OK, so no mo’ history. Let’s get down to brass tacks: 2020 Super Tuesday!
To start with, seriously, no one knows anything.
See, let’s say you started putting out polling into the field on Sunday afternoon. You’ve collected about 50-60% of your responses.
And then Buttigieg drops out!
What the hell?!?!
We’ll probably see polls today and even on Tuesday, but they’re going to be fundamentally flawed because they don’t account for either Biden’s margin of victory on Saturday or Buttigieg exiting the race on Sunday.
Plus, Michael Bloomberg enters the game on Tuesday!
So yeah. We don’t know what’s going on for Super Tuesday, so what follows is going to be Super guessy.
First off: 14 states will hold primaries on Tuesday. They include: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont and Virginia. Also, American Samoa has a caucus, and I’m just not even going to try that.
1,357 total pledged delegates (of a total of 3,979 total pledged delegates awarded in primary season) get handed out on Super Tuesday.
Let’s take these state by state, or bunches of states:
The Golden State is the golden prize on Tuesday, a massive gift basket of 415 pledged delegates. Bernie Sanders will do really well here. In fact, there was some punditry suggesting that if everyone – including Steyer and Buttigieg – stayed in, perhaps Sanders would be the only candidate to hit 15% viability thresholds state-wide (though others would get county-based delegates). That’s kind of gone out the window after Saturday and Sunday. What is worth noting: California does early voting, and they’ve been early voting there for over a week. What’s also worth noting: more Californians than in 2016 have held their ballots so far than in 2016. By a wide margin. So lots more Californians than you might expect appeared to be waiting things out a bit. That probably makes you feel pretty good if you’re Team Biden.
With Mayor Pete out of the running, that may help Biden, Warren, and Bloomberg all hit 15% statewide viability thresholds. Thus, Bernie will pick up a bunch of delegates here, but it’ll be fascinating to see whether his opponents can tamp down his margins at all.
Oh! And one other thing! California will have about 10 million ballots to count. And they do mail-in ballots. Which don’t have to be postmarked until Tuesday. So…we’re likely to have an idea of which candidate wins California on Tuesday…but we won’t know a lot more than that for maybe a week. Yikes!
Anyone who tells you they know how things are going to go down in Texas is lying to you. Sanders has held some polling leads here, but Bloomberg has been doing OK and so has Biden. Biden and Sanders look like locks to hit viability here. With Pete out, Warren may as well. Bloomberg remains a wildcard. I would not be shocked to discover that on Super Tuesday his support across southern states especially just collapses. He looked like he’d hit viability here last week in some polls….but those polls me little now.
Texas is also an early voting state. That could help Bernie out a lot. Still, this one looks like it could go either way for Sander or Biden. Honestly, I have no idea, but this is going to be a state to watch on Tuesday night.
The old “Border states” and Southern states (Alabama, Arkansas, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia):
This bundle of states should be where Joe Biden is strongest. Maybe Bloomberg too. We’ll see. And there may be some exceptions, too. Northern Virginia matches up really well demographically for Sanders on race…but not on education and income level. And Northern Virginia is also full of folks who are political animals and definitely more immune to the charms of an outsider, insurgent candidacy. These, more than any other, will be states where Bloomberg may be the biggest wildcard.
The Northeast (Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont):
These are probably the easiest call of the night. This is Bernie country through and through. In fact, Bernie is likely to beat Elizabeth Warren in Warren’s home state in Massachusetts….though Mayor Pete’s departure may give her a shot. Look for Bernie to run up some delegate totals in this area on Tuesday.
The Mountain West (Colorado and Utah):
These should also be fairly safe for Bernie. It’s in Colorado that Biden’s archaic stance on pot probably does him the most damage, and in Utah, Bernie’s been doing a good job of courting the young, liberal contrarian vote in this deep red state.
Here’s where Amy Klobuchar is likely to hear her name called as the winner of a primary state in 2020. Sanders will also be viable here, and Klobuchar is essentially running as a spoiler to hold down Bernie’s Super Tuesday delegate totals.
What else to watch for?
Well, Bloomberg, basically. In polling last week, he was looking viable or close to viable in almost every Super Tuesday state. I think it’s possible that – as we saw with Steyer in Nevada and South Carolina – support for these billionaire candidates could be super ephemeral, and could flow pretty readily to Biden and Warren. If Bloomie’s numbers are down when we start counting Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee at the start of Super Tuesday night, look out below.
But also look out for strategic voting. There’s evidence of it happening in South Carolina. It really does seem, to some extent, like a lot of older, 45+ mainstream Democrats have been waiting for a sign of whom to coalesce around as the alternative to Sanders. Biden seems to have that role now, and it’s possible he once again outruns lots of his polling, especially in southern states.
Finally, look for delegate totals once we start getting a feel for California – which admittedly may not be until the weekend. At one point there were scenarios where Bernie Sanders would come out of Super Tuesday with a 400-500 delegate lead over the competition. Now it is possible that his delegate lead may be 150 delegates or less after Super Tuesday’s smoke all clears.
That delegate math gets pretty iffy for Bernie after that, especially if Klobuchar and/or Warren exit the race post-Super Tuesday. That’s because of what the primary calendar looks like.
On March 10, we have primaries in Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, and Washington. Biden would seem to have an advantage in Mississippi and possibly Missouri. Sanders looks good in Washington. Michigan looks like a big battleground; Sanders won there in 2016 in a big upset. Can Biden beat him with Grampy Joe’s union connections? Dunno.
But then comes March 17. Florida. Illinois. Ohio. Those could all be decent for Biden, especially Florida. I can also see scenarios where Sanders does really well in Illinois and Ohio.