By Jim Ellis
Aug. 2, 2019 — In the latter half of July, several different pollsters conducted Democratic presidential primary polls in seven important primary states. In Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, California, Texas, Michigan, and Illinois — all states whose voters will cast primary ballots on or before March 17 — contain an aggregate 1,012 first-ballot delegates.
The seven polls give us an idea as to how Democratic primary participants in the corresponding states would vote if their presidential nomination elections had been in mid to late July. Additionally, we make delegate dispersion projections from the polling data to the qualified candidates and attempt to determine whether any one individual could garner the 50 percent delegate support necessary to claim a first ballot victory.
The Firehouse/Optimus organization polled in Iowa (July 23-25; 630 likely Iowa Democratic caucus voters), New Hampshire (July 23-25; 587 likely New Hampshire Democratic primary voters), and South Carolina (July 23-25; 554 registered South Carolina voters). The Public Policy Institute of California surveyed the Golden State Democratic primary (July 14-23; 766 likely California Democratic primary voters). The University of Texas at Tyler (July 24-27; 554 registered Texas voters), Climate Nexus (July 14-17; 324 likely Michigan Democratic primary voters), and Victory Research (July 26-29; 1,200 likely Illinois Democratic primary voters) tested the Texas, Michigan, and Illinois electorates.
For the purposes of this exercise, let us assume that all of these surveys accurately depict how the Democratic electorates in each of these states would vote. Let us further assume that the congressional district delegate apportionment directly corresponds to the at-large state vote.
Doing so allows us to make delegate apportionment estimates for each of these states with the understanding that the conclusions are not precise. They do, however, give us an idea as to how the delegate dispersion might break. Understanding that several of the polled minor candidates will not be on the ballot when actual voting occurs allows us to project additional votes going to the close finishers, those at 13-14% in these polls. Doing so likely boosts them to the 15 percent threshold that party rules mandate as a qualification requirement for delegate votes.
The aggregate total of 1,012 delegates from these seven states represents just under 27 percent of the entire first ballot universe at the Democratic National Convention, so the combined tested states are significant in terms of the number of delegates they possess and their voting schedule position.
The Iowa poll found Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and former Vice President Joe Biden deadlocked in a 23-23 percent tie. They are the only candidates to exceed the 15 percent threshold necessary to qualify for delegates. In New Hampshire, the top four would qualify, with Biden, and Sens. Warren, Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) all likely gaining delegate votes. Turning to South Carolina, it is Biden and Warren alone splitting the delegates as all others finished well below the mandatory 15 percent figure.
On Super Tuesday, March 3, we will see California and Texas vote in addition to 13 other entities. In California, the surprise is Biden not qualifying for delegates as he only posted 11 percent support. Sen. Harris would place first in her home state with Warren in second. Texas delivers somewhat of a surprise because ex-Rep. Beto O’Rourke takes the state with Biden and Sanders also qualifying. In Michigan, scheduled to vote on March 10, Biden, Sanders, and Warren qualify.
On March 17, Illinois will be one of three states, Arizona and Florida being the other two, that will hold a primary election. In the Land of Lincoln, according to the Victory Research survey, it is Biden and Sanders, along with Sen. Warren, who would earn delegate votes in the stated order.
Adding the projected delegate totals from these seven-state polls would produce the following results:
The totals would find a tight three-way race to be determined in the remaining states.
Sen. Harris scores strongly because she would win California and take 232 delegates for placing first in this model. This keeps her in the first tier even though she would win delegate votes (5), in just one other tested state. The same for O’Rourke, where all of his 122 delegates would come from his first place showing in his home state of Texas.
If this pattern were to be in effect when the actual votes are cast next February and March, it appears the Democrats would be headed to a multi-ballot convention. With the leader, Sen. Warren, only holding 285 delegate votes with 27 percent of the first ballot tabulated and locked, it would be very difficult for any candidate to reach 50 percent considering there are no winner-take-all states and no Super Delegate votes to help provide the difference.
To be on a first ballot victory path, a candidate from these seven states would need 507 committed votes to be placed on the correct trajectory to reach the 50 percent mark that is necessary for nomination. Obviously, a dispersion such as the one we see here would fall far short of that mark for any candidate.