By Jim Ellis
March 3, 2020 — The election landscape has changed since Saturday with former mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and billionaire Tom Steyer all exiting the race. Sen. Klobuchar endorsed former vice president Joe Biden as did Buttigieg in an announcement last night.
How do these developments and an obvious Joe Biden resurgence affect today’s vote? Maybe not as much as meets the eye. With the early voting processes well underway, and even completed in some states, the late-breaking political news and happenings will influence far fewer voters.
In fact, the three largest states with primaries today, California (415 first-ballot delegates), Texas (228), and North Carolina (110), all have extensive early voting options and large percentages of their voters have already cast their ballots meaning Biden’s sudden upswing in momentum after his South Carolina victory on Saturday night won’t sway them.
In California, more than 2 million people have already voted, which may translate into as much as one-third of the total Democratic presidential primary turnout. In 2016, more than 5.1 million people voted in the Hillary Clinton-Bernie Sanders race in June of that year. Returning to today, more than one million have already voted in Texas, and 800,000-plus have cast their ballots in North Carolina.
Thirty-eight states have some form of early voting, even if it is merely an in-person absentee system like those found in Minnesota and Virginia. For Super Tuesday, of the 14 states with primary elections today, only Alabama and Colorado have no early voting. The latter state fully conducts all-mail balloting but has no pre-election process in which to submit votes.
Looking at the current political map, though the establishment is making moves to coalesce behind Biden, the latest polling suggests that Sen. Sanders leads in nine primaries today and it’s possible, even with the candidate departures, that as many as three contenders in almost all of the states could still qualify for delegate apportionment.
Today will also mark the first time that former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg’s name will be on the ballot and how he fares will be telling. Depending upon how many votes he takes could prevent one of the leading candidates from securing majority support, meaning the race evolving into a contested national convention is still a possibility.
Additionally, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), though faring poorly since Iowa, remains in the contest and could secure significant delegate support today. It is unlikely, however, that she will place first anywhere, even in her home state of Massachusetts.
Going into today’s voting, Sen. Sanders has at least a small polling lead in the three largest Super Tuesday states, California, Texas and North Carolina. A major delegate haul in these places, plus his strength in New England and the west will offset Biden’s muscle in the southern states. That being the case, Sen. Sanders should end the night leading in bound delegate votes.
Super Tuesday may be definitive in charting the course for the nomination or could set the race upon a long road that won’t be decided until early June or even to a brokered national convention in July.
Additionally, five states are holding their statewide nomination elections including scores of congressional races in California, Texas, and North Carolina. Together, the five Super Tuesday states will at least begin the nomination process for four US Senate and 113 House campaigns. Four of these five early primary states include run-off systems. Here’s how things break down in those states this Super Tuesday:
• Alabama: After Democrats apportion the state’s 52-member first ballot presidential delegate allotment, GOP voters take the first step in choosing a nominee to challenge Sen. Doug Jones (D). A run-off appears certain, as none of the five candidates look positioned to attract majority support.
Former US attorney general and Alabama senator Jeff Sessions returns for a political comeback, attempting to regain his former position. Retired Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville appears most likely to join Sessions in a March 31 run-off election. Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile) also has a chance to advance. Former Alabama Supreme Court chief judge Roy Moore, the 2017 special election nominee who lost to Sen. Jones, and state Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Shelby County) will be eliminated from further competition.
Rep. Byrne’s Mobile anchored 1st District is open, and five candidates are vying to advance into the run-off election. The three top contenders appear to be local Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl, former state Sen. Bill Hightower, and state Rep. Chris Pringle (R-Mobile).
US Rep. Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) retiring yields another safe Republican south Alabama open seat. Seven Republicans are doing battle with moving company business owner Jeff Coleman, former Attorney General Troy King, and ex-state Rep. and 2018 congressional candidate Barry Moore looking to be the most competitive. Advancing to a run-off for two of these three is a likelihood.
• Arkansas: The Natural State has 31 first ballot Democratic presidential convention delegates. Sen. Tom Cotton (R) is virtually re-elected as Democrats failed to file a candidate. He will face only minor party opposition in the general election.
US Reps. Rick Crawford (R-Jonesboro), French Hill (R-Little Rock), Steve Womack (R-Rogers/Fayetteville), and Bruce Westerman (R-Hot Springs) are all unopposed for re-nomination. Rep. Crawford has no opposition for the general election.
• California: A whopping 415 first-ballot delegates are at stake for the presidential candidates, by far the largest convention contingent in the country. There is no Senate election in the Golden State this year, but 53 House members will advance to the general election against one opponent under the top-two jungle primary system.
California has two open and two vacant seats: the 8th District (Rep. Paul Cook-R running for San Bernardino County Supervisor), and San Diego’s 53rd CD (Rep. Susan Davis-D retiring) are the open seats, while Reps. Katie Hill (D-Agua Dulce/Simi Valley) and Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine/San Diego County) have already vacated their seats.
The California 8th in the more eastern portion of the state is one of the few safe Republican seats in the state, and two GOP candidates advancing to the general is possible. The 53rd is safely Democratic, but the most likely outcome is one Democrat and one Republican moving on, with the former becoming the prohibitive favorite. Ten Democrats are on the ballot. The favorites to advance for the Democrats are former State Department official Sara Jacobs or San Diego City Council President Georgette Gomez. It is conceivable that both Democrats could advance as three Republican candidates could split a much smaller GOP voting pie.
The 25th District (Hill) is in special election, so the top two finishers here will advance to a May 12 special general election unless one of the candidates receives 50 percent today. With six Democrats and five Republicans on the ballot, requiring a second election appears highly likely. The top candidates are Democratic Assemblywoman Christy Smith (D-Newhall) and controversial You Tube talk show host Cenk Uygur (D). Former Rep. Steve Knight (R) returns for a political comeback, but defense contractor and Iraq War veteran Mike Garcia received the official Republican Party endorsement and appears to be the favorite to advance.
Though the 50th District (Hunter) is vacant, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) did not call a special election, meaning this seat will remain without a representative until the next Congress. In the regular election, 2018 nominee Ammar Campa-Najjar (D) looks like a cinch to advance into the general election. Former US Rep. Darrell Issa (R), ex-San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio (R), and state Sen. Brian Jones (R-Santee) are fighting for the second position. This seat should remain in Republican hands for the general election, though Campa-Najjar will place first tonight.
All 49 incumbents seeking re-election will advance to the general election. The most interesting primaries are in the 16th District, where Rep. Jim Costa (D-Fresno) will see if his general election opponent will be a Republican or a Democrat; the 45th where a band of six Republicans are attempting to advance into the general election against freshman Rep. Katie Porter (D-Irvine); and the 48th where Orange County Supervisor Michelle Steel (R) appears to be a heavy favorite to top three other Republicans to advance against freshman Rep. Harley Rouda (D-Laguna Beach).
Re-matches from two highly competitive 2018 races look set. Freshmen Reps. T.J Cox (D-Fresno) and Gil Cisneros (D-Yorba Linda) look to again face former US Rep. David Valadao (R) and ex-state assemblywoman Young Kim (R), respectively.
Two general elections are already a certainty because no other candidates are on the ballot. Freshman Rep. Mike Levin (D-San Juan Capistrano) and San Juan Capistrano Mayor Brian Maryott (R) will advance to the general election as Orange County candidates in a district where three-quarters of the population lies in San Diego County. In the San Diego/Imperial County 51st District, veteran Rep. Juan Vargas (D-San Diego) will again oppose retired Marine Corps Sergeant Major Juan Hidalgo Jr. (R).
• North Carolina: Democratic presidential candidates will be awarded a share of the state’s 110 first-ballot convention delegates. Sen. Thom Tillis (R) will find out if he will face former state senator Cal Cunningham (D) or state Sen. Erica Smith (D-Gaston) in the general election. Cunningham looks to be a heavy favorite for the nomination.
Two new open seats exist in Raleigh and Greensboro thanks to the court-ordered redistricting plan in effect for 2020. Democrats will convert both seats and it remains to be seen if anyone can win outright tomorrow night. North Carolina employs a 30 percent run-off law. Former 2016 US Senate candidate Deborah Ross (D) looks to be in good position to capture the Raleigh open seat. Five Democrats are battling for the open Greensboro 6th District.
A dozen Republicans are battling over retiring Rep. Mark Meadows’ (R-Skyland) western North Carolina’s 11th District that now includes all of Buncombe County including the Democratic stronghold of Asheville. Moving to a run-off here is a distinct possibility. Republicans will hold the seat in the general election.
• Texas: A major primary is occurring in the Lone Star State as Democratic presidential candidates first fight over 228 first ballot delegates. Two of the 12 Democratic US Senate candidates are certain to advance to a May 26 run-off election, but which pair is difficult to predict as polling suggests a very tight multi-candidate finish. The eventual Democratic winner will be a heavy underdog to Sen. John Cornyn (R) in the general election.
With six open US House seats, two serious incumbent primary congressional challenges, and three other interesting primary contests, the Texas ballot is rife with competitive campaigns.
Hotly contested primaries will result in May 26 run-offs in all the open districts: TX-11 (Rep. Mike Conaway), TX-13 (Rep. Mac Thornberry), TX-17 (Rep. Bill Flores), TX-22 (Rep. Pete Olson), TX-23 (Rep. Will Hurd), and TX-24 (Rep. Kenny Marchant). In the 17th District, former Rep. Pete Sessions (R) is attempting a political comeback in a different district and appears headed into a run-off. In the 23rd, possibly the Democrats’ best conversion opportunity in the United States, 2018 nominee Gina Ortiz Jones is well positioned to win the party nomination outright tomorrow. Republicans will likely be forced to a run-off.
Two incumbents face serious contests. Rep. Kay Granger (R-Ft. Worth) is defending herself against a strong challenge from former Coleyville City Councilman Chris Putnam, while veteran Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo) faces a wave of outside money coming into the district to support his former legislative intern, attorney Jessica Cisneros. It is likely that both incumbents will survive, but the results will be interesting in both cases and upsets are possible.
Republican leaders are coalescing behind mortgage company executive and Iraq War veteran Wesley Hunt as their choice to oppose freshman Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (D-Houston) in what will be a highly competitive general election. First, however, Hunt must get past five Republican opponents including former Bellaire mayor, Cindy Siegel.
A series of Democrats are vying for the nomination to challenge Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Austin), including 2018 nominee Mike Siegel. Several candidates have major resources, so tomorrow’s result is unclear. Siegel held Rep. McCaul to a 51-47 percent victory in 2018.
Against freshman Rep. Colin Allred (D-Dallas), who unseated former Rep. Pete Sessions (R) in 2018, businesswoman Genevieve Collins appears to be the strongest candidate, but questions remain as to whether she can win outright tomorrow. She faces four other 32nd District Republican candidates.