Super Tuesday Update: CA, MA, MN, TX—Not So Fast

Yesterday, I innocently thought it was safe to start writing Super Tuesday previews. And posting them. First Pete Buttigieg said goodbye. Ok, update the first one, edit the second. Wait to do anything else. Then Amy Klobuchar exited. Both are endorsing Joe Biden tonight. Which means a good amount of what was said yesterday needs review.

Original MA, MN, VT Preview

Original CA, TX Preview

Let’s take a look:

California

My previous assumption was that Biden could not catch Bernie Sanders. There was a big polling gap, and even if Joe closed incredibly well, there were still too many early votes already in. While typing that, Buttigieg dropped out. But it still didn’t seem like enough. It did mean Biden would likely avoid an insurmountable delegate gap. With Klobuchar leaving, and both endorsing Biden, his odds improve further. Now we have yet another item to consider. A new survey from AtlasIntel has Bernie leading Biden 34-26.

On the surface, that squares with the idea that Biden won’t lose badly, but won’t catch up. And there’s another piece of bad news for him. Buttigieg was at 3% and Klobuchar 1%, so it’s not like picking up their voters would erase the whole deficit. The thing is, AtlasIntel has polled the last three states in the few days leading up to the vote. Here’s what happened if you compare the gap between Bernie/Biden:

NH: Before: (Bernie +12), Actual: (Bernie +17), Difference: (Bernie +5)

NV: Before: (Bernie +27), Actual* (Bernie +16), Difference: (Biden +11)

SC: Before: (Biden +11), Actual (Biden +28), Difference: (Biden +17)

*The Nevada results are often reported as Bernie +26 because of the official County Caucus Delegates measurement, but on the first alignment, which is what the polls measured, the gap was much smaller.

If you average the three outcomes, Biden did almost 8 points better v. Bernie than the AtlasIntel poll indicated. If that happens here, they’re in a dead heat. I’d still expect Sanders to win. FiveThirtyEight has him with an 83% chance of victory. Remember, their model isn’t going to catch a final rush that isn’t represented in the polls. Biden beat their South Carolina estimate by almost 10 points, while Sanders fell short.

You won’t know who won when you go to sleep Tuesday night. California takes *forever* to process their mail ballots. Final results can deviate from what’s reported on election night by more than most places. While the 2016 winner didn’t change, Hillary’s margin was cut by more than half from the night of the primary to final result. Just because a candidate is ahead by 5 to 7 points at bedtime, doesn’t mean that person will win.

Minnesota

What a mess. It’s unusual for the person who was leading in the public polls to drop out the day before the vote. It’s possible Klobuchar’s internal polls showed she was dropping. But the latest numbers we have showed her winning. And early voting began January 17, so there’s a limit to how much she could have cratered. FiveThirtyEight is still showing her as the second most likely winner.

This wasn’t a good Biden state. At all. Even with the Klobuchar endorsement, he’s very unlikely to win. It’s possible he still finishes fourth, trailing the consensus favorite Sanders, Klobuchar, and Warren in some order. If you see the cable networks reporting big numbers for Joe, he’s going to have a great Super Tuesday. Except for Vermont, this is his least likely victory.

Warren is now likely to get a decent amount of delegates.

Massachusetts

Thirty-six hours ago, this was a two candidate race between Sanders and Warren, with Bernie in the lead. I wondered if Buttigieg could pick up a few delegates in favorable congressional districts. No new polling is out, which leaves my gut. I think Warren’s odds of catching Sanders have increased noticeably. More Buttigieg/Klobuchar voters are available to her than him. And even if their support would have trailed off at the finish, a Suffolk poll taken from 2/26 to 2/29 (which overlapped the 2/24 to 2/28 early voting period) gave them a combined 17%.

It’s also not impossible Biden could win. It would require the Pete/Amy voters going to him in far larger numbers than Warren, while a percentage of Bloomberg supporters decided Biden was the safer bet to stop Bernie. If someone gives you 10 to 1 odds, take it. If Biden is close here when the returns start coming in, he’s having a good night, and will be competitive most places on the map going forward.

Texas

This is still down to Bernie or Biden. There’s an AtlasIntel survey here too. It’s Sanders +10. Despite that, I still think Biden’s odds are better here than California. His overall poll margin is closer, and we likely don’t want to ignore all the other surveys. Buttigieg and Klobuchar combined for twice as much support in their Texas poll, so Joe has more to work with. This also isn’t the most recent Texas poll. Though it ended today, it began on 2/24.

The fundamentals say Texas Democrats are more centrist than California Dems. This is especially true among the Latino voters Sanders is targeting. Not that he won’t win at least a plurality with the group, even in Texas, but the margin should be smaller. I think the key variable is Bloomberg, who is polling better here than California. It’s important a couple ways. First, in order to stay in the contest, he needs to win some Super Tuesday delegates. Even if he gets them in some places, he can’t afford to get mostly shut out in Texas, or he’ll be too far behind to horse trade his way into a nomination.

He’s sitting just over the 15% line in most polls. For Biden to win, Bloomberg needs to drop a little. Though Texas isn’t California, it’s also not South Carolina. There’s a smaller percentage of African American voters, and those voters are a little younger and a bit less moderate than their South Carolina brethren. Biden will win the African American vote. But not in the percentages he did on Saturday.

I think Texas is going to tell us if Biden or Bernie should be favored the rest of the way, and how long Bloomberg will be an active participant. I just can’t decide what Texas will say. Of all the outcomes on Tuesday, it’s the least certain, and likely the most important.

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