Super Tuesday, The Dems Consolidate
Updated: Jul 19, 2020
Super Tuesday has come and gone, and fortunately for the Democrats, one of the best pieces of news is that the field has narrowed further and seems to be consolidating around the two very different flavours on offer. The question now will be, “which ideology will ultimately earn the right to represent the Democrats in the upcoming presidential election?” Will it be the far left socialist-leaning agenda of Bernie Sanders, or the more moderate and centrist agenda of Joe Biden? For the Democrats, electability should also be a crucial consideration. The party would be best served by choosing the candidate that has the highest probability of unseating the incumbent President Trump in the U.S. presidential election in November. As I have written in the past, this election will ultimately boil down to the electorate in the centre, meaning independents and possibly those lesser-committed party members that might be convinced to vote for a candidate in the “other” party. It is fairly conclusive that the hard core Republican right will vote for President Trump no matter what, and that the hard core Democrats will similarly support their presidential candidate regardless of whether it is Sanders or Biden (or someone else). The voters at both ends of the spectrum cannot be swayed, so the focus is now on the 30% to 40% in the middle that will determine the outcome of the November presidential election. I am only one voice here, but I believe that Sanders is as polarising as Hillary Clinton, and that the best opportunity for the Democrats to retake the White House rests with selecting a more moderate-thinking Democrat like Joe Biden to stand for office.
Let me mention two other observations before we look at the results of Super Tuesday and the path forward. Firstly, there is a core group of supporters of Bernie Sanders that believe that the Democratic establishment is working to ensure that he does not get the nomination. This “conspiracy theory” sounds ridiculous to me because the purpose of the primaries and caucuses is to ensure that the Democrats choose the candidate that has the best chance of winning in November. I would suspect that there are discussions going on amongst the various Democratic candidates and their teams, perhaps even some “horse trading” and so forth to solidify each candidate’s position. Welcome to Politics 101! However, this process seems far from a conspiracy to me, unless there is some sort of vote-rigging or other illegal activity being implied (which I have not heard of yet).
Secondly, I agree with most political pundits who note that Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg withdrawing from the Nevada primary following Saturday’s results and throwing their support behind Biden without question provided his campaign with momentum, helping him power ahead of Sanders on Super Tuesday. Following 10 debates so far and a process that seems to have (already) been going on forever, the Democrats need to consolidate around one of the two ideologies driving the party at this point. Too many candidates have caused too much diffusion, and as the field narrows, the candidates most likely to be able to carry the day are starting to emerge. In fact, I would say now that the best thing that could probably happen is for Elizabeth Warren and Michael Bloomberg, neither of which did well on Super Tuesday, to stand down and let Biden and Sanders duke it out. I suspect we should know if either or both of these two candidates intends to withdraw in the next day or two. Should one or both withdraw, it would seem to make sense for Bloomberg to encourage his supporters to throw their support behind Joe Biden, and for Warren to encourage her supporters to throw their support behind Bernie Sanders.
Let’s turn back to Super Tuesday now. There were 1,357 delegates up for grabs yesterday across 14 states (and American Samoa) , which is 34% of total delegates of 3,979 (and hence the reason the day is referred to as “Super Tuesday”). For context, 1,991 delegates are required to win the nomination by the day of the Democratic convention on July 13th. If no candidate has a majority of delegates by then, the delegate slate is wiped clean, and a series of additional rounds occurs during the convention until one candidate emerges with a majority.
The preliminary results are in for the 14 states that had primaries yesterday, and it looks like Joe Biden will take 10 of these (including Texas with 228 delegates) and Bernie Sanders will take four (including the biggest prize, California, with 415 delegate votes).
Assuming results for Super Tuesday are eventually formalised and are in line with what is expected, the delegate count cumulatively to date, including yesterday’s results, should look like this according to The New York Times: Biden, 670 (45%); Sanders, 589 (39%); Bloomberg, 104 (7%); and Warren, 97 (7%).
As we look ahead, there are another 1,091 delegates in 13 additional states up for grabs by the end of the month, meaning that nearly two-thirds of total delegates will be known by the end of March. There are upcoming primaries in some important states during the rest of March including swing states Florida (215 delegates), Ohio (136 delegates) and Michigan (125 delegates). Two other important states with 460 delegates up for grabs between them go to the primaries in April – Democratic stronghold New York (274 delegates) and swing-state Pennsylvania (186 delegates). Here is the timing of delegates and the cumulative percent of delegates as a percent of the total, so you can keep track of the progression in the Democratic party (source: 270towin.com):
One final thing I wanted to mention is that the website referenced above - 270towin.com - has polling statistics for the Democrats from several different poll sources, including Reuters/Ipsos, Fox News and The Economist. I looked at the most recent 10 polls, all of which occurred between February 21st and March 3rd, before the results of Super Tuesday. In every one of these 10 polls, Sanders was the leader. Average support across five poll sources during the last 30 days looked like this: Sanders, 27.8%; Biden, 20.0%; Bloomberg, 15.8% and Warren, 10.8%. Granted, looking at polls like this and extrapolating what might happen has proven to be a dangerous sport, although arguably this process feels a lot like momentum investing – voters like to back winners. The sequence of Biden winning the South Carolina primary convincingly last Saturday, Klobuchar and Buttigieg withdrawing and throwing their support behind Biden, and strong results for Biden on Super Tuesday, have allowed Biden to move into pole position for now.