What Do the Super Tuesday Results Mean?

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Tuesday, March 3 was Super Tuesday 2020, a pivotal moment for the Democratic presidential race. On this day, during which more states host their Democratic presidential primaries than on any other day, voters in 14 states headed to the polls. Their ballots led to results that seemed unthinkable just a week prior. Read on to learn what the Super Tuesday results mean and what changed before Super Tuesday to lead to these outcomes.

What changed before Super Tuesday

Following the Nevada caucuses on February 22, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders appeared to have virtually unstoppable momentum. After Super Tuesday, that prognosis seems less likely. Now, Joe Biden holds the lead among the Democratic presidential candidates. This shift may have occurred due to two prominent factors.

Joe Biden won South Carolina

After the Nevada causes, Sanders had 31 Democratic delegates and Biden had six. The South Carolina primary followed, in which Biden earned 48.7 percent of the vote and 38 delegates compared to Sanders’ 19.8 percent of the vote and 15 delegates. This brought Biden to a total of 44 delegates and Sanders to 46, leveling the playing field between the two candidates.

Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar dropped out

In the 48 hours following the South Carolina primary, both Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar dropped out of the Democratic presidential race. Some left-leaning commentators have pointed out that this timing may have represented an intentional effort to shift moderate voters toward Biden following his South Carolina win and away from Sanders, whom the Democratic establishment is known to fear. If these commentators are correct, then this alleged strategy worked, as Biden now holds a firm lead over Sanders.

How Super Tuesday’s outcome might shape the race

Just over one week after Sanders appeared to be the obvious Democratic frontrunner, Biden emerged from Super Tuesday with 370 delegates to Sanders’ 298. Sanders only won the popular vote in Utah, Colorado, and his current home state of Vermont. When the California race is called, Sanders is expected to win there too, but Biden nevertheless won nine states (and presumably Maine, where results are still being tallied, too). 

These results may seem to position Biden as the likely frontrunner for the nomination, but some commentators say that predicting a Biden win remains premature. Some projections still show that Biden and Sanders will ultimately earn a similar number of delegates. The final outcome may depend on who votes, as many demographic groups strongly prefer one candidate to the other.

Sanders supporters tend to skew younger and less moderate, and many Latinx voters cast their ballots for Sanders. Biden supporters tend to skew older and more moderate, and many Black voters cast their ballots for Biden. This gap may have driven Biden to victory: Exit polls from Super Tuesday show a decreased turnout among young voters from 2016. In Texas, which Biden won, 24 percent of voters were 65 or older, whereas in 2016, this figure was just 18 percent. 

Following Super Tuesday, Democratic candidate Michael Bloomberg suspended his campaign and endorsed Biden, potentially driving even more voters toward Biden. Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren, on the other hand, has promised not to suspend her race yet. Her remaining presence makes one thing clear: There are still more variables in the Democratic presidential race than even the most skilled pollsters can count.

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