5 things to watch on Super Tuesday

5 things to watch on Super Tuesday
© Greg Nash

The race for the Democratic presidential nomination will enter a critical new phase on Tuesday when voters in 14 states will head to the polls.

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenDemocrats warn GOP will regret Barrett confirmation Trump campaign eyes election night party at his sold-out DC hotel Harris blasts GOP for confirming Amy Coney Barrett: 'We won't forget this' MORE is newly energized heading into Super Tuesday after scoring the first presidential primary win of his political career in South Carolina on Saturday and earning the endorsements of two centrist rivals, Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharStart focusing on veterans' health before they enlist Durbin says he will run for No. 2 spot if Dems win Senate majority Democrats seem unlikely to move against Feinstein MORE (D-Minn.) and former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegLGBTQ voters must show up at the polls, or risk losing progress Buttigieg says it's time to 'turn the page' on Trump administration Sunday shows preview: Coronavirus cases surge in the Midwest; Trump hits campaign trail after COVID-19 MORE, who both dropped out following the Palmetto State primary.

Meanwhile, Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersObama book excerpt: 'Hard to deny my overconfidence' during early health care discussions Americans have a choice: Socialized medicine or health care freedom Ocasio-Cortez says Democrats must focus on winning White House for Biden MORE (I-Vt.) is hoping to capitalize on his early momentum in the race and his broad support in Super Tuesday states like California as he looks to extend his delegate lead.


Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who skipped the first four primaries and caucuses, will appear on the ballot for the first time on Tuesday, injecting an air of uncertainty into the nominating contest.

Here are five things to watch for on Super Tuesday:



Sanders’s margin in California

Recent polls show Sanders holding a comfortable lead in California. A survey released on Monday by the Hoover Institution and Stanford University’s Lane Center put the Vermont senator ahead in the Golden State by 9 points, followed by Biden and Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenAll fracked up: Biden's Keystone State breakdown What do Google, banks and chicken salad have in common? Final debate: War Admiral vs. Seabiscuit MORE (D-Mass.). And a recent Emerson College poll showed Sanders with an even larger 17-point lead.

All told, it’s possible that only two or three candidates will meet the 15 percent minimum threshold to win any of California’s 415 pledged delegates. A big win in California on Tuesday could allow Sanders to take half the state’s available delegates, possibly giving him an outsize lead over the rest of the field.


A large part of Sanders’s support in the state owes to Latino voters, who are expected to account for about 34 percent of the vote share in the California primary, according to a UCLA analysis.

A smaller-than-expected win in California, however, would raise questions about his momentum in the race and ability to turn out the coalition of young and infrequent voters that he has long claimed will power his campaign to victory.



Can Bloomberg win anywhere?

Super Tuesday will be the first time that Bloomberg appears on the ballot in the Democratic nominating contest. He’s spent hundreds of millions of dollars of his personal fortune building out advertising and organizing operations across the map, and those investments have translated into support in several polls.

Whether his early polling strength actually translates to wins is one of the biggest questions hanging over the Super Tuesday contests. He remains a relatively untested candidate, and his lackluster performances in two Democratic debates last month raised new questions about his ability to compete in what is expected to be a bitter general election campaign against President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump admin to announce coronavirus vaccine will be covered under Medicare, Medicaid: report Election officials say they're getting suspicious emails that may be part of malicious attack on voting: report McConnell tees up Trump judicial pick following Supreme Court vote MORE.

Bloomberg only entered the race in November, making a bet that Biden’s support would collapse once voting in the nominating contest began. But the former vice president’s major victory in the South Carolina primary on Saturday complicates that strategy, pitting the former New York City mayor against the newly energized former vice president for the support of moderate voters.

If Bloomberg doesn’t see the kind of wins he’s hoping for on Super Tuesday, it’s likely to raise questions about what he’s doing in the race and may put pressure on him to throw his support behind another candidate.



Does Biden sweep the South?

Biden’s nearly 30-point win in the South Carolina primary on Saturday showed that the former vice president’s campaign is still very much alive following disappointing showings in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada

That win — driven in large part by Biden’s support among moderates and black voters — may also bolster Biden’s standing across the six Southern states that will hold their primaries on Super Tuesday.

In those six states — Alabama, Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia — moderates and black voters are poised to play a decisive role in the primaries. In North Carolina and Tennessee, for instance, black voters are expected to account for roughly one-third of the primary electorates. In Alabama, black voters make up more than half the Democratic electorate.

But Biden still faces some uncertainty in these states. His victory in South Carolina came only a few days before Super Tuesday, and his campaign was slow to begin ramping up its operations outside of the four early primary and caucus states.

At the same time, Bloomberg’s presence on the ballot on Tuesday may complicate Biden’s path in the South. The two are competing for the support of the same moderate voters, and recent polls in states like Arkansas and Virginia show Biden trailing the former mayor, albeit narrowly.


Can Warren win Massachusetts?

Warren hasn’t won a single primary or caucus so far, and while she’s hoping that her home state will hand her her first victory of the 2020 nominating contest, there are signs that she is at risk of losing Massachusetts to fellow progressive candidate Sanders.

Three polls last month showed Sanders with a slight lead over Warren in Massachusetts, and a WBUR-MassInc survey released last week gave him an even more significant 8-point advantage.


Sanders has also signaled that he’s angling for a win on Warren’s home turf. He held a rally in Boston on Saturday that drew a crowd of more than 13,000.

For Warren, a loss in the Bay State would likely herald the end for her presidential campaign.



How many delegates does Sanders pick up?

Roughly one-third of all pledged delegates will be up for grabs on Super Tuesday, and a candidate doesn’t necessarily have to win a state’s primary to be awarded delegates.

Sanders is poised to get his largest delegate haul from California, where recent polls show him leading his nearest rivals by double digits. But he’s also on track to win at least some delegates in most — if not all — of the Super Tuesday states.

While polling in some states has been sparse, most surveys show Sanders with at least 15 percent support, the threshold a candidate must meet to receive delegates in a contest. That opens up the possibility that he could gain a wide lead in the overall delegate count, even if he doesn’t win across the map on Super Tuesday.