Within a Week . . .

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 27, 2020 — Now, just two days away from the South Carolina primary and a mere five from Super Tuesday, it’s time to again determine candidate progress for what is arguably the most important primary election day of this presidential nomination cycle.

Currently, now that the Nevada Democratic Party has ostensibly tabulated the remaining caucus preference sheets from last Saturday’s Nevada vote, the aggregate bound delegate count gives Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) the lead with 45, former South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg is second at 26, former vice president Joe Biden posts 15, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) eight, and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar holds seven. These numbers will change significantly by this time next week. A total of 1,398 delegate votes will be bound on Super Tuesday evening and 18 states and one territory will have completed their voting process.

We’ve had some polling movement in several of the Super Tuesday states that make a tight race even closer. North Carolina, with 110 first ballot delegates, at least according to one polling firm has lapsed into a three-way tie. Spry Strategies (Feb. 21-23; 561 likely North Carolina Democratic primary voters) finds former VP Biden, ex-New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Sen. Sanders locked into a three-way tie, each with 20 percent support. None of the other candidates appear close to the 15 percent delegate allocation threshold in the Tar Heel State.

The new Public Policy Polling North Carolina survey turns in similar numbers (Feb. 23-24; 852 likely North Carolina Democratic primary voters) with Biden leading Sanders and Bloomberg, 23-20-17 percent, respectively. PPP agrees with Spry in projecting that only these three men will qualify for delegates. Such a split, assuming the congressional delegation allocation yields the same ratio, would find each of the three candidates receiving approximately 35-37 first-ballot votes.

The latest YouGov poll (Feb. 6-18; 1,352 likely Texas Democratic primary voters; online) also finds a tie, but this time in the Lone Star State with again three candidates winning bound delegates. The data finds Biden and Sanders tied with 20 percent, and Sen. Warren getting into delegate contention with 17 percent. If the actual Texas votes break similarly to this ratio, it would mean Bloomberg would fail to qualify for at-large delegates, leading to a fight for delegate allocation within each of the 31 state Senate districts. While other states divide by congressional districts, Texas uses state Senate seats.

With 228 first-ballot delegates, if Bloomberg gets shutout in Texas, it would be a major setback for his campaign. If these percentage ratios prove accurate, Biden and Sanders would each earn in the 80-vote range, while Warren would be close behind with approximately 68 bound delegates.

In South Carolina, things are rebounding to look once again as if they will break Biden’s way. In what could be a major development and signal to the Palmetto State African-American community, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-Columbia/Florence) made an endorsement announcement yesterday for Biden.

The latest South Carolina poll, this one coming from Marist College (Feb. 19-21; 539 likely South Carolina Democratic primary voters), gives the former vice president a four-point lead over Sen. Sanders, 27-23 percent, with billionaire Tom Steyer posting 17 percent support. Again, we would see at least three candidates qualifying for delegates, making it even more difficult for any candidate to reach majority support before the Democratic National Convention begins.

In another Super Tuesday state, the Oklahoma Sooner Poll was just released in anticipation of next week’s voting. Oklahoma is awarded 37 first-ballot delegates. The Sooner Poll (Feb. 17-21; 409 likely Oklahoma Democratic primary voters) sees a two-way race, with Biden and Bloomberg virtually tied for the lead. The results find Biden just ahead, 21-20 percent, with Sen. Sanders knocking on the door of delegate allocation with 13 percent support.

With the latest polls now again predicting a Biden victory in South Carolina and all showing potentially three or more candidates receiving delegates in the most competitive states, we appear to be looking at Super Tuesday producing a muddled aggregate result. This means as many as seven candidates could earn delegates and no one would be even close to 40 percent support, let alone the 50 percent necessary to clinch the nomination.

If this type of result occurs next week, the prospects of the Democrats having to settle the nomination in a contested, or “brokered”, convention will appear much greater.

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