By Benjamin Butz-Weidner and Max Segal
Today is Super Tuesday. Awesome. With Donald Trump dominating the airwaves and surging in national polls it seems the apocalypse is nigh, but polling is only a popularity contest until people actually show up to vote. Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio follow Trump closely to varying degrees in different states’ primary/caucus polls. Rubio is cutting ahead in places like Massachusetts, Tennessee and Virginia, where he holds an almost ten point lead over Senator Cruz.
With regard to Governor John Kasich: we’ll miss you. With regard to Dr. Ben Carson: ‘uh, you’re still here’?
As far as whom the Gods favor, it is a bit of crapshoot. Whereas we all loved John Oliver’s hit-piece on ‘The Donald’, those supporting Trump are unlikely to have seen it, or if they did: given a shit. Trump has stronger chances in the South, where he is ahead by almost ten points in states like Georgia. .
The former grand wizard David Dukes didn’t just jump up and endorse Trump a few days before Super Tuesday without hoping it will have implications in the South. I don’t want to make it seem like I am saying all white Southern Republican voters are racists, ’cause really I’m not. However, the fact that I’m reading about white supremacy in national politics in the New York Times, and that the number of government-identified hate groups has drastically risen in the US since the election of Barack Obama make it a pretty safe bet that typically inactive white-supremacists might get in their Dixie-dazzled trucks to vote for Trump. Furthermore, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions endorsed Trump, and with voter turnout as low as it is, if this is the reflection of whom the establishment is in parts of the South…
It’s the first candidate they have to vote for since George Wallace.
However, it’s not to be forgotten that Cruz is also fairly popular amongst more religious voters, and the Bible Belt is ripe with fervor. Duck Dynasty’s own Willie Robertson, a man with a million annotations in his bible, endorsed Ted Cruz, and if there is anyone who represents the Southern moral man more so than he, strike me dead and call me Chauncey. Similarly, the South is a place where folks is respectable, and Trump’s “New York values” might actually reinforce the façade of Cruz’s evangelical ones.
With regard to Governor John Kasich: we’ll miss you. With regard to Dr. Ben Carson: ‘uh, you’re still here’?
Cruz surely poses a greater threat in Wyoming, a state with a lot of fossil fuel based jobs, something I doubt has been left out by big oil, coal, and gas in their Super-PAC sponsored ads. It’s a more rural state too, where the sort of anti-government rhetoric Cruz lets fly with his Princeton-sharpened lizard tongue is more appealing. That is, if he can beat out Trump.
Colorado is another state where Cruz could come in strong. It’s a caucus, which Trump supporters proved once they are less likely to make it out to. Rubio poses a threat more so here than in Wyoming because the recent pot boom has brought a lot of cash to the state, and a scorpion that dresses himself as a fire and brimstone man might have a harder time cozying up to all that green than someone who voters believe is more moderate: Rubio. Cruz’s hardline positions might be his undoing here, as a state looking to legitimize its quasi-legal business would look more to someone who has shown willingness to work across the aisle and has a younger outlook on things.
Again, Minnesota is a place where Cruz could repeat his Iowa magic. This caucus is in an agrarian state with a lot of the same interests as its neighbor. The proximity alone doesn’t hurt either. Minnesota also has a fairly well educated population and a high median income, which along with it being another caucus holding state, doesn’t help Trump’s chances any more. However, Rubio has been on Cruz’s tail, and with the Republican establishment rushing to endorse him he might be able to pull ahead of the Senator from Texas. But that is all assuming that Trump’s lead there deflates like it did in Iowa- if not, there goes another 38 delegates to Trump.
Ted ‘The Boogey-Man’ Cruz has strong odds in his constituent-state of Texas (I didn’t say home state because if you’re reading this you might be doing so from his actual home state). Whereas the national polls say Trump is the big wave to come today, I highly doubt Cruz would have entered the race if he weren’t certain of his chances in Texas, where he plans to score a hefty chunk of the 155 Texan delegates. Defeat like losing in Texas is not what calculating men like Cruz allow. Polls show him ahead by about five points with around 35% of the vote, with Trump at 30% and Rubio at a distant 16.6%. Neither Carson nor Kasich broke double digits. This is also the rare case where Trump is behind in the polls.
Vermont, in contrast, will likely fall to Trump just as New Hampshire did. His numbers there are exorbitantly higher than any other candidate’s. It’s just a shame for Trump that a lot of support in a small state doesn’t make up for just-not-enough support in one of the biggest. The state is rural, and predominantly liberal (it is the state that elected a self-avowed socialist as its senator), and so the remainder of the population that votes Republican is more or less akin to their GOP-voting neighbors to the east in New Hampshire, where Trump won big.
Alaska is a place where Trump and Cruz are still neck and neck (Cruz slightly behind) for the their measly 28 delegates. Though the state is negligible in obtaining the nomination, the simple fact that Cruz might pull ahead last minute could give his campaign new wind as he heads into state primaries to come. Trump soars above the other two in Oklahoma, likely due to its left-behindness in post-Recession America, but Rubio has seen increasing support while Cruz has seen the opposite. Their numbers are close enough that this could be an upset for Cruz in taking second place.
I didn’t say home state because if you’re reading this you might be doing so from his actual home state
The greatest thing going into today to wonder about is if the polls will be telling. We’ve seen Trump supporters flake before, in particular at caucuses; but his numbers still surge beyond the other two of the ‘holy trinity’ of craziness in national polls and in almost all primary and caucus polls. If that is the case then Trump will add a hefty percentage of the 595 delegates to be won today to his already dominating 82 (1,237 delegates are required to win the Party’s nomination). If the polls are only reflecting what is popular in the US right now, and not what actions people intend to take (i.e. voting) then today is really going to be up in the air. Despite the entire hubbub about getting people out to vote in this election, we’ve seen even on the left with Bernie supporters that that hasn’t materialized to its full promise. The only new voters to count on are the white supremacists, whose bigotry and fawning for antebellum might actually materialize into something (hopefully small). It’s the first candidate they have to vote for since George Wallace.
Super Tuesday was always an unspoken finish line for Bernie Sanders ever since the Democratic primaries went into full swing. The Bernie campaign itself admits that it’s are a campaign that started out with poll numbers “hovering around 3%,” while Hillary’s campaign took the limelight at day one. For Bernie, it has been an uphill battle since the beginning. To his enormous credit (notwithstanding his hatred of big banks), the poll numbers are rising, on average, by five percent each month. This will not matter unless Bernie manages to prevent Hillary from winning most of the 900 delegates later today. 900 delegates is roughly a third of the required delegates for a nomination. The current national polling, showing Bernie at 38% and Hillary at 51%, predicts a run for the Hillz while leaving the Sanders to Bern. And it may not even be all that ‘yuge’.
From above, Super Tuesday looks like a confusing amalgam of votes and caucuses. When broken down into probable Hillary wins and Bernie wins, the picture becomes more fluid and complementary than it did before. This very much reflects the catch-up strategy employed by Sanders (beyond dank memes) – divide and conquer. These are: the Southern States (with one exception!), Minnesota, Colorado, Massachusetts, and Vermont.
The Southern States would prefer not to be referred to as a monolith. Tough luck. They are. (We still love you and your grits-n’-ribs). The lead-up to Super Tuesday was the South Carolina primary, the first of the New Solid South. Clinton has historically polled well here, owing to a host of factors ranging from name recognition to social justice crusading. Bernie, fresh from a loss in Nevada, ran a campaign of hubristic conviction that South Carolina would be the state where his revolution would take flight. The result, to put it calmly – courtesy of the Washington Post: “For every vote Bernie Sanders got, Clinton got almost three. For every vote from a black voter Sanders got, exit polls suggest that Clinton got six.” This perhaps confirmed Sanders’s worst fear that he cannot rally his way into the presidency. Domination of the youth vote – that did not show up to vote – did not outweigh his Achilles Heel, the black vote.
The Southern States, which are especially plagued with racism and social ills, side with the candidate representing those immediate set of issues, instead of some old guy talking about walls and streets and big banks. The last nail in the coffin was the laughable expenditures gap between the Hillary and Bernie campaigns. Per FiveThirtyEight, in Alabama, Sanders’s $80k to Hillary’s half-million puts Sanders at ~30% poll-wise, giving Hillary a safe majority. Another example: Texas, a landscape of young Democrats in urban areas – ostensibly Sanders’s dream state – saw Hillary outspend Bernie by $5 million. And just how many people polled for Bernie in his ideal demographic? Two to one, according to freshest numbers.
The current national polling, showing Bernie at 38% and Hillary at 51%, predicts a run for the Hillz while leaving the Sanders to Bern.
The one glaring exception to Sanders’s not-so-benign neglect towards the South is Oklahoma. If there is one place south of the Mason-Dixon ensnared by Sanders’s message, it is the slow-to-recover state of mostly white, below-poverty line people. Their frustration with the current system is more palpable than among other Southern Democrats. Hillary dropped the ball with this state. Despite again outspending Bernie by $600,000, her poll numbers seem to inversely relate to spending. In the new year, Bernie has taken the lead in Oklahoma (paradoxically a more conservative state than the others in the New Solid South). But even with Oklahoma safely under his belt, he would still have, at most, 38 delegates to Hillary’s fivefold that number.
Bernie’s campaign is not an empty vessel, and picked up that this was a lost cause before the media did. It is instead focusing his attention on states where publicity and authenticity can pair up with his agenda to draw a stark contrast to Hillary.
Minnesota is one of the two states on Super Tuesday that will have a caucus – small discussion and coalition based conventions that produce a candidate they back – instead of a ballot election. This makes polling ridiculously difficult, as opinions change over the course of the caucus. Other data, such as Facebook likes and searches, obtained by FiveThirtyEight show that this state of relatively wealthy lutefisk-bingers are much more interested in Bernie than they are in Hillary. The strong Scandinavian culture in Minnesota might also make Sanders’ allusions to Swedish healthcare appetizing, unlike lutefisk. While this is as speculative as it gets, these figures are corroborated by low attendances at the sparse Clinton rallies held in Minnesota. Clinton is quite wrong to forego this place in favor of her friends down South (not you, Colorado, we’ll pass it to you soon). There are 77 delegates at stake here. If carried by Bernie along with Oklahoma, Bernie will have procured 100 delegates from just two states. That kind of math is only ignorable in the case of an incredibly assured candidate.
Colorado is another caucus state, and for obvious reasons (told you you’d get your turn, Colorado), is the sort of liberalistic paradise Sanders needs to be viable. The poll numbers are not kind to Sanders, despite his campaign’s massive injection of money into this state. But that’s alright! Colorado is not place for stress. If South Carolina was a damning weather vane for Sanders, Nevada, Colorado’s loud neighbor, is a blessed chalice. Sanders was pulling abysmal numbers in Nevada until the caucus, where he performed almost as well as in Iowa. It should also be remembered that this was accomplished with a meager campaign budget in Nevada, as the campaign felt that was indelibly Clinton territory. If geographic continuity is a thing in American politics, which it is, Sanders has a very good shot here. That means that a good chunk of the 66 delegates are up for grabs here.
Hillary has little to no chance of winning Vermont, but that has been clear to every Ben and Jerry from the start. Hillary did not even bother to campaign here, which was a wise economically. The main question about Vermont voters is: when they sneeze in unison for their adopted son (grandfather), will their neighbors below catch the cold?
Massachusetts is, aside from Texas, the treasure trove of Super Tuesday. Both sides understand this, putting up equal performances in spending and on-the-ground efforts. Sanders trails Hillary by five points in Massachusetts, but that has been shrinking much faster than Sanders’s national polls. From a demographical standpoint, Massachusetts is another shoe-in for Bernie. Massachusetts is ultra-liberal, and was near the epicenter of the Wall Street crash. But it is also one of Obama’s favorite states, becoming a focal point in both his campaigns. Massachusetts has fully ingratiated itself into the Obama camp, to which Hillary belongs. Therefore, with relatively similar poll numbers, fundraising, and expenditures, Massachusetts becomes a battleground of competing historical and cultural factors that will tip the scale in one direction or the other. The victor will carry around 100 delegates from Massachusetts alone.
If carried by Bernie along with Oklahoma, Bernie will have procured 100 delegates from just two states.
Super Tuesday is not looking good for Bernie Sanders. It was an honorable attempt to beat the clock, but his mobilization kicked in too late. While there are opportunities for the campaign to churn out a tour de force today, in the best scenario, this will yield around 230 delegates, while Hillary’s New Solid South championing will yield around twice that. However, America is full of surprises.