Super Tuesday: Why Texas Is the Race to Watch
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because one-third of all the Democratic delegates are at stake in a single day.
This story has been updated to reflect new Forecast projections as of midday Tuesday.
A massive American flag hangs as the backdrop of the wooden-beamed restaurant amphitheater in downtown Houston, the site of a barnburner of a political rally, replete with free breakfast tacos and more “Bloomberg 2020” T-shirts than could be shot out of a cannon. “You can talk a good game. But at the end of the day, what people want are results!” booms Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner from the podium, before handing the stage over to Mike Bloomberg, the New York City billionaire whose campaign slogan “Mike Will Get It Done” is buoyed by the hope that his big bucks can buy him a big victory here on Super Tuesday.
Bloomberg has committed more than 160 staffers across 19 offices, has visited Texas seven times personally and spent millions in TV ads. And yet, for all that effort, OZY’s exclusive Forecast projects he will only finish third here.
The stakes are simply bigger in Texas, and Bloomberg isn’t the only one hanging his hopes on the Lone Star State. Not only does Texas award 228 delegates, the second-most of the 14 states (plus the territory of American Samoa and Democrats abroad) voting Tuesday, but it is the biggest truly competitive state. Our exclusive prediction model, in partnership with data and technology firm 0ptimus and elections reporting company Decision Desk HQ, shows a tight race that will go a long way toward defining how super this Tuesday is for Sen. Bernie Sanders. “Texas is the pathway to the nomination,” says Abhi Rahman, communications director for the Texas Democrats.
Texas Democrats expect the statewide tally to roll in sometime after midnight Tuesday, with individual districts likely coming in by midday Wednesday at the latest. Delegates are awarded here proportionally statewide and by state senate district (as opposed to congressional districts elsewhere).
The big question will be about Sanders’ early lead and organizing prowess vs. former Vice President Joe Biden’s late momentum. Sanders has six field offices, a massive volunteer base and strong support from a Latino population that made up one-third of the Democratic primary electorate in 2016. Biden has new life from his South Carolina triumph, but among the weakest organizations: Until February, the Biden campaign had a state director here but that’s about it, only bulking up by relocating a couple of dozen staffers from Iowa after the caucus ended. One big factor: More than 1 million Texas Democrats voted early, before Biden’s big win, and before Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar dropped out of the race. Both then dramatically endorsed Biden in Dallas on Monday night — along with former candidate and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke. Biden’s core constituency of Black voters (19 percent of the 2016 Democratic primary) is less of a factor here than in some southern Super Tuesday states. And Bloomberg could still siphon away a bunch of delegates.
Overall, our exclusive prediction model — which crunches polls, demographics, fundraising, media coverage and more to come up with the smartest predictions in the business — shows Sanders coming away with a solid lead out of Super Tuesday, but not the blowout we were expecting a few days ago. As of Tuesday midday, here’s how we expect the delegates to shake out in the 14 states voting on Tuesday:
- Sanders — 535
- Biden — 452
- Bloomberg — 197
- Sen. Elizabeth Warren — 153
- Rep. Tulsi Gabbard — 2
While independent analyses show we’re the best at predicting how each state will go, there’s plenty of uncertainty ahead. Here’s what to watch for in all 14 Super Tuesday states. (We don’t have enough data to make informed judgments about American Samoa or Democrats abroad, so let those be fun surprises.)
California (416 delegates, polls close at 11 p.m. EST)
In the crown jewel of the nomination fight, an early investment in organizing, a left-leaning electorate and a large Latino population add up to an almost certain Sanders win. The question is: How big?
California is a vote-by-mail state, and ballots only have to be postmarked by Election Day, meaning it could be weeks before all the votes are tallied.
Still, Scott Tranter, CEO of 0ptimus and a California native, says we should have a rough idea of the results by 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. EST on election night. The key, he says, is the Central Valley, where Biden and Bloomberg could grab a bunch of delegates. “Generally speaking, it’s more conservative, more blue-collar, more Hispanic,” says Tranter, who is a Republican. “If Bernie is as good as he says he is in Hispanic organizing, we’ll see him dominating the Central Valley in the same way we’ll see in L.A.” That’s the difference between a solid night for Sanders and a landslide that could give him a near-insurmountable delegate lead.
North Carolina (110 delegates, polls close at 7:30 p.m. EST)
Never have North Carolinians cheered so hard for South Carolina. But on Saturday afternoon in Raleigh, hours before his landslide next door, Team Biden sounded a triumphant note. “Joe’s comeback is underway,” U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield told the Raleigh crowd, portending the South Carolina win and the flood of endorsements to come.
While Sanders had an early head start here, and you haven’t been able to watch the local news or Jeopardy! for months without seeing a Bloomberg ad, there’s a palpable sense that North Carolina is trending Biden. And our latest figures suggest a South Carolina-style blowout, as both Sanders and Bloomberg fade. Watch to see if the billionaire can hold strong in the Charlotte area, where he’s endorsed by Mayor Vi Lyles and the banking industry reigns supreme.
Virginia (99 delegates, polls close at 7 p.m. EST)
his is another state that sets up well for Biden — particularly after Buttigieg’s departure. The question is what portion of Buttigieg’s base of highly educated white voters in Northern Virginia — the former mayor staged a large rally there last week — migrate his way. Also due to the state’s general lack of high-quality polling, Tranter says: “That one is ripe for a surprise.” A late-arriving batch of polls shows the big surprise could well be a Biden landslide.
Massachusetts (91 delegates, polls close at 8 p.m. EST)
Warren’s Waterloo: Can the senator win on her home turf? Our model suggests not, after Sanders staged a major Boston rally and has been pouring resources into a knockout blow. But Warren’s continued presence in the race keeps this from being a Sanders runaway.
Minnesota (75 delegates, polls close at 9 p.m. EST)
Klobuchar dropped out on Monday, even as she leaked an internal poll showing she was still ahead in her home state. Could she deny Sanders a win — thanks to a big early vote — even having left the race? That would be the ultimate gift to her new pick, Biden. But Sanders has the edge, and staged a large rally in St. Paul on Monday. (This, by the way, is where we see Gabbard sneaking onto the board with two delegates.)
Colorado (67 delegates, polls close at 9 p.m. EST)
In this vote-by-mail state, ballots must arrive by Election Day — so it won’t take into account Biden’s surge, and might give extra weight to Warren’s Las Vegas debate tour de force. Sanders looks ready to dominate, the question being whether the other three can all top the 15 percent viability threshold.
Tennessee (64 delegates, polls close at 8 p.m. EST)
The Black vote is not quite as heavy here as it is in the Deep South, Bloomberg is the only candidate showing much love and there’s a lack of quality polling, leaving Tennessee as something of an enigma — but Biden should have the edge, as he does elsewhere in the South.
Alabama (52 delegates, polls close at 8 p.m. EST)
Biden, Bloomberg and Warren traveled to Selma, Alabama, on Sunday to mark the 55th anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday” march that helped lead to the passage of the Voting Rights Act. Sanders — who continues to struggle with Black voters — was conspicuously absent. Expect Biden to romp here.
Oklahoma (37 delegates, polls close at 8 p.m. EST)
This is another state where Bloomberg has pumped a ton of money, few candidates have spent time and there’s little polling to go on. Warren, an Oklahoma native, can potentially work her way into the conversation.
Arkansas (31 delegates, polls close at 8:30 p.m. EST)
While Bloomberg isn’t expected to win outright anywhere, this could be his best state on Super Tuesday, because he’s been able to saturate the airwaves, it’s been largely ignored by the other candidates and there are a lot of old-school conservative Democrats still hanging around. But the model has shown a particularly dramatic Biden rise here.
Utah (29 delegates, polls close at 10 p.m. EST)
A sizable Latino population plays well for Sanders, while a lot of crossover ‘Mitt Romney Republicans’ could boost Bloomberg, who’s spent time campaigning here.
Maine (24 delegates, polls close at 8 p.m. EST)
New England is Sanders country, and the question is merely whether Biden and Bloomberg can both get over 15 percent and sap a few delegates.
Vermont (16 delegates, polls close at 7 p.m. EST)
Sanders will dominate his home state, where he’s spending Super Tuesday night, with entertainment by two members of the jam band Phish. It should be a real show of life.