Super Tuesday Breakdown: Biden’s Swift Rise Really Doesn’t Have to Be the End

Less than two weeks ago, Bernie Sanders was the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for president. His campaign looked certain to head into the Democratic National Convention with a plurality of the delegates and his supporters were urging his competitors to stand down. But then came the Jim Clyburn endorsement, the South Carolina primary and a landslide victory by Joe Biden that caused a seismic shift in the race for the Democratic nomination.

First, Tom Steyer dropped out. Then Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar followed. And then — true to everything that they’ve stood for throughout this campaign — Klobuchar and Buttigieg endorsed Joe Biden ahead of the Super Tuesday primaries. Even Beto O’Rourke, the former Texas Congressman who ended his presidential bid in November, came off the sidelines to give the former Vice President a boost. And just like that, the entire landscape of the race changed.

Though numbers continue to trickle in, Biden’s the projected winner in 10 of the 14 Super Tuesday states, with Sanders claiming the other four. Mike Bloomberg’s losses convinced him to abandon his quest for the nomination and lend his support — and, presumably, his money — to Joe Biden. According to reports, Elizabeth Warren is currently huddled with her team considering a path forward.

As of today, Biden is the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination and likely will go into the convention with the plurality of the delegates. But given how volatile the race has been, it’s entirely possible that, two weeks from now, the scenario could be entirely different. There’s still time to change the future but whether or not the Sanders campaign is willing to make adjustments to their overall strategy remains a question.


Your Super Tuesday Breakdown


Alabama — 52 Delegates

Winner: Joe Biden

Unlike most of the other Southern primaries, Alabama stands out as having disappointing turnout, with a competitive Republican primary for Doug Jones’ Senate seat drawing a high number of GOP voters out to the polls. While the results aren’t terribly surprising — Biden’s able to coast to a victory on strong supporter from women and black voters — Bloomberg’s “campaign” in Alabama probably cost Biden a delegate. However, Sanders also underperformed in Alabama, relative to his performance in 2016.

In the aforementioned Senate race, former Trump Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, is trying to get his Senate seat back but has run into a formidable primary challenge in former Auburn football head coach, Tommy Tuberville. Though Sessions boasts a slight lead, he’ll have to face Tuberville in a run-off on March 31. On the plus side — you know, for basic decency — Alabama Republicans did learn from their mistake in 2017 and soundly rejected Roy Moore this time around.

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Arkansas — 31 Delegates

Winner: Joe Biden

Arkansas is a bit of an outlier, compared to the other Southern states with Super Tuesday contests, as it doesn’t boast a sizable contingent of black voters. Even without that base of support, though, Biden was able to dominate in “the Natural State.” There’d been limited polling in Arkansas but there was enough evidence to suggest that Bloomberg’s campaign was gaining some traction in the state. While conventional wisdom might suggest that Bloomberg’s presence would detract from Biden’s numbers, Sanders’ underperformance, relative to 2016, suggests that it might not be quite as simple as we think.

California — 415 Delegates

Winner: Bernie Sanders

Sanders won the biggest prize of the night, hands down.

Exit polls show Sanders winning a plurality of male and female voters, as well as replicating his strong performance with Latinx voters in Nevada. He continues to dominate with younger voters and did better than expected with older voters. It’ll be days, possibly weeks, before we know how the final vote count shakes out — and, ultimately, like Clinton’s win in 2016, the difference in delegate allocations might not be that substantial — but, for now, the Sanders campaign can ride that victory into the next slate of contests.

Two House races worth keeping an eye on, as numbers out of California funnel out: First, the CA-25th, where a slew of competitors are vying to fill the seat once held by bisexal former Rep. Katie Hill. There’s been some concern that a hacking scandal, involving of Hill’s former employees, might impact the run of Christy Smith, the Katie Hill-endorsed Assemblywoman running for the seat, but Smith managed to make the runoff in a crowded field. The bigger surprise may be that Smith’s opponent in the runoff likely won’t be former Rep. Steve Knight, the Republican ousted by Hill in 2018, but Republican defense contractor Mike Garcia.

Also? Keep an eye on the CA-53, where Georgette Gómez is vying to fill a seat left open by the retirement of Rep. Susan Davis. Gomez is vying to become the first out queer Latina in Congress She got a nice boost recently, thanks to an endorsement by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, but she’s facing tough competition from Sara Jacobs, a billionaire heiress benefitting from the largess of her grandparents’ Super PAC. Gomez and Jacobs appear to be headed for a run-off.

Colorado — 67 Delegates

Winner: Bernie Sanders

While the shift from caucus to primary stymied Sanders in Minnesota, Colorado gave the Vermont Senator a strong win on Tuesday night. According to CNN exit polls, Sanders outperformed his opponents in nearly every measurable category. That said, Sanders’ win in Colorado wasn’t resounding enough to prevent his opponents from encroaching on his delegate hall: Biden, Bloomberg and Warren all did well enough in the Centennial State that they’ll all walk away with delegates.

A trend that we’ve seen throughout these primaries and debates showed up again in MSNBC’s exit polling from Colorado: Elizabeth Warren is, by far, the most well-liked candidate in the field. And yet… she still finished fourth in the field… make of that what you will.

Maine — 24 Delegates

Winner: Too Close to Call Joe Biden

The battle between Biden and Sanders in Maine remains too close to call and, even if a winner is determined, it’s hard to imagine one of the candidates not triggering a recount to secure their share of the state’s 24 delegates. Warren is just over the viability threshold and if that number holds, she’ll leave Maine with another delegate.

Update: the Associated Press has called Maine for Joe Biden (h/t @Al)

But there are two things out of Maine worth highlighting: First, this was the state’s first presidential primary in 20 years and the change in format boosted turnout and had the state scrambling for additional ballots. That additional turnout boosted the campaign of former Brewer Mayor Kevin O’Connell in his quest to join the State House. Second, Maine voters rejected an effort by anti-vaxxers to block a law that would limit when parents can waive vaccination requirements for their children.

Massachusetts — 91 Delegates

Winner: Joe Biden

Particularly after Biden scored endorsements from Buttigieg, Klobuchar and O’Rourke, the voices calling for Elizabeth Warren to exit the race reached a fever pitch. But after her embarrassing showing in her home state of Massachusetts, those calls are going to get even louder. Deafening, perhaps.

It’s hard to assess what happened in Massachusetts. Going into the primary, no poll showed Biden with a lead in the commonwealth and no poll showed Warren falling to third place overall. Like so many states, Massachusetts had a healthy contingent of late deciding voters and they disproportionately broke for Biden. The misogyny that’s been at play during this primary — that has, at times, erased the field’s female candidates from the national discussion — seemingly impacted Warren’s run in her home state. According to the exit polling, Warren lost white men across the board, both those who’d graduated from college and those who hadn’t, by substantial margins. That probably cost her the win.

Minnesota — 75 Delegates

Winner: Joe Biden

In 2016 primary campaign, Bernie Sanders won Minnesota, 62-28. This year, he lost the state not to Amy Klobuchar, the state’s senior senator, but to Joe Biden, in, perhaps, the most startling upset of the night. The difference? In 2016, Minnesota used a caucus system to divvy out delegates and this year, the state moved to a primary which drove up turnout substantially. Still, though, how did Sanders — who had jumped into the lead in the latest pre-Super Tuesday poll — end up losing the state to Biden? Two factors: first, exit polls are showing a considerable number of late deciders and second, despite the fact that they didn’t vote for her for president, Minnesota voters do genuinely like Klobuchar. Her endorsement, on the eve of the Minnesota primary, with so many voters still undecided, probably helped push Biden over the edge…and the former Vice President seemed to agree in his victory speech.

North Carolina – 110 Delegates

Winner: Joe Biden

Called just as the polls closed, the Associated Press called North Carolina for the former Vice President. The coalition that powered Biden’s win in the Tar Heel state is the same that we saw across the country on Super Tuesday: later deciders, black voters and voters who say their top issue is who can beat Donald Trump in November. Sanders did well with younger voters — earning a healthy majority of voters under 29 — but turnout among that age group remains paltry.

In addition to the presidential race, North Carolina had a full slate of contests on their Super Tuesday primary ballot, including the opening volley in what might be the most expensive US Senate race in the country. Recent polls have shown former State Senator Cal Cunningham running close to or ahead of incumbent Sen. Thom Tillis. Republicans were so concerned about Cunningham’s strong showing against Tillis, they created a political action committee to run ads touting Cunningham’s primary opponent, Sen. Erica Smith. Their gambit did not work, though, as Cunningham sailed to a comfortable victory.

Oklahoma — 37 Delegates

Winner: Joe Biden

Bernie Sanders fell short of repeating his 2016 victory in the Oklahoma primary on Super Tuesday, finishing 13 points behind Biden in second place. Bloomberg, who’d made a significant investment in Oklahoma finished in a distant third. Neither Bloomberg nor Warren earned enough votes to qualify for delegates.

What’s interesting about Oklahoma’s outcome is the way it crystallizes that this primary has become a national contest. From what I can tell, Joe Biden never even stepped foot in Oklahoma as a candidate and his campaign had no offices there. Sanders had one office in the state and last visited in September. Bloomberg, who debuted his economic justice plans in the shadows of Black Wall Street, visited Oklahoma on a few occasions and opened two campaign offices in the state, couldn’t gain traction. All the conventional wisdom about campaigns really needs to be thrown out of the window… we’re in a new era.

Tennessee — 64 Delegates

Winner: Joe Biden

With deadly tornadoes claiming the lives of at least 24 Tennesseans yesterday, the state’s primary rightfully almost feels like an afterthought. Somehow even with the storm’s upheaval, Tennessee voter turnout increased by 38 percent over 2016. The former Vice President managed to outperform recent polling in Tennessee and add another Southern state to his campaign’s firewall. The state should go down as a missed opportunity for the Sanders campaign, though, as exit polls reflect a weaker showing for Biden among black voters and higher young voter turnout for Sanders, compared to the other Southern Super Tuesday states.

The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee’s Emergency Response Fund is accepting donations to to support the affected communities.

Texas — 228 Delegates

Winner: Joe Biden

Since early January, polls for the Texas primary had shown Bernie Sanders with a comfortable lead but in the days since Biden’s win in South Carolina, the tide began to turn… decisively. The “Democratic Unity” rally the Biden campaign staged in Dallas, along with the endorsement of former Congressman Beto O’Rourke, helped bolster the former Vice President’s effort and ultimately gave him an impressive win. That said, watch the delegate math in Texas, it could yield a closer race than preliminary numbers suggest.

According to a recent analysis by The Guardian, Texas closed more polling places than any other state since 2012. Unsurprisingly, most of the closures disproportionately hit black and Latino areas. Those suppressive efforts manifested last night near Texas Southern University, a historically black college in Houston, where voters were forced to wait up to seven hours to cast their ballot. SEVEN HOURS! The Supreme Court’s decision to gut the Voting Rights Act, coupled with Republican suppressive efforts, produced their desired effect of disenfranchising black and brown voters.

Three other noteworthy stories from Texas: First, in the race to challenge John Cornyn in November, MJ Hegar came out on top but she’ll head to a run-off against State Senator Royce West or labor activist Cristina Ramirez, who are currently locked in a battle for second place. Also? Jessica Cisneros fell just short of her bid to unseat the House’s most conservative Democrat, Henry Cuellar. In better news: Gina Ortiz Jones, who narrowly lost her campaign in the TX-23rd in 2018 (thanks Beto!), won her race for the Democratic nomination in that district and will compete for an open seat following Rep. Will Hurd’s retirement.

Utah — 29 Delegates

Winner: Bernie Sanders

Like Maine and Minnesota, Utah made the shift from being a caucus state in 2016 to being a primary state in 2020. But unlike Maine and Minnesota, in Utah Sanders was able to carryover his success in the caucus to the primary and, ultimately, claim victory. Because much of Utah’s voting was done by mail, we don’t have exit polls to explain Sanders’ win but given how thoroughly he out-performed his polling, it seems likely that Sanders got a significant boost from liberal voters in Salt Lake County.

Vermont — 16 Delegates

Winner: Bernie Sanders

Given what happened to Warren in Massachusetts, Sanders’ success in his home state of Vermont is noteworthy, particularly since it may have been the only state in which Sanders picked up an outright majority of the votes. I was surprised, though, to see Biden do well enough in the state to earn a share of its delegates.

Virginia — 99 Delegates

Winner: Joe Biden

In mid-February, Virginia polls reflected the overall tenor of the race: Sanders jumping into the lead, Biden’s standing slipping and Bloomberg surging into third place, thanks to a significant investment in advertising. But after the tenth debate and the South Carolina primary, things began to shift, with Biden reclaiming the lead and opening up a sizeable margin against the field. Like North Carolina, Biden’s lead had grown so substantially that networks were able to call the commonwealth as soon as polls closed at 7PM.

The best news out of Virginia, in my estimation, is that Democratic voter turnout is up significantly over both the 2016 and 2008 (!!!) primaries. It reflects a level of energy and ethusiasm that we really haven’t seen thus far, which is an absolute necessity to unseat the incumbent president. There was some speculation that after passing slew of progressive legislation like a $15 minimum wage, ratifying the ERA and an assault weapons ban, Democrats might see some sign of a backlash but Virginia’s numbers don’t bare that out.

American Samoa — 6 Delegates

Winner: Mike Bloomberg

Over half a billion dollars spent later.


Up Next:

March 3-10Democrats Abroad
March 10 Idaho, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Washington
March 14Northern Mariana Islands
March 17 Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio

A black biracial, bisexual girl raised in the South, working hard to restore North Carolina's good name. Lover of sports, politics, good TV and Sonia Sotomayor. Spends her Thursday nights trying to make #Shonday happen.

Natalie has written 138 articles for us.

32 Comments

  1. This write up is great Natalie. I appreciate your consistency in covering not only what happened in the national primary but what was going on at the local and state levels because it feels like those are the only things I have any capacity to influence, and I needed that reminder today. I think once again, these results serve as a reminder that political polling is a farce.

  2. Jackie Fielder advanced in her primary for a CA State Senate seat! https://jackieforsenate.com/ She’s a water defender who helped create SF’s public bank. She’s indigenous, mexican, queer, and Alicia Garza chose her to take up Garza’s class at SFSU. She’s running for housing justice and wealth redistribution as a person who has experienced housing instability in a city where MANY ppl experience that and homelessness!

  3. If Warren drops out, I have the choice between Biden and Sanders. Biden is Biden, but I just. Can’t. Stand. Those. Bernie. Bros. I don’t want to give them the satisfaction, but I can’t vote for Biden or not vote. I don’t know how to write down the appropriate noises of rage that I’m feeling.

    • Look at it this way:

      Let’s assume for a second that Biden is the general election candidate. More than likely, he’s going to pick someone young and relatively progressive for VP-probably not on the level of an Elizabeth Warren, but someone who’s to the left of him without being uncomfortably liberal. I know that’s not what everyone wants, but realistically we need to beat Trump first and foremost. So having a moderately progressive voice in the administration is a huge leap forwards.

      Also, if we have Biden as president, we don’t end up with another Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court. RBG can safely retire. A solid margin of victory for a Democratic president also means a higher likelihood we flip Maine and Colorado, and maybe even two other seats to tie the Senate. Biden may not be everyone’s favorite, but he’s going to fight like hell to get everyone with a (D) next to their name elected alongside him.

      The Trump administration has demonstrated it is frighteningly easy to take big steps backwards away from LGBT rights, protecting the environment, and making healthcare affordable and accessible to everyone. If the choice is letting Trump walk those rights back EVEN FARTHER or electing someone who will do their best to at least bring us back to where we were in 2016…well, moving back to a baseline is a hell of a lot better than falling deeper into the hole.

    • Wow sorry for your rage honestly. If you have fallen for the Bernie Bros narrative then you must watch a lot of that mainstream media propaganda that it originates from. If you can not get with Sanders its your right after all but he does in fact have the most diverse and multi generational support. Bernie Sanders supporters are not “bros” and that’s the biggest myth of this election. Sanders supporters are nonmen, LGBTQIA+, POC, folks living in poverty, people battling illnesses or disabled, people drowning in debt, young, elderly; a truly a wide and diverse community. In other words, the most marginalized in American society.
      Unfortunately I don’t see Elisabeth Warren endorsing Bernie Sanders either because she’s only remaining in the race to thwart anymore delegates going Sanders way. Thats why her PERSIST Super Pac came suddenly into play. She was a progressive in name only and that is why she will not give her delegates to Bernie.
      Politics sure is dirty and Warrens own words she’s “just a player”.
      If Biden wins the nomination you can count on 4 more years of Trump and not because of progressives not voting for him but because Trump will demolish him on the debate stage. Biden can’t remember where he is or who he’s talking to half the time and Trumps always sniffing high on adderall.
      The worst and sad reality show at its icky core.
      Also, the exit polls showed that the majority Americans still want medicare for all like the rest of the industrialized world and yet they voted against their own interests yet again. Ugh.

      • I agree with some of the sentiments here (ie “Bernie Bros” is a false narrative). But as Bernie supporters, let’s welcome voters from other camps, especially people with really similar values. Sandbagging people is sometimes tempting, but isn’t super effective in bringing people to our side.

      • Don’t come into this space and accuse Warren of being a “fake progressive” who’s “only remaining in the race to thwart’ Sanders. Just don’t. Not only is it harmful to women, it’s also really counterproductive if you’re trying to persuade more people to support your candidate.

        You accuse a queer person of “falling for the Bernie Bros narrative” which you say is “the biggest myth of this election,” as if we can’t see with our own eyes and hear with our own ears the harassment we have experienced from Bernie supporters for months. And then you repeat the same horrible smears against Elizabeth Warren that those same people have been hurling at us.

        Please reconsider how you talk to people who disagree with you, especially if you are hoping to get them to trust your candidate and join your movement.

      • Being a jerk about Warren isn’t a great way to sell someone on your own candidate, fyi, especially when you’re displaying some of the same behaviors that have made people uncomfortable with Sanders/his base.

        My first choice is/was Warren. Although my primary vote is no longer up for grabs (I’ve already voted), I have been thinking more about my feelings for the other candidates, ever since it’s become clear that she has no real path to the nomination.

        You know what types of things have made me feel more favorably about Sanders? Explanations of why they think he is good/better than other candidates in X area. (E.g. his foreign policy positions, which I might like more than I like Warren’s).

        You know what hasn’t helped? People shouting about how Warren is singly responsible for Sanders’s losses on Super Tuesday (maybe he should’ve spent more time reaching out to certain communities), people implying that Warren voters are stupid or wrong in their reasons for liking her, etc.

      • This is a joke right? Or is this a Biden strategy? A trump bot/ human troll? You’re successfully embodying all the reasons a Warren voter (or anyone) wants nothing to do with this camp.
        *If you are genuinely a Bernie supporter who means what you say, honestly don’t tell me because I think I can only entertain voting for Bernie if I pretend this is some kind of fake.
        *FWIW the Bernie Bro narrative is real. We all know his supporters aren’t all bros, but a lot are and they suck. Of all the Bernie supporters I contacted while phone banking and texting for Warren, the worst of the overtly sexist responses flooding my phone were from people who likely identify as men. Disgusting responses were not exclusively from men, but disproportionately and a higher degree of gross.
        I know the folks who texted me back aren’t some kind of Biden or Trump bot, but I hope dearly that many commenters are.

    • I’ve always believed the political is personal. Watching women candidates make it into one presidential campaign after another has been incredibly powerful for me because of a lot of messaging I got when I was younger about what women can and cannot, should and should not do. Honestly, I’m incredibly disappointed in the results from yesterday and relate with Kristana’s struggle very much. Right now, I think many of us feel that we are being asked to plow through our feelings and move forward already. I feel this way about Warren herself taking the time to decide what she wants to do, amidst calls for her to just drop out already. Women are always being asked to shut down our emotions and make decisions for the greater good. Can we just have the time and space to feel what we feel, to think through what it is that feels like the most authentic to ourselves to do?

    • Hi there! Long time lurker first time commenter etc. I just wanted to speak up and say that I’m a queer woman and I’m a member of the Bernie Brethren (as I call us). I like Elizabeth Warren a lot, but she doesn’t have a path forward to the White House, though I’d love to see her in the Cabinet. The only person who has the same progressive values as Warren is Bernie Sanders. Biden unfortunately has a history of conceding lots of ground to Republicans on everything women’s rights to racial justice to economic equality. I ultimately believe that electoral politics are far less important than winning power on the street. But Bernie can actually change people’s lives; Biden is more of the same.

  4. A win from Tuesday seems to be Measure R in LA, that will “Expand the power of the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission. If approved by L.A. County voters, the commission would have subpoena powers.
    Require the Civilian Oversight Commission to build a comprehensive plan to find alternatives to incareration, especially for inmates who are mentally ill.” – it’s an effort from a Black Lives Matter and ACLU partnership.

  5. I had the privilege of voting for Gomez yesterday! What’s even cooler is there were *two* LGBTQ women in that race. A former Marine named Janessa Goldbeck was among the many smaller-profile candidates running for CA-53.

    I never expected to get good feelings from politics, but a mailbox stuffed with mailers from the campaigns of strong women who also happen to be proudly GAY AF in their campaign photos? That felt damn amazing.

  6. Wow what a smack down. But everything I said was not a smear but based on unfortunate truths.

    I was in fact rooting for her for the longest time but once she started backing off on her progressive policies (medical for all the major one) which was not coincidentally the same time that she hired ex Hillary Clinton campaign advisors that her poll numbers started to dip.

    She was a republican until she was 47 years old wasn’t she?

    It sucks when you still want your candidate to do well but she continued to play opposite ends of the democratic field and now ends up without any path going forward.

    I’m an unapologetic queer feminist but like I said in my previous post, even if Riese was running for office and she suddenly hopped on the corporate super pac money train, I would have to seriously reconsider support for even her.

    Don’t be but hurt by my innocuous comments, focus your vitriol on all the bought politicians that keep gaslighting you to vote against your own interests.

    • Even if something is true, that doesn’t mean it is necessary or constructive to say. There’s a lot of horrible things I could say about Bernie Sanders. I don’t say them, because I know we’re all imperfect human beings, and I know doing so would not help us reach common ground or serve our interests.

      You call us “but hurt” and accuse us of being gaslit and voting against our own interests, and then tell us that *we* are the ones who are focusing our vitriol in the wrong direction?

      Consider how disrespectful that is. And even if you don’t care about being respectful or compassionate, consider that it is going to actively turn other people away from your movement and your candidate.

  7. i appreciate the continued candidate/vote coverage and Natalie’s insightful lens.

    we are all pretty nervous and feel how high the stakes are. democrat infighting will benefit republicans/trump in the general, and they already have enough going for them with voter suppression, gerrymandering, the misinformation machine, and Putin puppeteering. really hoping everybody keeps that in mind.

    i’d prefer a progressive platform, and i’m entirely disappointed, but i’m choosing to be open to the person who wins the nomination.

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