I recently wrote why I thought that Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders would win the Democratic primaries in California and Texas. I noted that his win was predicated on his campaign’s ability to mobilize young and Latinx voters. If Sanders fails to turnout these voters, it is difficult to see how he can claim to be an alternative to former Vice President Joe Biden or be the best candidate to beat President Donald Trump.
Surveys completed after Biden’s big win in the South Carolina primary show that the former Vice President is gaining ground in the polls. These numbers do not capture the possible impact of Biden’s new endorsements from his former rivals — Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke and Kamala Harris. Let’s not forget that South Carolina Congressman James Clyburn’s endorsement of Biden before the Palmetto state’s primary did give his campaign a much needed boost.
Let us look at the moving averages for the following states to get an idea of the state of the race going into Super Tuesday: California, Texas, North Carolina, Massachusetts, and Virginia. The next figure reminds us that these states have the most pledged delegates.
In California and Texas, Sanders’s lead has been very consistent. But it seems that his support has a ceiling in both states. The reality is that Sanders has failed to consolidate the progressive vote and this is partially due to Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren’s candidacy.
Biden’s numbers have dramatically improved after his commanding win in the South Carolina primary. I thought before the primary that Biden’s victory would translate in modest gains on the Super Tuesday’s primaries. What my analysis failed to consider was voters’ deep desire for a candidate who can beat Trump in November. Ideological debates are not influencing their choice. They want to support a person who can win.
Before the Iowa caucuses, Biden had a firm control over the race. His poor debate performance and his weak showings in Iowa and New Hampshire forced many voters to reconsider their support for Biden. This helped Mike Bloomberg grow his support and gave Sanders’s an opportunity to become Biden’s alternative.
After South Carolina, the Democratic establishment has lined up behind Biden. The endorsement from his rivals echo the Democratic Party’s faith that he is the best candidate to take on Trump in November. This is why Bloomberg’s support has declined. Many voters who considered voting for the former New York City Mayor have been moving towards Biden and this has raised questions about Sanders’ long-term viability.
Does this mean that Sanders is out of the race? No. He has more money than Biden and his campaign is stronger on the ground. Biden’s surge in the polls will test his campaign’s get-out-the vote operations. If he can mobilize young and Latinx voters, he will win California and build a big lead in terms of pledged delegates, which will be difficult for Biden to close. While a Sanders win in Texas is more difficult, if he can mobilize his base and pull off a victory, he will be able to show that he can take on Trump and stop Biden’s momentum.
Sanders lets not forget is poised to win the primaries in Vermont, Maine, Utah and Colorado. Now that Amy Klobuchar has ended her campaign, he may win Minnesota’s primary. He may win the Massachusetts primary, which may convince Elizabeth Warren to end her campaign.
Biden should win the primaries in Virginia, North Carolina, Arkansas, Alabama, Tennessee, Oklahoma. But it is worth noting that these are states where Bloomberg could do well as well. After all, Bloomberg has built an impressive ground operation too and if he can mobilize his supporters he could limit Biden’s gains in the delegate count. As I noted in my earlier post, Biden’s financial difficulties forced him to dedicate all his campaign’s resources to South Carolina and this could hurt his chances of winning these primaries by big margins. Also, Sanders may actually gain more than 15% in all these primaries, adding delegates to his tally and helping him grow his existing lead.
I still believe that Sanders will win the majority of the pledged delegates at stake on Super Tuesday. But, there is a good chance Biden, Bloomberg and Warren will limit the margin of this victory.
Post-Super Tuesday the race for the Democratic nomination does not look too rosy for Sanders’s supporters. Even if Warren ends her campaign, it will be difficult to win many of the upcoming contests by big margins. If Biden can keep the race for pledged delegates close, there will be a contested convention. Given the Democratic establishment’s backing of Biden, it is difficult to see how Sanders will be able to convince superdelegates to support his presidential aspirations. This will tear the Democratic Party apart and favor Trump’s reelection chances.
On March 3, 2020, 14 states and the American Samoa will hold their primaries for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. Together these contests are known as Super Tuesday and they are the most consequential day in this race.
The Democratic candidates have been competing for a majority of the 3,940 pledged delegates distributed across 57 caucuses or primaries — comprising the 50 states, 6 unincorporated territories, and Democrats Abroad. The first four contests only represent 4% of the total. At stake on Super Tuesday is 35% of the total count of pledged delegates.
The two most important primaries, as the figure shows, will be held in California and Texas. Together they represent close to half of Super Tuesday’s haul.
Will Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders win these primaries? Polling data plus the Sanders’s win in the Nevada caucuses indicate that not only will he win these key contests, but also that he may do so by big margins.
The following graphs include moving averages for the main Democratic candidates in California and Texas. I collected the polling data from the RealClearPolitics website.
The numbers suggest that Sanders will win both primaries. In California, the margin of victory could very big. While the polls capture former Vice President Joe Biden’s declining popularity after the Iowa caucuses, it also shows growth in his support after the South Carolina Democratic Debate and his commanding victory in South Carolina’s primary. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s numbers are fluctuating around 15%, which is the threshold candidates need to meet to win pledged delegates. Interestingly, while earlier polls showed gains for Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, the last few polls may be a sign of her weakness entering Super Tuesday.
Sanders’s biggest advantage is the early vote. The University of California, Berkeley’s latest poll indicates that Sanders’s leads in the early ballots by 15%. He also holds a demographic advantage over the other candidates — an issue I address more closely in the next section.
Sanders’s projected winning margin in Texas is less pronounced. The race for second place is very interesting. Bloomberg’s early strength may have been tempered by Biden’s big win in South Carolina’s Democratic primary. Could these moderate candidates thwart a Sanders’ s win? It will depend on who turnouts to vote.
The latest CNN poll shows that Sanders is struggling with voters who are 65 or more. These voters prefer Bloomberg (34%) and Biden (29%) over Sanders (11%). In contrast, 40% of voters between the ages of 18 and 49 favor the Vermont Senator.
The Racial/Ethnic Composition of California’s, Texas’s and Nevada’s Registered Voters
Sanders’s commanding victory in Nevada was very impressive. The results challenged the media narrative that Sanders’s message only resonated with young voters or very liberal ones. The entrance polls demonstrated that Sanders has been able to broaden his coalition, increasing his support among moderates and older voters.
Most importantly, Nevada was the first contest that had a sizeable non-White population. Over a third of non-White voters participated in the caucuses and Sanders won 42% of these votes. While Joe Bide won 38% of the African American vote, which represented 11% of caucus-goers, Sanders captured 28%. Most impressive was Sanders’s 50% win among Latinxs, who represented 17% of caucus-goers.
Repeating Sanders’s strong win in Nevada will be more difficult in future contests. But his popularity among Latinx voters gives him a critical advantage in states with an active Latinx electorate. The exception to this rule may be Florida given Puerto Ricans’ and Cuban Americans’ aversion to socialism.
The next figure illustrates the racial/ethnic makeup of California’s, Nevada’s and Texas’s registered voters. The data was collected by the U.S. Census.
Based on these numbers, will Sanders’s winning margin in California be as big as Nevada’s? Recent survey data shows that Sanders’s support among Latinxs is mixed. The poll conducted by the University of California, Berkeley finds that 51% of Latinos will vote for the Vermont Senator, while the CBS News/YouGov estimates his support to be around 30% in this voting group.
As noted above, the race is closer in Texas. However, the NBC News/Marist poll indicates that 46% of Latinxs will vote for Sanders in the primary, while the CBS News/YouGov estimates that this support is closer to 42%.
It is clear that Sanders is poised to win both states, but the margin victory will be decided by the turnout rate among Latinx voters.
Does Age Matter?
Nationally speaking, 60% of the Latinx voters are
Here is a breakdown of registered voters in California, Nevada, South Carolina, and Texas.
While Biden won the South Carolina primary by a huge margin, the state’s electorate is older. Sanders’s performance with African Americans was not as strong as in Nevada, but polls suggest that his message appealed to younger African American voters. Only 29% of primary-goers in South Carolina were between the ages of 17 and 44 and Sanders won 38% of the vote, edging Biden’s 36% share. His share was higher among 17–29 group was 43.5% and Biden’s was 29.5.
If we look at Nevada’s registered voters by age, we can see that the 18 to 44 age group is bigger in both California and Texas. These numbers bode well for
Age is an important factor that can play
My Twitter feed was abuzz with videos and pictures of long lines of people waiting to see one of Pete Buttigieg’s rallies in New Hampshire.
Could Buttigieg pull off a surprise win in the New Hampshire primary? I collected all the polls conducted this year. In addition, I have calculated the average scores. To help us visualize the trends, I graphed these findings.
Here are a few quick observations:
1. Even though Buttigieg’s support has increased since his finish in Iowa, Bernie Sanders still leads by an average of 5%.
2. Buttigieg’s post-Iowa bounce seems to have subsided and Sanders’ support seems to be growing.
3. Buttigieg’s rise is not a threat to Sanders but to Joe Biden or Amy Klobuchar, who share his more moderate positions. Sanders’ main challenger is Elizabeth Warren. Thus, Buttigieg’s gains or loses are not necessarily affecting Sanders’s standing in the race.
4. Biden’s declining support explains why he has decided to reorganize his campaign. Failing to finish in the top three will hurt his campaign’s fundraising operations or its get-out-the-vote efforts in Nevada or South Carolina.
5. Klobuchar’s increasing support is modest, but it parallels Buttigieg’s small decline. As I noted in an earlier post, she had a strong performance in the last debate and it seems that voters are giving her candidacy a second look.
6. Warren’s fluctuations are also interesting. The graph indicates that she will come in third in the primary. Her sagging numbers seemed to have hurt her fundraising efforts and it may explain why her campaign has canceled television ads in Nevada and South Carolina, saving precious resources for the Super Tuesday primaries.
I did not have a chance to see the New Hampshire Democratic Debate and it seems that the candidates did not make any major mistakes. FiveThirtyEight, working with Ipsos, interviewed, voters before and after the debate and the results are quite interesting. Respondents were asked to rate each participants’ debate performance. Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar were at the top of the list, followed by Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, and Joe Biden. At the end of the list were Tom Steyer and Andrew Yang – in that order.
The goal of the debates is to help voters decide who to support in the upcoming primaries and caucuses. The FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos survey can help us understand whether the candidates’ debate performance affected respondents’ voting choices. Figure 1 summarizes these findings.
Most of the candidates’ performances convinced some voters to give them a second look. Yang’s numbers were basically flat, while Biden’s decline should be seen as one more signal that his campaign is in some trouble.
For the past year, I have been collecting data on each candidates’ number of followers on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Campaigns need to build their social media followings to accomplish at least four important goals: (1) communicate their ideas, (2) promote their events; (3) request financial support; and (4) to get out the vote. More savvy campaigns also analyze followers’ comments to evaluate the effectiveness of their social media strategies.
Even though social media platforms are not representative of the United States public, the Pew Research Center finds that at least 72% of Americans use “some type of social media” and Facebook is currently the “
Thus, I assume that political campaigns want to grow their social media followings and noteworthy events, such as debates, should help these campaigns attract new followers and keep existing ones.
Which of the candidates who participated in the debate attracted the highest number of new followers?
I collected the number of followers on each platform a few hours before the debate and 14 hours after. Rather than reporting each candidate’s number of new followers. I calculate the increase as a percentage of their post-debate total. Figure 2 summarizes the Facebook statistics, which includes two measures “page likes” and “page follows”.
Figure 3 describes the percent increase in Instagram followers and figure 4 summarizes the statistics for Twitter followers.
Although the growth patterns in each social media platform are different, the graphs echo some of the FiveThirtyEight-Ipsos’ survey. Klobuchar is the big winner in the three platforms, while Buttigieg comes in second. While it seems unlikely that Klobuchar will win the New Hampshire primary, her growing popularity may weaken Biden’s support and halt Buttigieg’s gains. Yang’s and Steyer’s increasing followers, especially on Twitter and Instagram, suggest that people want to learn more about their views.
While it is difficult to make sense of Sanders’ and Warren’s modest growth, the figures indicate that Biden’s campaign is in trouble. He lost followers on Instagram, while his gains in the other two platforms were at best anemic. Biden is no longer the front-runner and his presidential hopes seem to be fading.
Can the number of each candidates’ social media followers tell us something about their popularity and their campaign’s strength? This is one of the questions that informs my current research. But it seems that at first glance the findings of the FiveThirtyEight-Ipsos’ survey are in line with the amount of followers each of the participants gained 14 hours after the debate.
Like many observers, I thought that we were going to see an increase in the number of caucus-goers in Iowa. News reports suggested that the Iowa Democratic Party was expecting numbers closer to the record-setting caucuses of 2008, where around 240,000 voters participated in the nominating process. The Monmouth Poll of January 29, 2020, which documented Bernie Sanders’ rising popularity in Iowa and Joe Biden’s slide, indicated that its forecast assumed the turnout rate would be closer to 2008 than 2016.
Although the numbers may change as the Democratic National Committee has asked the Iowa Democratic Party to conduct a recount of the vote, the turnout rate is similar to 2016 as Figure 1 demonstrates.
The caucuses are only open to registered Democrats, though the rules allow participants to change their registration or register as Democrats at the caucus sites. Rather than looking at the total number of caucus-goers, we should measure the percent of “active registered” Democrats who participated in the caucuses.
Trying to calculate this figure is tricky given that we do not know how many caucus-goers registered with the Iowa Democratic Party before the start of this year’s caucuses. As documented in Figure 2, we know that past caucuses have increased the Iowa Democratic Party’s count of active registered voters.
Based on past trends, we can safely assume that the number of registered Democrats will increase and Iowa’s Secretary of State will publish new numbers in early March 2020 that should support this view. For now, we can average the observed increases since 2000 and estimate that the IDP’s voter roll will increase by around 24,191.
If this is a valid estimate, the turnout rate for this year’s caucuses would be around 29.87%, which is a little bit higher than the 2016 rate of 27.95% but lower than the 36.11% record set in 2008.
What may explain the lower than expected voter turnout in Iowa? One possible answer is that the campaigns failed to energize voters and to attract new caucus-goers. This year’s entrance poll demonstrates that for 37% of participants this was their first caucus. In comparison, the rate was 44% and 57% in 2016 and 2008, respectively.
Another reason could be voters’ difficulty trying to decide who to support. Caucuses are more demanding than primaries. They are communal events where participants publicly announce their preferences and they need to be ready to change their to support if their candidates fail to garner the backing of 15% of voters in the caucus. This process is tedious and puts undo pressure on voters. It may even explain why turnout rates in primaries are higher than in caucuses. Thus, caucuses should attract participants whom are certain about their choices rather than those who are undecided.
This year’s entrance poll reveals that over 36% of caucus-goers decided “whom to support” a “few days” before the caucuses. In comparison, these late-deciders represented 16% of caucus-goers in 2016. This discrepancy may suggest that many voters did not attend this year’s caucuses because they were unable to make a choice and, as explained below, the fact that we currently have 12 candidates in this race make this process even more difficult.
One final cause for the lower than expected turnout rate could be that there were too many candidates. The academic literature on choice overload may not only explain this year’s turnout but it could also shed light as to why many Democrats have been so angered by the caucuses’ results. This research argues that people are overwhelmed when presented multiple choices, forcing many to defer the choice or not make a choice altogether.
Writing April 2, 2019 in Politico Magazine, Lily Kofler, reacting to the growing field of Democratic presidential aspirants, used this research to predict that “too many options will, counterintuitively, result in lower satisfaction among Democratic voters – and possibly lead to lower enthusiasm and lower turnout.” Her prescient insights foreshadowed Democrats’ mixed emotions with the state of nomination process today.
While many Democrats are dissapointed by the turnout rate in this year’s Iowa caucuses, they should find some comfort that the number of caucus-goers increased slightly. Another positive outcome is the fact that the Iowa Democratic Party will likely add new voters to its roll. The challenge is not the lower-than expected turnout, but the fact that the results of the Iowa caucuses did not produce a clear winner or put enough pressure on weaker candidates to end their presidential aspirations.
Monday, February 3, 2020, Iowa will hold their caucuses, marking the official start of the Democratic presidential nomination contest. New Hampshire’s primary will be held eight days later, followed by 55 more contests ending on June 6, 2020.
Although 12 candidates are competing for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, it seems that three have a realistic shot at winning the nomination: Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren.
Recent polls show that Biden is still in the lead, but Sanders is closing the gap, while Warren’s numbers keep sliding. These polls also indicate that Mike Bloomberg’s popularity is increasing and that Andrew Yang’s is gaining more support. Could Pete Buttigieg or Amy Klobuchar pull off a surprise win in one of the first contests?
Although they represent 4% of all pledged delegates, the first four contests earn lots of media attention. For the weaker candidates, a poor showing in these primaries or caucuses will end their presidential hopes while the winners will get a bump in the polls. But for the top candidates, the real test will be on March 3, Super Tuesday. On this day, 15 states, including California and Texas, will hold their primaries and the candidates will compete for 34% of all the pledged delegates.
Other dates in the schedule are important too. On March 17, the candidates will compete for 15% of the pledged delegates in four major major primaries. If a winner has not been decided by then, the Acela Primaries on April 28 will likely determine the presumptive nominee.
Who will win the nomination? It is too early to say. But the answer will start to be clearer after Super Tuesday. And for those who are curious about upcoming contests, here is a list of this year’s Democratic caucuses and primaries.
For the last days, I have been thinking about the way Americans elect their president and I am not the only way thinking about this issue, according to Google Trends data.
To win the presidency, a nominee has to earn a minimum of 270 electoral votes, rather than a majority of votes cast. This is not the place to review the history of the Electoral College (EC), but it is important to keep in mind that it totals 538 votes. Each state and the District of Columbia gets a proportional share of these electoral votes, according to the following formula:
- States receive two electoral votes, which corresponds to each’s allotment of two seats in the U.S. Senate.
- The remaining electoral votes are distributed among the 50 states based on each’s number of Congressional Districts.
- With the adoption of the 23rd amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the District of Columbia has three electoral votes.
The EC is a much-maligned system. In a recent town-hall, Massachusetts Senator and presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren explained why she wants to get rid of the EC and let Americans vote directly for their president. Here is one of Senator Warren’s tweets summarizing her position:
Every vote matters. We need to get rid of the Electoral College so that presidential candidates have to ask every American in every part of the country for their vote, not just those in battleground states. #WarrenTownHall pic.twitter.com/UT3mYHXHQ2— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) March 19, 2019
Unsurprisingly, Republicans oppose her proposal. For example, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham tweeted:
Even President Donald Trump, who won the EC but lost the popular to Hillary Clinton by almost 3 million votes, entered the debate, sharing his thoughts on Twitter.
What do Americans think of the EC? Do they want to get rid of it? Last summer, the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) conducted a poll that found that close to two-thirds of Americans want to directly elect their president by popular vote. It also demonstrated that Democrats strongly favored getting rid of the EC while Republicans’ attitudes are mixed. A Rasmussen survey of likely voters carried out in early October 2018 did not corroborate the PRRI’s findings. Only 46% of respondents favored “eliminating” the EC. In December 2016, Gallup found that 49% of Americans wanted “to amend the Constitution to allow for a popular vote for president”, but this was lower than the 62% of respondents who in 2012 wanted to get rid of the EC. In addition, Gallup’s research also suggested that 81% of left-leaning and 19% of right leaning Americans wanted to do away with the EC.
While many Americans are dissatisfied with the EC, amending the constitution is unrealistic in today’s hyperpartisan environment. So what can we do?
One solution, as Jamelle Bouie recently argued in the pages of The New York Times, is for states to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. This initiative is quite simple. It requires states (and the District of Columbia) to pledge their delegates to the winner of the national popular vote. So far, 13 states, equaling 181 electoral votes, have passed legislation supporting this project. But the system goes into effect once the initiative attracts 270 electoral votes.
|State||Governor||State Legislature||2016 Pres. Winner||Vote Margin|
|CA||Democrat||Democratic Mayority||Hillary Clinton||30%|
|CO||Democrat||Democratic Mayority||Hillary Clinton||5%|
|CT||Democrat||Democratic Mayority||Hillary Clinton||16%|
|DC||Democrat||Democratic Mayority||Hillary Clinton||86%|
|HI||Democrat||Democratic Mayority||Hillary Clinton||32%|
|IL||Democrat||Democratic Mayority||Hillary Clinton||17%|
|MA||Republican||Democratic Mayority||Hillary Clinton||27%|
|MD||Republican||Democratic Mayority||Hillary Clinton||26%|
|NJ||Democrat||Democratic Mayority||Hillary Clinton||14%|
|NY||Democrat||Democratic Mayority||Hillary Clinton||25%|
|RI||Democrat||Democratic Mayority||Hillary Clinton||16%|
|VT||Republican||Democratic Mayority||Hillary Clinton||26%|
|WA||Democrat||Democratic Mayority||Hillary Clinton||16%|
While other states are considering joining the Compact, the biggest hurdle, as the table shows, is that Republicans still dominate a majority of the states’ legislatures and governor mansions across the country. For now, the Compact is an unrealistic option.
Another solution could be for states to adopt what I call the Maine-Nebraska Model or what is also known as the “Congressional District Method“. These two states distribute their electoral votes using the following formula:
- The winner of the popular vote receives the two electoral votes associated with their states’ representation in the U.S. Senate.
- A presidential candidate can lose the state’s popular vote, but still earn electoral votes if he or she can win a majority of the vote in each of the state’s Congressional Districts.
In 2008, Nebraska split its electoral votes, awarding John McCain four of its five electoral votes and one to Barack Obama. Obama won the majority of the vote in the state’s 2nd Congressional District, which includes Omaha and its suburbs. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won three of Maine’s four electoral vote, while Donald Trump won the electoral vote of the mostly-rural 2nd Congressional District.
What if all the states adopted this Maine-Nebraska Model? Would it have affected the results of the 2016 presidential race?
The table below includes numbers for the actual outcome of the elections, while the next column looks at the results if we apply the Maine-Nebraska Model. The table also includes the number of Congressional Districts and states each candidate won. The last column shows who won the District of Columbia’s three electoral votes.
|Actual Outcome||MN_Model||States||Congressional Districts||DC|
If all states had apportioned their electoral votes using Maine’s and Nebraska’s approach, President Trump would have still comfortably won the presidency. Should this disqualify this alternative to the EC?
Let us apply the Maine-Nebraska Model to the 2012 and the 2008 presidential elections.
|Actual Outcome||MN_Model||States||Congressional Districts||DC|
Under the Maine-Nebraska Model, President Obama would have been a one-term president. And Obama’s victory in 2008 would have been narrower.
|Actual Outcome||MN_Model||States||Congressional Districts||DC|
What if we applied the model to the 2004 and 2000 elections?
|Actual Outcome||MN_Model||States||Congressional Districts||DC|
|Actual Outcome||MN_Model||States||Congressional Districts||DC|
Under the Maine-Nebraska Model, President Bush would have earned more electoral votes in both elections.
What can we learn from this analysis? If we agree we Senator Warren’s belief that we need to change the EC in order to force presidential candidates to campaign outside “battleground states”, the Maine-Nebraska Model accomplishes this goal. After all, would Maine or Nebraska have received any attention during the last presidential elections, if they distributed their electoral votes as the other 48 states?
It is important to note that Senator Warren would probably not support the Maine-Nebraska Model. But, her desire to eliminate the EC is unrealistic. Amending the constitution will not take place in the next years.
Republicans’ opposition to reforming the EC is understandable. If it was not for the EC, Al Gore and Hillary Clinton would have won their respective races. But if public opinion starts to turn against the EC, Republicans could propose that states adopt Maine’s and Nebraska’s approach as a measure that seems more democratic than the current electoral system.
Would this be good for democracy? It would be a step in the right direction. But the chances that states will adopt Maine’s or Nebraska’s approach is also a long shot. It is not in either party’s interest. By turning battleground states into battleground districts, the parties would have to adapt their campaigning structures and raise more money to target even more districts.
For now, it seems we will just have to accept the EC’s limitations as it is unlikely that Americans will be able to reform or replace the current electoral system.