Sen. Bernie Sanders now holds critical polling leads in the 2020 Democratic primary: New surveys show him ahead in California and Texas, the biggest prizes in the upcoming Super Tuesday elections on March 3.
A new University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll shows a Sanders surge, with the Vermont senator increasing his support by 12 points since last fall, up to 24 percent and ahead of former Vice President Joe Biden at 22 percent. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is in third place at 15 percent in the poll, which was taken January 31 to February 9 and has a margin of error of 4 percent. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg gets 10 percent. Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota are in single digits.
Earlier this week, a Capitol Weekly poll of California taken February 6 to 9 gave Sanders a healthy 13-point lead over Warren, well beyond the margin of error, with 29 percent of the vote. Biden, Buttigieg, and Bloomberg were clustered below 15 percent in the poll.
There are still two contests — in Nevada and South Carolina — before Super Tuesday, and that could affect voters’ decisions on the biggest day of primary contests. But Sanders currently has a good baseline: If you’d wisely rather look at the polling averages, FiveThirtyEight still puts Sanders ahead in both of the delegate-rich states.
In California, he’s currently nursing a comfortable 14-point lead at 27.3 percent. Bloomberg and Warren are a distant second and third. In Texas, he’s jumped 12 points, by Biden (18.5 percent) in the polling average, with Bloomberg in third at 17.6 percent, just above the very important threshold for winning delegates at the Democratic convention this summer.
It’ll be hard for any candidate to win the nomination outright, given the Democratic Party’s proportional apportionment of delegates.
But after Iowa and New Hampshire, and looking at the polls of the most valuable primary states, you’d rather be Sanders than anybody else.
Sanders or “no one” is on track to win a majority of delegates
And that’s what the primary is really about: winning Democratic National Convention delegates, a majority of the nearly 4,000 up for grabs. Almost one out of every five delegates — 17 percent — will be won on March 3, Super Tuesday, in California and Texas. The former has 416, the most in the country; the latter has 261, the third most.
The delegates are being awarded proportionally, so Sanders won’t be taking all of those 670-some delegates. Biden, Warren, Buttigieg, and Bloomberg are all above or near the 15-percent threshold to win delegates in some states. And because delegates are distributed based in part on geography, candidates must have widespread support — a narrow plurality might not mean a delegate victory, as Sanders experienced in Iowa already.
Still, viewing the race broadly, Sanders looks on track to win the most delegates of any candidate.
But can he win a majority, or will Democrats be heading to an open convention in July? The FiveThirtyEight forecast currently gives Sanders a 37 percent chance of winning a delegate majority, given his strong showing in Iowa and New Hampshire and his good national and upcoming state polls. But it actually gives “no one” the same chance. Biden is next, at 12 percent. Bloomberg has crept up to 8 percent; Buttigieg sits back at just 4 percent.
Given the unsettled state of the primary after two contests, Super Tuesday is taking on all the more importance. About a third of the pledged convention delegates, coming from 14 states plus a few territories, will be won. It could be a big day for Sanders, if the polling matches the turnout.