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.

FILED UNDER: 2020 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Teve says:


    The last voter at Texas Southern University has walked out of the voting booth. It took Hervis Rogers nearly 7 hours to vote tonight. #supertuesday2020

    This is disgusting.

  2. Teve says:


    Of course @JoeBiden is taking a victory lap. But it’s not going to stop his losing Super Tuesday. My new @washingtonpost column:


  3. mattbernius says:

    That gets back to James’ comment from yesterday:

    Second, there’s no reason to think Republican voter suppression efforts at the state and local level are going to be any less effective than they have been in recent cycles. The recent mass closure of voting locations in majority-minority neighborhoods across Texas are a case in point.

    Election commissions should not be partisan. Period. There is too much temptation for the party in power to do things like the Texas Republicans have done and close polling stations in Democratic strongholds.

  4. Kylopod says:



    Of course @JoeBiden is taking a victory lap. But it’s not going to stop his losing Super Tuesday.

    Is he auditioning for Dick Morris of the new ‘20s?

  5. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    I would prefer Warren; I don’t “believe” in Joe. I think he has lost a step, and isn’t sharp enough to face up Trump on the debate stage.
    But it’s looking like he is the nominee…so it’s time to get in step.
    Bloomberg needs to drop out and honor his commitment to send $500M to defeat Trump.
    Warren needs to drop out and endorse Biden.
    Bernie needs to drop out and endorse Biden. He hasn’t mustered the young vote he said he could. He hasn’t driven turnout. And he hasn’t captured the vote of women or people of color. He seems to have a ~35% ceiling.
    It’s time for everyone, who isn’t a Cult#45 member, to focus on beating Trump and winning the Senate.

  6. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Oh…and get ready for lots of talk about Caravans of Brown People, and Tax Cuts for the Middle Class, and Burisma. The White House fiction machine is going to gear up…yuuugely.

  7. Scott says:


    I live in Texas. Here are some of factors and barriers to voting:

    Elections are managed by Counties which are lead by a Commissioner’s Court with 3-4 Commissioners. There is a range of election capabilities. Harris County where TSU was has 4 Commissioners, 2 Dem and 2 Rep. Not being a resident of Harris County (I’m Bexar (San Antonio), I don’t have an opinion on their preparedness for voters.

    Ballots in Texas are very long. We elect just about everybody, many of whom should just be hired hands. If you don’t come into the booth prepared, you could easily spend 20 minutes voting. I’ve seen people show up and look at the ballot for the first time.

    Straight party voting was eliminated last year. There are pros and cons to this. One pro is that there used to be a one click option.

    Most big populated counties have moved to voting center concept where you can vote anywhere in the county instead of being restricted to your precinct.

    There is also two weeks of early voting.

  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: One doesn’t have to be sharp to beat trump on the debate stage, one has to be brutal. EW showed how brutal she can be when she gutted Bloomberg on the stage. I only hope Joe was taking notes.

  9. mattbernius says:

    Biden’s team gets coalition building:

    To Team Pete, Team Amy, and Team Beto: Tonight is your win, too. #TeamJoe is lucky to have you.

    Other candidates could learn from this…

  10. Jen says:

    @mattbernius: I intentionally followed a link sent by Team Pete to contribute to Biden. I know they’ll look at the data, and I wanted that to be really clear.

    Buttigieg, Klobuchar, and Beto understand that the real threat is a second Trump term.

  11. KM says:


    Buttigieg, Klobuchar, and Beto understand that the real threat is a second Trump term.

    THIS. Ultimately, this is why it will be Biden and not Sanders – Team Biden is Vote Blue No Matter Who and Team Sanders is already screaming that they’ll take their ball and go home if they’re not the Boss right now. We’re already seeing accusations of “theft” and “cheating” because their Leader hasn’t automatically gotten his rightful due. Now, I know it’s not all Bernie fans who do this but those that do are loud, insistent and serious as a heart attack. They’d rather Trump get a second term and tell you it’s your fault you didn’t pick their lord and savior. I mentioned this on the Sanders thread but there’s a disturbing similarity between Cult45 and CultBernie mentality that makes it easy to jump from one to the other.

    You’re likely to not get the candidate you want at this point and have to settle. The goal is a Dem President and not President Trump. Who’s butt is in the seat rather then Trump’s is up for debate but the critical matter is no. more. Trump. If that’s not your goal, if you think it’s better to Donald part deux because nobody voted the way you wanted…… Sanders attracts these folks in droves and they’re a major part of his image right now. If he doesn’t win, it might just be because his own zealots “Or Else!” threats chased off his victory.

  12. mattbernius says:


    Election commissions should not be partisan. Period. There is too much temptation for the party in power to do things like the Texas Republicans have done and close polling stations in Democratic strongholds.

    Ok, so I ended up doing a bit more research on this topic. Thank you @Scott for chiming in and pointing out that Harris County is a bipartisan election council. This article from the guardian is a good read on the closure of Texas Polling places:

    TL;DR version — the closures were part of a bi-partisan move, starting in 2014, towards centralized polling places which had been seen as a better way of doing polling. These have been seen as better because they would lead to less confusion about where to vote and less votes lost to going to the wrong location. They don’t appear to be performing as promised — at least in Texas (in part that could be because Texas did too much consolidation).

    Like I said, the whole article is worth a read.

  13. Scott says:


    I would like to see some process analysis also. Such as time required to vote a complete ballot. I went with a filled out ballot and it still took me 5 minutes to press all the choices and review. Multiply by millions, that’s a lot of time on task. Also, what is the reliability of the machines? Ours were brand new with brand new procedures for the mostly retired poll workers to learn.

    OTOH, our lame Senator Cornyn, actually said this when asked about 4 hour lines:

    Try voting during the 10 day early voting period.

    I’m one of those that did and look what it got me. The lesson learned is to wait.

  14. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @KM: You seem to be making a better argument for hold your nose and feel the Bern, to me. If Sanders’ people will go home if they don´t win, ignoring their wishes works only to the extent that you can write off their votes.

  15. de stijl says:

    Godamnit, it’s looking like it’s going to be Joe.

    Biden is actually quite astute at foreign policy. He will not be a daily disaster. He sorta gets social equality in a dated boomer understanding. He is teachable.

    We could have done better, but work with what you have to.

    He is not Trump which is the biggest differentiation.

    2020 is basically worst election ever.

    Cool allusion to acute vision. Very math and visually balanced.

    There is a not insignificant chance that the worst President ever and imaginable will be re-elected because the Ds couldn’t figure out how to defeat an obvious easy pick off.