Will Bernie Sanders Win the California and Texas Primaries on Super Tuesday? His Win in Nevada Provides Clues
On March 3, 2020, 14 states and the American Samoa will hold their primaries for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. Together these contests are known as Super Tuesday and they are the most consequential day in this race.
The Democratic candidates have been competing for a majority of the 3,940 pledged delegates distributed across 57 caucuses or primaries — comprising the 50 states, 6 unincorporated territories, and Democrats Abroad. The first four contests only represent 4% of the total. At stake on Super Tuesday is 35% of the total count of pledged delegates.
The two most important primaries, as the figure shows, will be held in California and Texas. Together they represent close to half of Super Tuesday’s haul.
Will Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders win these primaries? Polling data plus the Sanders’s win in the Nevada caucuses indicate that not only will he win these key contests, but also that he may do so by big margins.
The following graphs include moving averages for the main Democratic candidates in California and Texas. I collected the polling data from the RealClearPolitics website.
The numbers suggest that Sanders will win both primaries. In California, the margin of victory could very big. While the polls capture former Vice President Joe Biden’s declining popularity after the Iowa caucuses, it also shows growth in his support after the South Carolina Democratic Debate and his commanding victory in South Carolina’s primary. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s numbers are fluctuating around 15%, which is the threshold candidates need to meet to win pledged delegates. Interestingly, while earlier polls showed gains for Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, the last few polls may be a sign of her weakness entering Super Tuesday.
Sanders’s biggest advantage is the early vote. The University of California, Berkeley’s latest poll indicates that Sanders’s leads in the early ballots by 15%. He also holds a demographic advantage over the other candidates — an issue I address more closely in the next section.
Sanders’s projected winning margin in Texas is less pronounced. The race for second place will be interesting. Bloomberg’s early strength may have been tempered by Biden’s big win in South Carolina’s Democratic primary. Could these moderate candidates thwart a Sanders’ s win? It will depend on who turnouts to vote.
The latest CNN poll shows that Sanders is struggling with voters who are 65 or more. These voters prefer Bloomberg (34%) and Biden (29%) over Sanders (11%). In contrast, 40% of voters between the ages of 18 and 49 favor the Vermont Senator.
The Racial/Ethnic Composition of California’s, Texas’s and Nevada’s Registered Voters
Sanders’s commanding victory in Nevada was very impressive. The results challenged the media narrative that Sanders’s message only resonated with young voters or very liberal ones. The entrance polls demonstrated that Sanders has been able to broaden his coalition, increasing his support among moderates and older voters.
Most importantly, Nevada was the first contest that had a sizeable non-White population. Over a third of non-White voters participated in the caucuses and Sanders won 42% of these votes. While Joe Bide won 38% of the African American vote, which represented 11% of caucus-goers, Sanders captured 28%. Most impressive was Sanders’s 50% win among Latinxs, who represented 17% of caucus-goers.
Repeating Sanders’s strong win in Nevada will be more difficult in future contests. But his popularity among Latinx voters gives him a critical advantage in states with an active Latinx electorate. The exception to this rule may be Florida given Puerto Ricans’ and Cuban Americans’ aversion to socialism.
The next figure illustrates the racial/ethnic makeup of California's, Nevada and Texas’s registered voters. The data was collected by the U.S. Census.
Based on these numbers, will Sanders’s winning margin in California be as big as Nevada’s? Recent survey data shows that Sanders’s support among Latinxs is mixed. The poll conducted by University of California, Berkeley finds that 51% of Latinos will vote for the Vermont Senator, while the CBS News/YouGov estimates his support to be around 30% in this voting group.
As noted above, the race is closer in Texas. However, the NBC News/Marist poll indicates that 46% of Latinxs will vote for Sanders in the primary, while the CBS News/YouGov estimates that this support is closer to 42%.
It is clear that Sanders is poised to win both states, but the margin victory will be decided by the turnout rate among Latinx voters.
Does Age Matter?
Nationally speaking, 60% of the Latinx voters are Millennials. Age is an important part of Sanders’s appeal to these voters. Indeed, Sanders has won the highest share of voters who are aged 17 to 44 in the first four nomination contests. Younger voters are more diverse as a study from the Pew Research Center demonstrates.
Here is a breakdown of registered voters in California, Nevada, South Carolina, and Texas.
While Biden won the South Carolina primary by a huge margin, the state’s electorate is older. Sanders’s performance with African Americans was not as strong as in Nevada, but polls suggest that his message appealed to younger African American voters. Only 29% of primary-goers in South Carolina were between the ages of 17 and 44 and Sanders won 38% of the vote, edging Biden’s 36% share. His share was higher among 17–29 group was 43.5% and Biden’s was 29.5.
If we look at Nevada’s registered voters by age, we can see that the 18–44 age group is bigger in both California and Texas. These numbers bode well for Sanders’s campaign and it is a warning for Biden’s.
Age is an important factor that can play a decisive role in the Super Tuesday primaries. If the Sanders campaign can energize and turnout young voters, who tend to be more diverse and liberal, Sanders will not only win big in some primaries, including California and Texas, but also increase his small lead among pledged delegates.