How Joe Biden Dominated on Super Tuesday and Where the Race Stands Now

Vice President Joe Biden dominated on Super Tuesday winning 10 states in most areas of the country-Massachusetts, Maine, Texas, Minnesota, Alabama, Virginia, North Carolina, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Oklahoma. Biden proved he’s not a regional candidate-some, especially after South Carolina, speculated he’d do great in the South where there is a heavily black and less liberal electorate but struggle in the Midwest and New England area. Dave Weigel, national political correspondent for the Washington Post, noted that Biden had no campaign offices in Alabama, Arkansas, Maine, Oklahoma, Minnesota, and Tennessee. With the exception of Maine, Biden won these six states by 8 points or more.

Biden won in states Senator Sanders had been leading in polls and campaigned in just days before Super Tuesday-most notably in MA where Sanders held a Boston rally on the Saturday before Super Tuesday and in MN where Sanders rallied in St. Paul the night before Super Tuesday-by convincing margins. Without Senator Amy Klobuchar’s quick transition from presidential candidate to all-out support of Biden, it’s extremely unlikely he would have won her home state. Through the end of February, Sen. Klobuchar and Sen. Sanders were neck-and-neck in the polling average, both being in the mid-20s. But on Monday March 2, Pete Buttigieg and Klobuchar dropped out and endorsed Biden, appearing with him at a rally in Dallas, TX that evening. Klobuchar went the extra mile beyond just the endorsement: she and Biden taped a joint interview with Minnesota TV stations and on Tuesday morning she appeared on CBS This Morning and The Today Show on his behalf. She also cut a radio ad for Biden which ran in Minnesota on Tuesday morning andthe Biden campaign aired a TV ad only in Minnesota markets which featured clips of Klobuchar urging people to vote for Biden from the Dallas rally the night before.

As of this publication, Senator Sanders is winning California by 7.4%, so the Golden State is an impressive win because in 2016 he lost it by 7% to Hillary Clinton. But there are still millions of ballots left to count here and Sanders was up 9% on election night so the margin may end up being smaller than what the Sanders campaign hoped for. California awards 415 pledged delegates to candidates based on statewide results and performance in congressional districts, just like every other state. Candidates must clear 15% statewide to earn delegates and they must also cross the 15% threshold in congressional districts to receive additional delegates according to performance in congressional districts. Sanders is currently leading Biden by 72 delegates here-which, because Sanders’ lead has shrunk and could continue to, his amount of net delegates could also shrink. California is obviously important for Sen. Sanders due to the large delegate haul but his problem is Biden’s landslides in just Virginia and Alabama alone offset his California loss.

The theme of Super Tuesday was Joe Biden winning voters who decided late by massive amounts. As FiveThirtyEight’s Geoffrey Skelley points out that in exit polls conducted in 10 states, “ Biden won at least 40 percent of the late-deciding vote in every state except for Sanders’s home state of Vermont. In six states, Biden performed at least 16 percentage points better among late deciders than early deciders.” Since the beginning of the primary, Sanders has performed better than Biden with Latinx voters, but even Biden won late-deciding Latinx voters by 18 points. Dave Wasserman, elections analyst/expert at Cook Political Report, tweeted Tuesday evening “In my lifetime, I’ve never seen an election where late deciders have broken so sharply from early voters than this one.”

On March 4, shortly after 10am EST, Michael Bloomberg ended his presidential campaign and endorsed Joe Biden, which should be a boost for his campaign. Bloomberg was usually in the double-digits in national polls and there was plenty of evidence that before South Carolina-in which Mr. Bloomberg was not on the ballot-he was siphoning off black support from the former Vice President. The hundreds of millions of dollars he promised to spend and the many campaign offices he said he would keep open on behalf of the Democratic nominee should also be a huge benefit for Biden, if he were to become the nominee. A Morning Consult national poll taken Monday and Tuesday of Michael Bloomberg supporters showed 48% of them say Vice President Biden is their second choice with Senator Sanders at 25%.

Senator Elizabeth Warren quit the race on Thursday March 5. She is a wildcard in terms of who she endorses, if she even endorses at all. She stayed neutral for virtually the entire 2016 primary; choosing to endorse Hillary Clinton on June 9, three days after the AP projected Secretary Clinton had enough delegates to become the nominee and the same day President Obama also endorsed Clinton. It’s apparent she and Senator Sanders are more similar on ideology than Biden. She and the Vermont Senator have comparable policy proposals which leads many people to assume if she quit the race her voters would line up behind Sanders. I’d argue that she is more part of the “establishment” wing of the party and isn’t a “tear down the system, we need a revolution” type of person.

The biggest reason most of her supporters may not line up behind Sanders, barring a robust endorsement of the Vermont senator, would be her strong appeal to white women with a college degree, of which over one-third of her supporters are, according to an NBC News exit poll. Sanders is very weak with that demographic. Besides his home state, in exit polls he did not win white women with a college degree in any state. According to my own analysis, excluding Vermont, Biden beat Sanders among white females with a college degree in nine out of ten states, including winning them by 8 or more points in seven of those ten states. Excluding Vermont, Senator Warren beat Sanders among white women with a degree in eight of ten states, including winning them by 9 or more points in four of those eight states. Furthermore, a Morning Consult national poll taken between Monday and Tuesday shows Warren supporters’ second choice being Sanders 43%-Biden 36%.

The New York Times forecaster estimates that after the votes are done being counted for Super Tuesday, Joe Biden will have 664 delegates and Bernie Sanders will have 573 (these numbers include delegates won prior to Super Tuesday). If that turns out to be the case, that is not a large lead but it may be too difficult for Sen. Sanders to overcome. The New York Times’ Nate Cohn points out that Arizona, New Mexico, New York and Florida “allow only registered Democrats to vote, and therefore exclude a disproportionate number of young Hispanic voters-many of them registered as independents-who are likeliest to back Mr. Sanders.” It will also hurt him with young non-Latino voters who are more likely to be registered as an Independent. Cohn estimates Biden needs around 54% of the remaining delegates to claim a majority heading into the Democratic nomination and Sanders needs around 57 percent of the remaining delegates to claim a majority.

States which switched from caucuses in 2016 to primaries in 2020 have presented problems for Sen. Sanders. This is because caucuses usually benefit insurgent candidates with the most fervent and passionate base. In 2016 Colorado had a caucus in which Sanders won by 19% and there were about 122,000 cast. They’ve now switched to a primary and while Sanders won, it was by 12% and almost one million votes have been counted with 12% of votes left to count. Minnesota, a state Sanders won with 61% in 2016, also switched to a primary for 2020 and he lost the state this time, only getting 30%. A weird quirk about Washington in 2016 is they held a caucus in March, which awarded the delegates, and a non-binding primary in May. Only slightly more than 26,000 people voted in the caucus and Sen. Sanders won in it a landslide, netting 47 delegates. During the non-binding primary, meaning zero delegates were handed out, over 800,000 people voted and Clinton won it 52%-48%-that could be concerning to the Sanders campaign. This year there is only a primary and 89 pledged delegates are up for grabs. According to the Secretary of State, about 350,000 Democratic ballots were mailed in prior to South Carolina so one would assume those votes were not so good for the former Vice President, but through Tuesday 256,000 more ballots were mailed in and given how strongly late deciders broke for Biden across the country on Super Tuesday, it’s reasonable to think voters in Washington behaved the same way. A Washington poll came out on Saturday, March 7 which had Biden +3 over Sanders. Even if Sanders won Washington, he’d hardly net any delegates-he needs a blowout win from somewhere soon to get back in the race.

States which vote March 10 could be strong for Biden, favor Sanders, or be a mixed bag. Mississippi, which only hands out 36 delegates, will be a landslide for Biden similar to Alabama. Missouri should be tight since Clinton won it by a razor-thin margin in 2016, though theoretically Biden could perform better than her because he is stronger among whites without a college degree and rural voters. It seems likely Sanders will win in Idaho and North Dakota but even if Sanders wins these with big margins, he wouldn’t be netting many delegates because they only combine for 34. Michigan doles out 125 delegates, the most next Tuesday and Sen. Sanders is hoping for a repeat of 2016 in which he won this state. A poll conducted completely prior to Super Tuesday-and before Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar dropped out-showed Biden leading Sanders by nearly 7%. Bloomberg was at 10.5% and Warren was at 6.7% in the poll. It’s just one poll but given this was taken before Super Tuesday this is problematic for Sen. Sanders. FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver tweeted, “It’s not clear that it’s an above-average state for him demographically. He’s doing better among Hispanics vs. 2016 (not many in MI) but not as well among non-college whites (lots in MI).” Indeed, Sanders has not excelled among Northern white voters without a college degree the same way he did in 2016. CNN’s Harry Enten, an elections analyst, tweeted on Friday: “In the northern primaries (essentially midwest + northeast) outside of VT in 2016, Sanders beat Clinton by 16 among whites without a college degree. In 3 northern primaries outside of VT on Super Tuesday, Biden beat Sanders by 8 with them.” Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer endorsed Biden on Thursday, which should be a boost for him. On Thursday it was reported Sen. Klobuchar will campaign for Biden in Detroit, Southfield and Grand Rapids over the weekend. On Sunday March 8, former presidential candidate Senator Kamala Harris announced her endorsement of Joe Biden and said she will campaign with him in Detroit on Monday. Still, Sen. Sanders campaigned in Detroit on Friday and will be in Grand Rapids on Sunday as he looks to stay even with Biden. This could be a close one but the fundamentals favor Biden.

Looking past March 10, things likely get worse for Senator Sanders. In each contest remaining in March, Sanders lost them to Clinton in 2016. Florida is by far the worst state for him with an older, more moderate/conservative leaning white electorate and Hispanics that do not find him appealing, particularly because of the things Sanders has said about Fidel Castro. A Florida poll released Thursday, March 5, which was taken the day before, has Biden up 61%-12% over Sanders. Mike Bloomberg was included in the poll and registered at 14%. Warren had 5%. It awards 219 delegates so a landslide would be significant for him. Beyond that, Ohio, Illinois, Georgia, and Arizona vote this month. Of those four he realistically has the best chance of winning Arizona due to more Latinx support than four years ago, especially because it is southwestern and Sanders did very well in Nevada and Southern California. On Friday news broke that Congressman Ruben Gallego, whose district is majority Hispanic and represents a lot of Phoenix, endorsed Joe Biden and will help him on the ground in the days prior to the election. Ohio is a friendly Biden state because of black voters, whites without a degree and as Dave Wasserman pointed out on NBC’s election coverage, he did great in Appalachian areas in Virginia and Tennessee. He should win Georgia big as he has in other southern states because the state has a large African American electorate in the primary. Illinois’ electorate is older and more African American, which favors Biden.

In early April there are a handful of states and though Sanders should perform well in them, none give out more than 84 delegates. April 28 is the final huge delegate day and The New York Times delegate tracker page says, “If one candidate dominates every state this late in the primary, party leaders will most likely move to get behind that person and seek to bring the race to an end.” Unfortunately for Sen. Sanders he’s not poised to do well in any of the six sates which vote that day except Rhode Island, which only hands out 26 delegates. Biden is a strong favorite in Delaware, where he was a Senator for over thirty years; his home state of Pennsylvania, where his campaign headquarters is; Connecticut, Maryland, and New York likely favor Biden too. Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight model, using demographics and geography, shows Sen. Sanders’s best states remaining (in order of best to worst) are New Mexico, Rhode Island, Wyoming (still a caucus), Idaho, Arizona, Washington, Puerto Rico, Oregon, Alaska, and Democrats Abroad. These ten states and territories combine for 398 delegates. Sanders could still win the nomination but he would need to pull off some major upsets-not just small wins but landslide victories in states which award a small amount of delegates and a lot. As of this publication this morning, FiveThirtyEight’s Democratic primary model gives Joe Biden an 89% chance to win a majority of pledged delegates.

Originally published at on March 8, 2020.

OC native & 2020 graduate from CSUF with a BA in Political Science. This is a place to read about TV, sports, politics/elections, and Supreme Court cases.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store