ago, but the last poll offered an accurate correction to the earlier data.

Bloomberg is polling weirdly high. If I were told that Bloomberg wins a state today, Oklahoma is my guess. Warren, a child of Oklahoma, is also factoring in.

Prediction: Biden LIKELY (Delegates: Biden 18, Sanders 9, Bloomberg 6, Warren 4)

Maine Primary: 24 delegates

Statewide delegates: 8
Congressional district breakdown: 2 districts, with 9 and 7 delegates.
Latest polling

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Breakdown: Maine is very Sandersy. Biden solid. Warren and Bloomberg fading.

Prediction: Sanders LOCK (Sanders 15, Biden 9)


8:30

Arkansas Primary: 31 delegates

Statewide delegates: 11
Congressional district breakdown: 4 districts that have between 4-6 delegates for a total of 20.
Latest polling

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Breakdown: The early February poll was crazy competitive with the top four, but it was taken at the height of Bloomberg and Buttigieg-mania and close to the nadir of the Biden Campaign. I think Biden takes a lot of support from Bloomchagieg to win the state.

Prediction: Biden LIKELY (Delegates: Biden 17, Sanders 10, Bloomberg 4)


It’s right around here where we should pause and take stock. We’d have:

  • 2 Sanders locks
  • 1 Sanders likely
  • 3 Biden locks
  • 3 Biden likelies

In total I think we’re looking at 6 Biden wins to 3 Sanders wins. Delegate-wise, my estimates have Biden 284, Sanders 187. Right around now, many people might be going to bed thinking Biden has secured a big delegate lead in the Democratic Primary.

How wrong they would be. We’re about to head out west to Sanders country.


8:00/9:00

(Most of Texas closes at 8:00 EST, but the far west closes at 9 EST)

Texas Primary: 228 delegates

Statewide delegates: 79
Congressional district breakdown: 31 districts that have between 2-10 delegates for a total of 149.
Latest polling

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Breakdown: After California, Texas is easily the second biggest prize of the day. At 228 pledged delegates, it’s more than double the size of third place North Carolina’s 110.

Texas feels like the tipping-point state of the night. If Sanders earns convincing wins in California and Texas, we can assume he’s built a big lead in the overall primary. If Biden keeps Texas close — which, as we can see with the polling, would be on par with expectations — he’ll stay close overall. If Biden wins Texas, that means he’s probably having a pretty good night, and he’ll have a great claim to be the nominal favorite, if not the delegate leader.

With Texas located in the south, one might be surprised that Sanders is in the lead. We mustn’t forget, however, that the Texas south is different than the Deep South. Perhaps east Texas can be lumped in with the latter, but much of Texas belongs more to the southwest region, which has a high Latino population. The latest Census Bureau estimates that Texas is about 41% white, 32% Hispanic, and 12% black. These are numbers that favor Sanders. Remember, Sanders dominated among Hispanics in the Nevada caucuses, so his popularity with that population is buoying his Texas numbers. Meanwhile, Bloomberg spent a lot in Texas and has the most field offices there, so we should see him at viability and therefore hurting Biden’s upside.

Still, can Sanders’s polling lead, likely early vote lead, and advantage in the Bloomberg factor withstand Biden’s South Carolina win and both Buttigieg and Klobuchar dramatically flying to Dallas to endorse him and an endorsement from Texas’s favorite Democrat Beto O’Rourke in a massive show of center-left unity? It’s really hard to say. I think it’s the hardest Super Tuesday state to call.

Prediction: TOSS UP, but if I had to pick, slightest of slight edges to Biden (Delegates: Biden 95, Sanders 95, Bloomberg 38)


9:00

Minnesota Primary: 75 delegates

Statewide delegates: 26
Congressional district breakdown: 8 districts that have between 4-10 delegates for a total of 49.
Latest polling

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Breakdown: Well, this was supposed to be easy. Klobuchar was supposed to win her home state, deny Sanders the win, then withdraw. However, some calculus ultimately determined that Sanders’s delegate haul here would be withstandable if the 5 or so percent of the country that supported Klobuchar pushed Biden up a few ticks across all the other states and districts, perhaps making the difference. It’s a theory.

There’s a chance, since she remains on the ballot, that Zombie Klobuchar still wins delegates. There’s also a chance Biden vacuums up all of that support and makes him competitive with Sanders, but that’s also unlikely.

Prediction: Sanders LIKELY (Delegates: Sanders 40, Biden 25, Zombiechar 10)

Colorado Primary: 67 delegates

Statewide delegates: 23
Congressional district breakdown: 7 districts that have between 4-9 delegates for a total of 44.
Latest polling

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Breakdown: Big win coming for Sanders here. Him and Warren on top of the polls show a liberal Democratic electorate. She’ll fade a bit among strategic voters and Biden will absorb Buttichar support, so I think all three hit viability. I don’t think Bloomberg joins them.

Prediction: Sanders LOCK (Delegates: Sanders 31, Biden 18, Warren 18)


10:00

Utah Primary: 29 delegates

Statewide delegates: 10
Congressional district breakdown: 4 districts that have between 2-7 delegates for a total of 19.
Latest polling

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Breakdown: If one considers what state Democratic parties are the whitest and most liberal, Utah ranks sneakily high: sixth overall, only behind Vermont, New Hampshire, Iowa, Massachusetts, and Oregon, all states where we like Bernie Sanders’s chances.

Prediction: Sanders LOCK (Delegates: Sanders 13, Biden 10, Bloomberg 3, Warren 3)


All right, Biden’s hundredish delegate lead has been slimmed. Now I have the Super Tuesday count at Biden 432, Sanders 366.

You know what? I think Sanders would sign for that 60ish delegate gap. Because now we arrive at…

11:00

California Primary: 415 delegates

Statewide delegates: 144
Congressional district breakdown: 53 districts that have between 4-7 delegates for a total of 271.
Latest polling

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Breakdown: Bernie Sanders is going to get an enormous delegate number out of the state. However, though just a couple weeks ago there was consideration that Biden might be totally locked out of delegates there, which would have doomed his campaign, he’s now riding a rocket into a clear second place and certain viability.

We’ll be keeping a close eye on Warren and Bloomberg’s numbers state-wide. Though they’ll likely hit 15% in a number of districts, just that state-wide haul of 144 delegates ranks it higher than all of today’s states, save Texas. If Sanders and Biden were the only two to meet state-wide viability, we could be looking at Sanders 84, Biden 60. But if all four candidates meet state-wide viability, it could be something like Sanders 50, Biden 40, Warren 24, Bloomberg 20. Big difference.

And that’s leaving aside all districts. Sanders will win delegates in all of them, including many majorities. He’s going to run up the score, particularly with that early vote advantage.

Prediction: Sanders LOCK (Delegates: Sanders 210, Biden 140, Warren 33, Bloomberg 32


American Samoa Caucuses: 6 delegates

Territory-wide delegates: 6
Latest polling: lol

Breakdown: American Samoa is as far was as you can do without crossing the international date line. They’re six hours behind Eastern Standard Time, but they’ll be caucusing during the day. We might get its results before any polls close on the east coast!

Fun fact: Tulsi Gabbard was born in American Samoa! I think that earns her a delegate. Otherwise, it seems to vote establishment: Clinton in 2008 and 2016.

Prediction: Toss-up (Delegates: Biden 3, Sanders 2, Gabbard 1)


TOTALS

Contests:

  • Sanders locks: 5 (Vermont, Maine, Colorado, Utah, California)
  • Sanders likelies: 2 (Massachusetts, Minnesota)
  • Biden locks: 3 (Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama)
  • Biden likelies: 3 (Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma)
  • Biden slim slim edge: 1 (Texas)
  • Toss-up: 1 (American Samoa)

Delegates:

  • Sanders: 578
  • Biden: 575(!!)
  • Bloomberg 96
  • Warren: 84
  • Zombiechar: 10
  • Gabbard: 1

Oh my goodness. How close! Without any massaging of numbers, I’ve arrived at the two main candidates winning seven states a piece if we give the toss-up state, Texas, to Biden. Texas can further decide the delegate champ of the day, since I split Texas evenly between them but for the night’s overall totals I have them separated by just three delegates. Some quick thoughts on this before I wrap up this three-thousand word monstrosity:

  1. I did not expect Biden to keep it this close. Running through today’s exercise was pretty illuminating.
  2. The coverage of Super Tuesday delegate counting will favor Biden, as his delegates will be counted earlier and faster than Sanders’s western bloc. Sanders might win the night, but we might not know that until Thursday, giving Biden a couple days to crystallize a winning narrative.
  3. If my predictions hold, Biden is the favorite to win the nomination. Bloomberg would drop out, and Biden would be favored to win more delegates down the stretch.
  4. That being said, I cannot emphasize enough how wrong I’ll be today. Imagine if each of the above predictions were given a 90% chance of success. Even if that were the case, probability statistics suggest I’d get one wrong, maybe two. And none of these are truly 90% probabilities with the exception of Vermont to Sanders.
  5. Nonetheless, if all my wrongness is distributed evenly, I think we have a general idea of how Super Tuesday will end up. Super Tuesday should be Super Close.
  6. And finally, if I may borrow from the late, great Tim Russert: Texas, Texas, Texas!

All right, that’s it. I hope everyone enjoys Super Tuesday, Super Tuesnight, and all the counting we’ll be doing for the next week until we have six more states vote.

I am now just eating up words so I can arrive at 3,383, a number that will have significance for those who know me best. And here… we… go.

2 thoughts on “Super Tuesday 2020 Previewpalooza

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