Swing State Pres

Monday, March 9, 2020

BTRTN March 10 Primaries Previews: Is a Biden Blow-Out in the Offing?

Tom previews the March 10 primaries, including our BTRTN prediction, and then looks ahead.

Tuesday, March 10, 5 PM EST update:  There were only two new polls today (Michigan, Biden +21 and Missouri, Biden +39) and both generally confirmed our analysis (by wider margins) so we have made no changes to the forecasts below.

The Democratic race has now been clarified and it is Joe Biden versus Bernie Sanders.  Let the games begin.

We begin with Not-Quite-Super-Tuesday, tomorrow, with six primaries.  A total of 352 pledged delegates are at stake, with Michigan (125) the largest prize, followed by Washington (89), Missouri (68), Mississippi (36) and Idaho (20), North Dakota (14).

Biden heads into the March 10 primaries with 664 delegates to 573 for Sanders.  (There still remain about 100 delegates that have yet to be allocated from Super Tuesday, largely from California.)  This is hardly an insurmountable lead, but, based on the results to date, the rest of the primary season appears to favor Biden.   Biden has dominated in south and southwestern states and should do well in the Mid-Atlantic states near his Delaware home.  Thus, Biden-land includes large states such as Florida (219), Georgia (105), Pennsylvania (186), New Jersey (126) and Maryland (96). Sanders’ strength is in the west, where no such large state primaries remain, Arizona being the largest with 67 delegates.  Biden has proven his ability to hold his own in New England, having already won in Massachusetts and Maine. 

This chart is a simple model to illustrate Sanders’ challenge.  To be extremely clear, it is not – NOT -- a prediction, it is just math.  The chart divides up the remaining states into three buckets:  states where Sanders should have the edge, states where Biden should have the edge, and toss-ups, defined by the geographies we discussed above.  As you can see, there are far more delegates in the Biden column than the Sanders column, but also a sizable hunk in the toss-up.  If you do some math, in which Sanders and Biden each win their states by a 55/45 margin, and they split the delegates in the toss-ups, you can see that Biden will hold a roughly +170 lead at the end and is quite close to the magic 1,991 required for the nomination. 

Remaining Delegates
Sanders: West
Toss-Up:  Midwest, New York & Islands
Biden: South, Southwest, Mid-Atlantic
Washington
89
New York
274
Florida
219
Arizona
67
Illinois
155
Pennsylvania
186
Oregon
61
Ohio
136
New Jersey
126
New Mexico
34
Michigan
125
Georgia
105
Idaho
20
Wisconsin
84
Maryland
96
Montana
19
Indiana
82
Missouri
68
South Dakota
16
Puerto Rico
51
Connecticut
60
Alaska
15
W. Virginia
28
Louisiana
54
North Dakota
14
Hawaii
24
Kentucky
54


Wyoming
14
Kansas
39


Virgin Islands
7
Mississippi
36


Guam
7
Nebraska
29


N. Marianas
6
Rhode Island
26




Delaware
21




DC
20
Total
335
Total
993
Total
1139
Sanders 55%
184
Sanders 50%
497
Sanders 45%
513
Biden 45%
151
Biden 50%
497
Biden 55%
626








Current
New
Total


Sanders
573
1193
1766


Biden
664
1274
1938



The takeaway from this numeric exercise is that Sanders has to do better than these assumptions, somewhere, to close his gap with Biden.  The west is his stronghold, but there are not enough delegates left there to make much of a difference even if he wins there by healthy margins.  And it will be very hard for Sanders to overcome Biden’s strength in his prime geographies, which feature large African-American communities, as Sanders learned in South Carolina.  Most likely Sanders has to win solidly in those big Midwestern states to make up ground, and Michigan would be a good place for him to start.

Now, there are two things we need to make absolutely clear at this point:

First, this is simply a base-setting exercise, not a forecast.  Much can happen in the coming weeks and  months, and as we said in our last post, it would be foolish to believe there will be no “zag” after we have just been through a stunning “zig” over the last ten days.

But second, in the real-world view of the latest polls, the chart above simply does not reflect how rapidly the world is changing in Biden’s favor.  A rash of brand new polls were just released that show the following:

State/National
Pollster
Field Dates
Biden
Sanders
Spread
Michigan
Monmouth
3/5 - 3/8
51%
36%
Biden +15
Michigan
Yahoo News/YouGov
3/6 - 3/8
54%
42%
Biden +12
Michigan
3/8 - 3/8
57%
27%
Biden +30
Michigan
3/8 - 3/8
65%
24%
Biden +39
Michigan
3/4 - 3/6
54%
33%
Biden +21
Missouri
3/4 - 3/7
62%
32%
Biden +30
Mississippi
3/4 - 3/7
77%
22%
Biden +55
Arizona
3/3 - 3/4
45%
17%
Biden +28
Wisconsin
Yahoo News/YouGov
3/6 - 3/8
49%
38%
Biden +11
Pennsylvania
Yahoo News/YouGov
3/6 - 3/8
59%
31%
Biden +28
National
3/4 - 3/7
52%
36%
Biden +16
National
Quinnipiac
3/5 - 3/8
54%
35%
Biden +19


Essentially, Biden is well ahead in polls in the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, South, West and nationally, each poll showing a double-digit lead.  The “Jomentum” is continuing, and there is nothing to turn the tide between now and tomorrow.

And that means the “illustrative delegate chart” is a woeful representation of the true state of the race.  Biden is in much better shape than that chart represents.


BTRTN PREDICTIONS

Our BTRTN prediction is that Joe Biden will win the most delegates in the March 10 primaries.  Biden will post easy wins in Michigan, Missouri and Mississippi; the western states will be far closer, but Biden will squeak out wins in each of Washington, Idaho and North Dakota.  But given proportional allocation of the delegates, whether Biden or Sanders wins the western states is immaterial as long as the race is close.   

Based on the Super Tuesday results, one might have expected Biden to do very well in the southern states, Missouri and Mississippi, while Sanders would take the western states, Washington, Idaho and North Dakota.  Michigan would be the close one, with the most delegates at stake and the most insight for the future Midwest battles.

But the polls, as noted above, have been pretty unambiguous with respect to Michigan – four recent polls all show Biden trouncing Sanders by margins ranging from +15 to +39 points.  That is an awful sign for Sanders.

Sanders and his supporters, however, can (and do) point to this exact same race four years ago.  Hillary Clinton dominated the Michigan polls – by anywhere from +13 to +37 points – and yet lost to Sanders by -2 points in the primary.  This is worth noting, but, perhaps stubbornly, we are sticking with the polls on this one.  One interesting note – in 2016, even though Sanders won Michigan, he ended up losing in the delegate math to Clinton that day, as she won Mississippi, the only other primary that same day, by an 87/13 margin, enough to easily overcome the close Michigan loss.

(We now have checked into why the polls in Michigan were so wrong in 2016.  One persuasive theory put forward back then was that the polling turnout projections were derived from the 2008 Michigan Democratic primary.  But that primary was marred by DNC Chair Howard Dean's punishment of Michigan for moving up the timing of its primary without permission.  As a result, Barack Obama did not even enter the primary, and vote turnout was low -- particularly among younger voters.  Hillary Clinton won easily in 2008.  And so in 2016, the pollsters did not account for this artificial dampening of the youth vote -- Sanders' core -- and they were thus underweighted dramatically in the polls.  Of course, in the actual primary they came out to vote for Sanders in higher number, enough for Sanders to win.  This error would presumably not be repeated in 2020, as pollsters would base their weightings on 2016 results -- thus the current polls are likely more accurate than in 2016.)

The Missouri and Mississippi polls confirm a Biden rout.  There have been three polls in Missouri, two showing large leads for Biden and one a much closer race with Biden holding a single-digit lead.  The one recent Mississippi poll shows Biden ahead by the same order of magnitude as his lopsided win last week in neighboring Alabama.

But the Washington polls are not confirming Sanders’ western strength.  Two polls there show a close race, with Biden ahead in each, by +3 and +1.  Those polls were from immediately after Super Tuesday (each included Warren), and thus might not account for the Biden momentum since then (as evidenced by the polls in other states).  On the other hand, Warren’s departure could help Sanders, if only modestly.   There have been no polls whatsoever in North Dakota and Idaho.

It seems clear Biden will win Michigan, Missouri and Mississippi.  The fate of the western states is far less clear.  At this juncture, we think the momentum is in Biden’s favor, and therefore are calling a sweep.  But, as you can see, in very close races it hardly matters who wins or loses, since the delegates are allocated proportionately.  Close wins do not close large gaps, and thus Biden’s large wins in Michigan, Missouri and Mississippi will carry the day.

March 10 Primaries
Vote %*
Delegates
State
Delegates
Biden
Sanders
Biden
Sanders
Michigan
125
57%
42%
71
53
Washington
89
50%
48%
45
43
Missouri
68
59%
39%
40
27
Mississippi
36
72%
27%
26
10
Idaho
20
50%
48%
10
10
North Dakota
14
50%
48%
7
7
Total
352


199
148
* Figures do not as to 100% as some votes will go to Gabbard or others


WHAT NEXT?

A week from tomorrow, March 17, will bring another set of primaries of mega-importance:  Florida (219), Illinois (155), Ohio (136) and Arizona (67).

Florida appears to be in Biden’s pocket; the one poll there has him ahead of Sanders by a 61/12 margin, and this was fielded on Super Tuesday and the day after, so it did not reflect the full impact of those results.  There is no recent public polling in each of the other states. 

The main events that could influence a potential Biden sweep are, of course, the results tomorrow going more Sanders’ way than expected, and the March 15 debate, the first head-to-head match-up between Biden and Sanders.  Sanders is obviously the better debater, and if he can rout Biden at the podium, that could turn around his campaign.



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