As Super Tuesday results started rolling in Tuesday evening, it looked like it would be a very disappointing night for Sen. Bernie Sanders as former Vice President Joe Biden racked up wins across the South, came out on top in Texas — and even managed to defeat Sen. Elizabeth Warren in her home state of Massachusetts.
But whether Biden would be able to win California remained — and remains, as returns are still coming in — an open question. However, early exit polls suggest Sanders was able to create a coalition of young and Latinx voters in the state that could secure him a victory in Super Tuesday’s largest (and most delegate-rich) state.
In order to carry the day out West, Sanders needed the strong turnout from younger voters and Latinx voters that helped power his win in the Nevada caucuses because California’s Democratic electorate skews younger and is 31 percent Latinx. While Vox and our partners at Decision Desk haven't yet called the California race, and while officials may not finish counting votes for days — or even weeks — Sanders appears to have eked out an early lead with more than 80 percent of precincts reporting.
And according to Washington Post exit polling data, that lead is being powered in part by Sanders’s dominance with younger voters in the state. He carried 57 percent of voters between the ages of 18 and 29, and 52 percent of those aged 30 to 44. He also only narrowly lost voters aged 45 to 64 to Biden — losing that demographic by just 1 percentage point.
As Vox’s Nicole Narea has explained, Sanders has focused his turnout efforts on working-class Latinx voters, and that strategy largely paid off for him in California on Tuesday. The Vermont senator received 49 percent support from Latinx voters to Biden’s 12 percent.
One of the major stories of Super Tuesday was Joe Biden’s domination with black voters across the South, but in California, the margin was much closer. Biden won over just 33 percent of the state’s black voters, but his support among the demographic was undercut by former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who received 23 percent support.
And while in some states Sanders was unable to mobilize his base around his key issues of health care and income inequality, that did not appear to be the case in California. Among California voters, 34 percent of those who care most about health care went for Sanders, while Biden won just over 22 percent. Voters who thought income inequality was most important went for Sanders by an even larger margin — 45 percent to Biden’s 12 percent.
As the race narrows, the respective coalitions for Sanders and Biden are starting to become apparent. Overall, Biden performed well Tuesday with older black voters and suburban white people while Sanders led with Latinx voters and young people.
While Biden carried the day elsewhere, California’s 415 delegates, and more importantly the Sanders coalition, could go a long way toward keeping Sanders a competitive candidate for the Democratic nomination going forward.