The 2020 Super Tuesday Game Day Thread. "No one knows anything."

A bit early on this one, but I’ve got a political thing to run on Monday night so I don’t know if I’ll have time for this until then.

But honestly…I could make an argument (or anyone weary of these things could argue for me!) that this could be the shortest Super Tuesday GDT ever, because holy shit. We don’t know anything, really.

I mean, take it from the pros, two guys who are prone to non-excitement:

Seriously, things are kind of bonkers right now, but let’s maybe try to set the lay of the land a bit.

Bernie Sanders had a disputed tie for first in Iowa, and then a win in New Hampshire and a blowout in Nevada in the month of February. Things were swimming along for Team Sanders. Polls of South Carolina taken just before the Nevada Caucus results showed Sanders had closed the lead in South Carolina to just 4 points.

But then something weird happened. The excellent pollster PPP was the first to detect it. They got into the field on the Sunday and Monday after Nevada with a poll of South Carolina and put the results out on Monday: Biden by 18%. It looked like an outlier. But then a few more polls began to correlate, especially after Biden had a decent to good debate on Tuesday.

And on Saturday, shit got real. Biden won South Carolina by 28 points. It was a blowout that no one really saw coming, and a blowout that reshaped the race. Tom Steyer dropped out Saturday night. Pete Buttigieg left the race Sunday night.

So what the hell???

Here’s my own theory: a whole lot of folks who were looking for a moderate, middle-lane candidate to run against Trump started defecting from the camps of Biden, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, and even Warren at the start of February.

But then came two disastrous – utterly disastrous – debate performances by Bloomberg before Nevada and then less than a week later in South Carolina. And I think it’s possible that a portion of the support that left the mainstream establishment Democrats to flirt with Bloomberg dumped ol’ Bloomie like a hot rock after those debates and came streaming back to…oh, I dunno. Let’s go with the guy who finished second in Nevada, regardless of how distant a second it was…and who also has a chance to win South Carolina.

There is, however, one other thing to understand about what happened in the Palmetto State on Saturday, and it’s SUPER important for Super Tuesday! Let’s hearken back to the 2018 midterms. And then let’s hearken back to 2019, as one southern suburban Republican after another decided against running for re-election in 2020. And so here’s something that’s very much apparently happening: the suburbs around big southern cities – even in deep red states – loathe the current president. But they’re still fairly conservative areas. So it stands to reason that they’re looking for a candidate like Biden or Bloomberg to support. And so on Saturday, while everyone was talking about Biden’s blowout margins with black voters, something else was also going on:

Yep. The same folks who helped fuel the 2018 Blue Wave haven’t gone away. And in South Carolina they roared. And there’s at least some chance they’re going to roar again.

(To be continued!)

So just what the heck is Super Tuesday? And why is Super Tuesday a thing?

The history gets a bit tortured every time its told, but I’ll give it a shot.

In 1980, three neighboring southern states – Alabama, Florida and Georgia – decided to do their presidential primaries on the exact same day, to help increase their regional importance. And, on the Democratic side, to help Georgia native son Jimmy Carter, who was embroiled in a primary fight with Ted Kennedy.

Those three states went on the same day again in 1984, this time joined by 5 other non-southern states. After Walter Mondale got the nomination and then got stomped like a naked fat guy at Altamont, dissatisfied moderate southern Democrats came to the DNC with a proposal: let us never again nominate a far left northern wimpy liberal like Mondale again. We’ll all have our primaries on the same day here in the south, and a good, fine, moderate Son of the South will win, and we’ll have a candidate we’ll all love! See how that works?

Indeed, the party did. And so in 1988, the first really big Super Tuesday to widely carry that moniker, Alabama, Florida and Georgia were joined by Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. Surely that mass of southern states would produce a southern moderate candidate. Right? What could go wrong???

Yeah. About that. Jesse Jackson and Al Gore basically split the southern vote and squidgy weirdo Mike Dukakis cleaned up elsewhere to win the nomination. If the Democrats were trying to find a candidate as bad as Mondale, congrats. You found him.

In 1992 it worked, though. Bill Clinton did well in Super Tuesday states and his opponents ran out of money. And……well, it’s been hit or miss since.

One of the great Super Tuesday stories is one any strategy gamer should love. It’s the 2008 Super Tuesday campaign. Let’s set the stage for that.

Heading into Super Tuesday, Barack Obama has won Iowa and South Carolina. Clinton has won New Hampshire and (sort of) Nevada. Clinton is closely following the advice of her pollster, Mark Penn. Penn has assured her that she can run Obama out of the race by cleaning up on Super Tuesday in two delegate-rich states: New York and California, both of whom are participating. They also plan to run the table in the northeast by winning in Massachusetts and New Jersey and Connecticut.

And on the surface, it sort of sounds like a decent plan. California’s got 370 delegates to award. New York’s got 232 to hand out. New Jersey has 107 delegates, and Massachusetts has another 93. That’s about 800 pledged delegates of the 1,800 needed to have a clear majority of pledged delegates. Clinton would simply dominate those states and Obama would see the writing on the wall and drop out.

So Penn advised the campaign to simply go all out in those states and pour every penny from the campaign coffers into them. And especially hit those media markets HARD. NYC. LA. San Francisco. San Diego. Boston. Get that earned media for coverage in those media markets. No way to fail now!

The problem with that strategy is that it’s utterly, hopelessly stupid, and completely ignorant of Democratic Party primary rules that have been in place since 1972. David Plouffe on Team Obama saw how stupid the strategy was almost immediately. They started putting campaign offices in rural counties in California and New York state. The also put offices and launched major pushes in places like Idaho, Kansas, Utah, and Minnesota. And so on Super Tuesday, Obama did really well in those rural California and New York counties and managed to keep Clinton from running up the score…and then clubbed her like a baby seal in those other states. When the smoke cleared on Wednesday morning, Clinton had earned 100,000 more votes on Super Tuesday than Obama had. But Obama had earned 13 more delegates than Clinton. And Clinton was completely broke….and Obama was all Jean Ralphio….Fluuuuuuuuuuush with caaaaaaaaaaaaash.

There are apocryphal stories, some told by people I kind of trust, that Mark Penn somehow forgot that the Democratic Primaries do proportional allocation of delegates, instead of winner-take-all, and by the time the campaign realized his mistake, they were stuck in their spending and strategy. Maybe it’s not true. But if you’ve seen Mark Penn on TV, you can sort of believe it.


OK, so no mo’ history. Let’s get down to brass tacks: 2020 Super Tuesday!

To start with, seriously, no one knows anything.

No really.

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.

This post rated NSFW for: violent similes

Thanks for doing these excellent rundowns, Trig - I learn so much!

Amy in Maine Saturday was an interesting choice of how she spends precious campaign time. Oddly her message that she can win in red districts was delivered in the very blue first CD rather than the swing second CD.

The weekend haul in our mailbox. If a tree falls in the forest will anybody care…about Mike?

We’ve had someone do the same in a House race- we have a local congressional candidate who is trying again to buy the seat Bloomberg-style. She tried in 2018, but lost bad to the Republican (and underperformed). Thankfully there’s a good progressive option who has some establishment support as well.

I split my ticket here- going insurgent President and House, establishment in Senate. (only because the progressive I don’t think can raise enough money to be competitive). State races are uncontested primaries.

Just saw severe weather is expected in the South Tueday- wonder how that will impact turnout. Guessing it doesn’t have as much impact on a primary as it does in a general.

Thanks Trigger, and to everyone else who has been posting info to these threads!

Everyone vote for Bernie tomorrow. I will be!

This concludes my campaign push.

Wait, even Canadians and Russians? Did you just suggest that everyone, including foreigners should vote in our elections? It’s like you are asking for foreign interference in our elections!

Everyone vote for anyone other than Bernie tomorrow.

I prefer this version.

Damn, more request for foreign interference! Not cool people.

Only people in the designated states that are eligible to vote should vote on Tuesday!

Lol. Nice.

All of the women in my family (my mom and sis in law) have switched their votes to Biden here in NoVa. As have I - go team blue! - everyone’s a wiener!

Username checks out.

Early voting bites me in Colorado - as my primary vote for Buttigieg is now lost to the ether

Early voting this primary cycle is probably a bad idea for anyone but Sanders voters.

Your primary vote is as useful as my vote in the general (I’m in MA).

I’m a left-leaning person living in Utah, I don’t know what a meaningful vote even smells like.

I’m feeling like my North Carolina early vote for Warren is basically wasted, but as much as I’m all in on progressives and hate you nambywaisted ninnytwits piling on the Other Decrepit White Man this time around, I couldn’t bring myself to Strategically Vote for the Flyaway Hair King Of Communist Russia.

Alas. I did what I could, Liz. Better luck picking up the pieces of democracy and bailing us out in 2024 from within the prison camps