By Jim Ellis
Oct. 8, 2019 — At this point, Democratic presidential primary patterns are beginning to reveal themselves.
The February First Four states are becoming a hodgepodge of political strength with both Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and/or Bernie Sanders (I-VT) potentially stealing Iowa and New Hampshire away from national front-runner Joe Biden. That means the former vice president may have his back up against the proverbial wall when the campaign streams into Nevada, the third voting state whose caucus participants will convene on Feb. 22. He may well need a victory there, before getting to South Carolina and his southern states political oasis.
As the new Fox News South Carolina Democratic primary poll shows (Sept. 29-Oct. 2; 803 likely South Carolina Democratic primary voters), Biden’s lead is very strong in the Palmetto State at 41-12-10 percent over Sens. Warren and Sanders, respectively. These numbers are commensurate with his standing in other recently polled southern domains.
But new data coming from delegate-rich states that are not frequently polled give us a further perspective about just how the nomination drama might unfold.
Four new state surveys were released at the end of last week with clear separation only detected in Arizona. Data coming from California and Ohio show dead heats among the three major candidates. Additionally, the latest Wisconsin poll gives Biden only a small lead.
The first three states in this group will vote in March, on Super Tuesday (March 3, California), March 10 (Ohio), and March 17 (Arizona). The fourth state’s electorate, Wisconsin, will cast their ballots on April 7.
Change Research (Oct. 27-28; 396 likely Arizona Democratic primary voters) finds that Arizona is polling as one of the ex-vice president’s weakest states and the only one that shows a relatively competitive four-way race. The Change results finds Sen. Warren claiming a significant lead with 35 percent support, ahead of Sen. Sanders’ 19 percent, Biden’s 15 percent, with South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg making a viable appearance with 13 percent preference.
In the other states, it is only the top three finishers, Biden, Warren, and Sanders who finish with enough of a percentage to be in the delegate apportionment mix.
Public Policy Institute of California (Sept. 16-25; 692 likely California Democratic primary voters) projects a three-way dead heat, with Warren posting 23 percent, Biden recording 22 percent, and Sanders registering 21 percent in their most recent survey. Home-state Sen. Kamala Harris fares poorly again, notching only eight percent support.
Emerson College (Sept. 29-Oct. 2; 353 likely Ohio Democratic primary voters) tested the Ohio electorate in only the third Buckeye State poll this year and the first since July. They also find a close three-way race, yielding just a small lead for the former vice president. Here, the numbers break 29-27-21 percent, for Biden, Sanders, and Warren, respectively.
Fox News surveyed the Wisconsin Democratic electorate (Sept. 29-Oct. 2; 863 likely Wisconsin Democratic primary voters) and sees Biden having an advantage slightly beyond the polling margin of error, as he tops Warren and Sen. Sanders, 28-22-17 percent.
Looking at a segmentation of 12 key states, including the First Four, all of which have been relatively recently been polled, we can begin to again calculate some rudimentary delegate projections.
After Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina vote in February, polling was determined for California, Massachusetts, Texas, Ohio, Arizona, Florida, Wisconsin, and New Jersey, all in voting order. Together, the dozen states hold 1,496 first ballot delegate votes from a 3,769 initial vote universe, or 40 percent of the total.
Using the latest available public polls to extrapolate today’s totals, and employing the same formula to project at-large and congressional district apportionment, which is likely not wholly accurate but the only way possible to proceed at the present time, we would find the following first ballot result:
Two other candidates would receive delegates according to the polling and projections, but both would not be factors in moving forward: former Texas congressman, Beto O’Rourke, (58 delegates) and Mayor Buttigieg (10 delegates).
Thus, Biden would hold 41 percent of the cumulative vote, Sen. Warren 32 percent, and Sen. Sanders 22 percent in the tested first ballot states. Using these percentages to extrapolate the remaining states and delegate counts, we would see a total first ballot vote as follows:
Such a result would leave Biden 333 delegate votes short of the majority needed for nomination, meaning advancing to a second ballot.
If so, the 766 Super Delegates, the at-large party elite that includes Democratic National Committee members, US senators and representatives, governors, and distinguished party leaders, would be then eligible to vote. The addition also means the convention universe expands to 4,535 total delegates, while increasing the number needed for nomination to from 1,885 to 2,268.
The Super Delegate addition means that Biden would be the only candidate who could win on the second ballot, but he would need 716 of the 766 Super Delegates to vote his way, or a likely unreachable total of 93.5 percent. We also must remember that some of the states free their delegates on the second ballot, so some shifting of the previous first-ballot votes would likely occur in the second round.
Many scenarios could play out if these projections are in the realm of accuracy, meaning the 2020 Democratic National Convention could become one for the American history books.