Super Tuesday is the biggest voting day in the Democratic nomination process, and the results in its 15 contests — which you can follow below — will be enormously consequential in shaping the field going forward.
With the results in the four early states in the books, the Democratic contest is now primarily about one thing: the delegate count. And that count will be dramatically transformed by Super Tuesday. Just 155 delegates (4 percent of the total) were allocated in the early states, but 1,344 delegates (34 percent of the total) are now up for grabs in this day’s contests.
The day’s primary and caucus lineup includes the two most populous states in the country (California and Texas), six other Southern states (North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Alabama, Arkansas), a New England trio (Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont), two in the West (Colorado and Utah), Minnesota, and American Samoa. However, not all of these ballots will be cast on Super Tuesday itself — several of these states began early voting or mail balloting weeks ago.
All these contests provide an opportunity for Sen. Bernie Sanders — the current leader in national polls — to lock in a large delegate lead. But they also provide an opportunity for some other candidate to break away from the pack and become the clear alternative to Sanders — or even to take the lead, if there’s a late swing of sufficient magnitude. Given the results in South Carolina on Saturday, former Vice President Joe Biden now appears to have the best chance of doing that.
On this page, we’ll display the latest vote totals in each contest, courtesy of our friends at Decision Desk (click on a state on the map to see that state’s results). But it’s important to keep in mind that these aren’t ordinary elections, where winning by 1 point has the same outcome as winning by 20 points. Democrats allot their delegates proportionally — so overall, big wins are more valuable to candidates than narrow wins.
The American Samoa caucus results are reported below:
In these results you should look at how much of the overall vote each candidate gets, and how much the first-place person is winning by. Another crucial number is 15 percent: the minimum threshold for a candidate to get delegates (in a state or congressional district). If several candidates hit 15 percent, the delegates will split among them; if two or even just one candidate tops 15 percent, they’ll get a comparative bonanza.
It will all take some time before the results are nailed down with specificity enough to settle the delegate count. But, broadly, we’ll likely get a sense of how the night is going early — whether one candidate is running away with victories across the board, or whether there’s more of a muddled, mixed outcome.
The quick results, state by state
We’ll know who won most states well before we come close to knowing how the delegate count will shake out, so we’ll post that information below once states are called. These are the states (and one territory) holding their nomination contests:
- California (415 delegates)
- Texas (228 delegates)
- North Carolina (110 delegates)
- Virginia (99 delegates) — Winner: Biden
- Massachusetts (91 delegates)
- Minnesota (75 delegates)
- Colorado (67 delegates)
- Tennessee (64 delegates)
- Alabama (52 delegates)
- Oklahoma (37 delegates)
- Arkansas (31 delegates)
- Utah (29 delegates)
- Maine (24 delegates)
- Vermont (16 delegates) — Winner: Sanders
- American Samoa (6 delegates)
How to think about the Super Tuesday states
We can think of the states with contests on Super Tuesday in three different groups.
First, in a group by itself, is California. The most populous state in the country also has the most delegates of any state, with about one-third of Super Tuesday’s total. So the question of which candidates meet the 15 percent threshold to get some of California’s statewide delegates — and which miss it and get none — will be an important one.
However, it’s also important to keep in mind that in California (and every other state), nearly two-thirds of delegates at stake are allotted based on the results in individual congressional districts. So candidates can miss the threshold for statewide delegates, but meet it in various congressional districts, and vice versa. In any case, the vote tally in California is expected to be quite slow — so while we might know who wins quickly (if there’s a lopsided result), the delegate split won’t be finalized for some time.
Second, Super Tuesday’s map is skewed toward the South — seven Southern states are holding contests, and together they have nearly half of the delegates at stake that day. The most notable one is Texas (the second most populous state in the country), but the other states there will test Sanders’s appeal in a region where he struggled in 2016.
Third, there’s the rest — a trio of New England states, Colorado and Utah from the West, Minnesota, and American Samoa. Together, all these combine for a little less than a quarter of Super Tuesday’s delegates — the smallest of these batches. So Super Tuesday is mostly about California and Southern states, with these other contests in for some variety.
What to look for in the Super Tuesday results
Obviously, if a candidate is winning in a lot of big states, they’re generally in a good place on Super Tuesday.
But beyond that, the devil’s in the details. Democrats allot their delegates proportionally based both on statewide results and the results in hundreds of individual districts. (Most states use congressional districts, but Texas uses state Senate districts.)
It’s important to remember that the minimum threshold to get delegates somewhere — whether it be in a state or a congressional district — is 15 percent. If you fall below that, you get zero delegates there.
Getting zeroed out in a lot of places is terrible for a candidate’s hopes of cobbling together a majority of delegates. Think of it this way — if you get zero delegates somewhere, you need to get 100 percent of the delegates in a contest of the same size to get back on track for 50 percent of overall delegates. And winning 100 percent of delegates somewhere is very difficult under proportional rules.
The crowded field also can present huge opportunities for candidates in certain places if they can be the only candidate to top 15 percent of the vote, or the clear leader out of just two candidates who achieve that.
So beyond just winning states, a candidate’s goal in a crowded field on Super Tuesday should be to maximize their delegate haul by topping 15 percent by as much as possible, in as many states and congressional districts as possible — and hope most or all of their opponents often fall short of that threshold.
The four scenarios for the Super Tuesday outcome
The shape of the race after Super Tuesday depends not only on how Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden do in the delegate count — but also on how Mike Bloomberg and Elizabeth Warren perform. We can think of the possibilities in terms of four broad scenarios.
1) One candidate emerges with a large delegate lead and on track for the majority: If one candidate gets 50 percent or more of the delegates allotted on Super Tuesday and a large lead over anyone else, that person would become a strong favorite to win the nomination. Current polling suggests this is a possibility for Sanders, with it most likely to happen if most or all of his rivals fall under 15 percent in California.
2) Two candidates split almost all the delegates: If, say, Biden has surged after South Carolina and ends up being competitive with Sanders — and other candidates like Bloomberg and Warren end up getting very few delegates — this would likely mean a two-person race going forward, with the outcome up in the air (similar to the Democratic contests in 2008 and 2016). Such a race would, however, likely be settled before the convention: when two candidates split nearly all the delegates, one person is very likely to end up with the majority or quite close to it.
3) Three or more candidates split delegates and one takes a large plurality lead: Alternatively, it is possible that there will be a clear “winner” on Super Tuesday who is also not on track to win a delegate majority — because delegates have been split among three or more candidates. This is a tricky scenario. Whoever’s in first would be the favorite to get the nomination eventually, but one or more of their rivals will likely continue campaigning to try and deprive them of the necessary majority and make things interesting at the convention. Sanders (anticipating he could be in this position) has argued that delegates should just give the nomination to whichever candidate finishes with a plurality of delegates, but the rules do not require this.
4) Three or more candidates split delegates and no one leads by much: A split of delegates among several candidates could also result in a very tight outcome where everyone is far off track from getting a majority. This would be the messiest, most muddled scenario, and the one where a contested convention would be most likely. But if late-deciding Democrats view Sanders and Biden are their two plausible choices — and Bloomberg and Warren regularly fail to hit 15 percent — this outcome would be averted.
Overall, then, Super Tuesday’s outcome is highly contingent not just on who “wins” states, but on how many of the major candidates remaining manage to clear 15 percent to haul in delegates. And we won’t know what sort of a contest we’re looking at going forward until we see how the vote totals shake out. With California epically slow to count votes, that could take some time.
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