Super Tuesday Creates Joementum
A bad night for Bloomberg and Warren has radically reshaped the race.
Vice President Joe Biden capitalized on his big win in South Carolina and had a much stronger-than-forecast showing in the delegate-rich Super Tuesday states.
FiveThirtyEight’s Sarah Frostenson:
In total, Biden won nine of the 15 primary contests at stake tonight, pulling off a number of upset victories, including a win in Minnesota (we’d projected Sanders would win there), a win in Massachusetts (Sanders again), and a win in Texas (that was more of a toss-up going into tonight), but basically Biden cleaned up across the board. He performed well in states where he wasn’t even really competing, and he proved he’s more than a regional candidate.
Sanders, on the other hand, did not have a great evening. He won just three states outright (Colorado, Utah and Vermont) and underperformed expectations. So far, he does seem on track to win delegate-rich California, though we won’t know the exact margin for a while yet.
Once all the Super Tuesday results are fully counted, 38 percent of delegates will have been awarded in the primary race, but this nomination fight is far from over, and there’s a real question about where it will go from here.
To relive the liveblog in all its chronological glory, scroll back through, but if that’s too much work, here are some headlines from the live blog crew:
Nate: Biden Is The Favorite For The Nomination, Just Like We Said in January (Hopefully You Slept Through February?)
Geoffrey: Super Tuesday Was A Big Effing Deal For Joe Biden
Clare: Biden His Time No More: Joe’s Super Tuesday Landslide (mine is a New York Post headline)
Nathaniel: Biden’s Momentum Continues With A Coalition-Expanding Super Tuesday Win
Kaleigh: Biden Surge Continues Through Super Tuesday, With Sanders On His Tail
Micah: Biden Pulls Off Historic Turnaround — He And Sanders Battle For Nomination
Meena: Democrats Winnowed The Field — To Biden And Sanders
The NBC News exit poll shows what you might expect:
Joe Biden is garnering nearly half the support of Democrats who picked a candidate in just the last few days before Super Tuesday, according to early results from the NBC News Exit Poll conducted in 12 of the 14 Super Tuesday states.
Riding a wave of endorsements from former rivals and his landslide victory in Saturday’s South Carolina primary, Biden was favored by 47 percent of Super Tuesday voters who said they picked a candidate in the last few days. He left Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Mike Bloomberg far behind with these late-deciding voters.
Which, of course, makes sense. Sanders is sui generis. If you preferred him, you probably preferred him all along. The only late-breaking Sanders voters were likely to be people who preferred Warren but decided after the weekend that she just can’t win.
WaPo (“Joe Biden romps in Super Tuesday presidential contests“):
With most precincts reporting, Biden was winning by double digits in the Super Tuesday states of Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas and Alabama. He also won Minnesota, Texas, Oklahoma and — in an embarrassment to home-state Sen. Elizabeth Warren — Massachusetts.
In states where he spent little money and no time, and had few field offices, he won as late-deciding voters rushed to support him. Even in a race that has been marked by volatility, the results capped a head-spinning 72 hours.
Sanders just days ago appeared to be en route to a potentially insurmountable lead in delegates after a near-win in Iowa and victories in the second and third contests, New Hampshire and Nevada. Biden seemed on the verge of being forced from the race, after successive fourth-, fifth- and distant second-place showings. But after his mammoth victory in South Carolina, moderates rapidly coalesced behind the former vice president, rivals dropped out and endorsed him, and he racked up margins of victory so large that Tuesday’s races were projected as victories immediately after polls closed.
His win in Virginia testified to the rapid reversal of fortunes. Despite having held only one rally there — and opening only one field office and spending far less than some of his rivals — Biden was on course to win every congressional district and carry the state in a landslide. As soon as polls closed in North Carolina — a state with a strong dose of suburban women and African American voters, both targets for the party and groups that lean toward Biden — he was declared the winner there as well.
His quick wins in Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee were also largely powered by big margins among women, black voters, moderates and those without college degrees. He also appeared to benefit from high turnout in the same kinds of suburban areas that helped Democrats win the House majority in the 2018 midterms, winning by massive margins in suburbs around Richmond.
WaPo’s Aaron Blake offers “5 takeaways from Super Tuesday.”
This race has a new front-runner: Joe Biden
Some Super Tuesday delegates are still up for grabs, especially in California, and this race is far from over. But we do have a new front-runner and favorite for the nomination: Joe Biden.
Biden won early, and even more importantly, he won big in the states he won on Super Tuesday. That means he has now built a delegate lead, barring a massive Sanders rout in California (that’s highly unlikely). The delegates are, after all, what matters now in this race.
It’s far from over — and next week looms
Biden got rather bold in his election-night speech, referring to his turnaround by saying, “We were told when we got to Super Tuesday, it would be over. Well, it may be over for the other guy.”
Biden clearly had the best night Tuesday, but it’s far too early to say what he said with any certainty. Exit polls and absentee voters’ surveys suggested Sanders had an early lead in California, which allocates 30 percent of all delegates available on Super Tuesday. Biden appears to have avoided the worst-case scenario there, which would have been to somehow fall below the 15 percent delegate threshold and hand Sanders a huge shift. But Sanders could still close the gap significantly as California’s results slowly trickle in.
What Biden did was inoculate himself against Sanders winning California by doing two things: racking up big delegate margins in some of those Southern states, and picking off a couple 2016 Sanders states.
But keep this in mind: Sanders is so far doing well in the West. If he wins California, it will join Colorado, Nevada and Utah in his win column. The furthest west Biden has won thus far is Texas and Oklahoma.
And who votes next Tuesday? Washington and Idaho. Also voting: Michigan and North Dakota, which Sanders won in 2016, and Missouri, where he came within a hair of winning. The one really, obviously favorable state for Biden next week is Mississippi. If Sanders can rack up some real delegates in California and beat Biden next week, who knows how this race will look?
(A few caveats: Three of these states that Sanders won in 2016 were caucuses but are now primaries, and Sanders has struggled to replicate his 2016 success in such states. Also, Michigan was very close in 2016. But these are at least opportunities for Sanders.)
There’s much more there but we’ll blog about the other candidates separately. The bottom line is that most voters in the so-called moderate lane—and, especially, African-American voters—seem to have coalesced around Biden.
The race is far from over. But any argument for a nominee who’s not Biden or Sanders is now rendered moot.