Super Tuesday Scenarios

‘We’re flying blind into Super Tuesday,’ G. Elliot Morris at the Economist noted on Twitter. That’s exactly right. And for two reasons. First, the uncertainly attached to the estimates derived from polling. Second, no one knows how to model where Buttigieg and Klobuchar supporters are going to end up.

Table 1 displays the polling averages of the candidates for recent polls. The usual margin of error on these polls is plus/minus 5 percent.

Table 1. Super Tuesday polls.
Sanders Biden Warren Bloomberg Buttigieg Klobuchar Gabbard Steyer Delegates
California 38 17 16 15 11 6 2 3 415
Texas 27 22 13 16 8 5 1 2 228
Arkansas 16 19 9 20 16 5 31
Colorado 31 11 17 13 13 6 1 1 67
Maine 25 12 9 14 16 4 3 2 24
Massachusetts 23 12 20 12 14 8 2 2 91
Minnesota 22 9 14 6 7 28 3 1 75
North Carolina 22 22 11 17 8 5 1 2 110
Oklahoma 15 15 8 19 10 7 0 0 37
Utah 28 19 18 15 29
Vermont 51 5 9 7 13 4 1 0 16
Virginia 34 28 10 25 18 15 1 1 99
American Samoa* 6
Alabama* 18 39 9 4 1 0 52
Tennesse* 13 33 18 6 1 1 64
Average of primary polls conducted in Feb 2020. * No polls were conducted in 2020 in these states. We use the average of polls conducted in 2019. No polls were conducted at all in American Samoa.

It is clear from the polling averages that Sanders is the front-runner. He leads in 9 out of 15 states. But his delegate-weighted polling average across the states is only 28.7 percent. Biden is not far behind at 19.3 percent. And even Warren and Bloomberg are within striking distance at 14.2 percent and 14.0 percent respectively. With 20.5 percent of those polled having reported to support candidates that have dropped out from the race, the whole thing is up for grabs.


We can simulate this uncertainly by looking at various scenarios about which of the four remaining candidates they end up with. Here we look at six scenarios. In the uniform scenario, Dems who expressed support for one of the dropouts are assigned uniformly to each of the four; proportional assigns them proportionally; and blah surge assigns them to blah. This is an straightforward way to model uncertainty — not just about where they will go, but model uncertainty more generally. (The projections includes delegates that have already been won by the candidates.)


We can see that, while Sanders is in the lead, there are scenarios where each of the four end up with a plurality of delegates. In particular, there are no good reasons to rule out Warren or Bloomberg as of this morning. Moreover, there is reason to believe that Warren is the top second choice for Buttigieg, and to a lesser extent, Klobuchar supporters. This is from G. Elliot Morris:


The Policy Tensor effectively endorsed Warren a long time ago. I believe she is the only one capable of restoring elite-mass relations in the United States — a prerequisite for a progressive-working class alliance that can get us off the hockey stick of doom and restore broad-based growth. Recall that we need a solution to both the political problem of forging a sociopolitical alignment of forces to see through the transition, and the physical problem of decarbonization. Biden and Bloomberg are business as usual; they will get us further into the impasse. And although Sanders shares many of the same goals, I’m afraid a Sanders presidency will end up in the impasse of a prolonged and inconclusive war of position since he wants to fight on all fronts simultaneously. It makes much more strategic sense to choose your enemies wisely.

More importantly still, boundary work against the financial elite is a distraction from the real challenge of restoring elite-mass relations, which requires buy-in from the elites just as much as from the masses. In any event, this boundary work, which appeals so well to the Dirtbag Left, enjoys little purchase in the working class. The rage of the working class — the source of the breakdown of elite-mass relations — is directed not at the financial elite, but at the socio-cultural elite. Unfortunately, the confrontation of class ideologies driving the impasse of elite-mass relations is not going anywhere. It’ll still be here no matter who wins the nomination and no matter what happens in November. Like the planetary impasse, there’s no escape. Sooner or later we will have to close the gap between discourse and reality.

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