After Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina, all eyes are now on Super Tuesday, the electoral bonanza when 14 states go to the polls. On March 3 the future of the 2020 Democratic primary could very well be decided. With Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg, and Tom Steyer out and Joe Biden battling Bernie Sanders for front-runner status, what are the Super Tuesday stakes? Read on for a guide to the biggest day of primary season thus far.
Who’s voting on Super Tuesday, and why is it so important?
Fourteen states across the country will vote in Democratic primaries on Tuesday, March 3: California, Texas, Virginia, Massachusetts, Vermont, Tennessee, North Carolina, Minnesota, Colorado, Alabama, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Utah, and Maine. (The U.S. territory of America Samoa will also hold caucuses that day, and Democrats living overseas will vote from March 3 through 10.) Despite all the hype thus far, only about 4% of the total delegates have been allotted to Democrats. On Super Tuesday 1,357 Democratic delegates, or about 34% of the almost 4,000 total available, will be up for grabs; a majority of the total 3,979 delegates (or 1,991 delegates) is needed to win the Democratic nomination.
In other words, things are getting real—and fast. Sanders currently has a leading 60 delegates to Biden’s 54, after the latter’s decisive win in the South Carolina primary. Elizabeth Warren trails with eight.
Super Tuesday is also a crucial day for the primary contest because, unlike dominantly white states like Iowa and New Hampshire, the 14 states going to the polls offer a more diverse picture of the electorate at large: “Almost half have significant black populations, and Latinos figure to be an important factor in the two states with the biggest delegate hauls, California and Texas,” NPR notes. The same states, incidentally, are important to the Electoral College, making Super Tuesday an early glimpse at how key states are leaning.
Where will Buttigieg and Klobuchar supporters go?
After suspending her campaign on Monday, Klobuchar is expected to endorse Biden, which lines up with where her moderate supporters would be likely to go. According to recent “second-choice polling” from data firm Morning Consult, 21% of Team Amy supporters polled said they’d move to Buttigieg (oops, no longer an option!); 17% said they’d default to Biden.
Buttigieg also reportedly had a call with Biden after announcing his campaign was over, but according to a February Quinnipiac University poll, Warren stands to gain the most from Buttigieg bowing out: 26% of Pete supporters said they’d realign with her, while 19% named Biden as their backup and 11% said they’d vote for Sanders instead.
What will Super Tuesday say about Bernie vs. Biden?
For Sanders, Super Tuesday is all about proving he can hold on to front-runner status across the country, demonstrating to some in the Democratic establishment that a democratic socialist can win a general election. At stake for Biden: riding the S.C. surge and winning other key states. Sanders is believed to be the favorite in California, though the race between the two seems closer in Texas.
What of Mike Bloomberg’s debut at the polls?
After skipping the first four primary votes, the former New York City mayor will be on the ballot for the first time on Super Tuesday, and it’s a “moment of truth” for the billionaire businessman, according to his hometown paper, the New York Daily News. Can buying hundreds of millions of dollars in ads and running as a party outsider actually work? “Bloomberg needs to clear a 15% threshold to even win delegates in many states and congressional districts,” the Daily News said. “If he fails to do that across wide swaths of the map, his campaign may be doomed, no matter how much money he has to spend.”
Bloomberg belatedly entered the race on his concern that the existing candidates couldn’t beat Trump, but Biden’s key S.C. victory could undermine that rationale. Some, like Delaware senator Chris Coons, who has endorsed Biden, suggest Bloomberg could actually “dilute” the appeal of fellow moderate Biden...a claim noted by, um, Bloomberg’s news outlet. Still, Bloomberg told 60 Minutes he won’t drop out of the race even if he doesn’t finish in the top three on Super Tuesday.
Will Super Tuesday make or break Warren?
With Klobuchar and Buttigieg already out, Super Tuesday could be do-or-die for Warren. Despite her high profile and impressive debate performances, Warren has yet to crack the top two in any of the early primary races. But she raised an impressive $29 million in February, her campaign said on Monday, a surge of support when she needs it most. “We expect Elizabeth to have a strong delegate performance on Super Tuesday,” her campaign said, “and see the race narrowing considerably once all the votes are counted.”