Washington state will be a major litmus test for Bernie Sanders’s candidacy this week.
Sanders won the state’s caucuses by huge margins in 2016, though the polls have him running much closer to former Vice President Joe Biden as voters head to the polls this March 10. It’s worth noting that Sanders also lost a non-binding primary the state held in 2016 to Hillary Clinton, but the caucus results were what Democrats used for allocating delegates. (Last cycle Washington made the unique choice of holding both a caucus — which was organized by the Democratic Party — and a primary — which was required by state law.)
This cycle, the state has moved exclusively to a primary, and it’s a change that could well benefit Biden. In the past, Sanders has typically done better than other candidates in caucuses because of how dedicated his base of supporters is, and in some places which have since switched to primaries — like Minnesota and Maine — the Vermont senator hasn’t fared as well as he did in 2016.
Polling ahead of the election had Biden and Sanders neck-in-neck with one another: According to the RealClearPolitics average, Biden was up by just two points with 41.5 percent support the Monday before the primary, while Sanders had 39.5 percent.
Voters in the state are able to participate in the primary via mail-in ballot or going in person to a county voting center. Polls close at 8 pm PT / 11 pm ET.
We’ll have live results that update throughout the night (and rest of the week, if it takes the state longer to count mail-in ballots), courtesy of our partners at DecisionDesk:
The outcome of the Washington primary has some serious implications: The state has 89 pledged delegates and has more recently established itself as a more progressive Democratic stronghold, which could give Sanders a boost. Washington is an important state for Sanders to win by large margins, both to rack up delegates and highlight the ongoing strength of his candidacy.
If Sanders isn’t able to win in the state, it could point to just how much momentum Biden has been able to gain since Super Tuesday. If he is, it will help him stave off the former vice president’s attempts to consolidate support.