5 things to watch in Tuesday's primaries

5 things to watch in Tuesday's primaries
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Six states will hold their Democratic presidential nominating contests on Tuesday, marking the first round of voting since the primary field has narrowed to two major candidates.

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 hoping to extend his recent winning streak on Super Tuesday and cement his front-runner status in the race. 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 looking to bounce back after a disappointing showing last week.

The states to hold Democratic nominating contests on Tuesday will be Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Idaho and Washington state.


Here are five things to watch for in the Tuesday contests:


Biden looks to take command

Biden is riding high after scoring a series of primary wins and endorsements from his former rivals. Now he’s looking to run up the score against Sanders in a handful of states that the Vermont senator carried in 2016.

Recent polls in Michigan show Biden leading his progressive opponent by double digits. One survey released on Monday by the Detroit Free Press put him ahead by a 24-point margin. And another poll released over the weekend by progressive think tank Data for Progress gave Biden a narrow 3-point advantage in Washington, another state that Sanders won in 2016.

Biden is also the favorite to win in Mississippi. He’s racked up a slew of victories across the South, powered largely by moderates and black voters, and the Magnolia State appears poised to hand him another win. Black voters made up more than 70 percent of Mississippi’s Democratic primary electorate in 2016, and a recent poll from Data for Progress showed Biden leading Sanders by 55 points.

Also bolstering Biden’s chances on Tuesday is the fact that he is the only centrist left in the race after former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg suspended his campaign and endorsed Biden last week following a poor showing on Super Tuesday.


That all raises the possibility that he comes out of the Tuesday primaries with a wide delegate lead that may be difficult for Sanders to overcome.


Can Sanders find some momentum?

Sanders is looking to bounce back from a disappointing Super Tuesday after early wins in New Hampshire and Nevada and a virtual tie in Iowa. Whether he can regain his footing is one of the big questions looming over the Tuesday primaries.

He has stepped up his attacks on Biden in recent days, hitting the former vice president over his past calls to freeze funding for Social Security and his support for trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement. And he reshuffled his campaign schedule in order to spend more time in Michigan, a state that he called “very, very important” just last week.

At the same time, three other nominating contests on Tuesday are in states that Sanders carried in 2016 — Idaho, North Dakota and Washington — giving Sanders hope that he can win them a second time.

But Sanders appears to be facing a tougher political dynamic this time around. Biden’s Super Tuesday victories have given him new momentum, and he has already shown an ability to win in states that went for Sanders in 2016.

What’s more, the Vermont senator still lags well behind Biden in support from black voters, who make up about one-fifth of Michigan’s Democratic primary electorate.

He’ll need a strong showing in at least some states on Tuesday to show that he’s still a competitive player in the primary race.


What will Michigan tell us about the general election?

Sanders’s and 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’s victories in the Michigan primaries in 2016 proved to be something of a harbinger for the populist fervor that handed Trump the state in the general election four years ago. It’s worth watching whether Michigan turns up any surprises on Tuesday.

Michigan may not be the only state holding Democratic nominating contests this week, but it’s the most important.

Not only does it have more delegates up for grabs than any other state voting on Tuesday — 125 pledged delegates — but it’s the first of three Rust Belt states that flipped for Trump in 2016 to hold a primary contest. (Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are the other two.)

Both Sanders and Biden are campaigning hard in the Wolverine State. The Vermont senator has brought in Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOcasio-Cortez: 'Plenty of people without college degrees could run this country better than Trump' Sunday shows - Spotlight shifts to positive tests among Pence aides Ocasio-Cortez says Democrats must focus on winning White House for Biden MORE (D-N.Y.), one of the most prominent progressive lawmakers, to campaign with him. And on Sunday, the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. endorsed him at an event in Grand Rapids.

Biden, meanwhile, is bringing in a handful of prominent backers to campaign for him in the state, including Sens. 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.), Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisHarris blasts GOP for confirming Amy Coney Barrett: 'We won't forget this' GOP Senate confirms Trump Supreme Court pick to succeed Ginsburg The painstaking, state-by-state fight to protect abortion access MORE (D-Calif.) and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerDemocratic senators unveil bill to ban discrimination in financial services industry Obama endorses Espy in Mississippi Senate race Durbin says he will run for No. 2 spot if Dems win Senate majority MORE (D-N.J.), three former rivals for the Democratic nomination who have endorsed him in recent days.

Michigan has a history of bucking expectations.

Polls released in the weeks before the state’s 2016 presidential primaries showed Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHouse Judiciary Republicans mockingly tweet 'Happy Birthday' to Hillary Clinton after Barrett confirmation Hillary Clinton tweets 'vote them out' after Senate GOP confirm Barrett CNN: Kayleigh McEnany praised Biden as 'man of the people' in 2015 MORE with a considerable lead over Sanders. The Vermont senator ultimately beat out Clinton in the primary by less than 2 percentage points.


What’s the turnout?

Turnout soared across Super Tuesday states last week. But the surge was driven largely by black voters and moderates who overwhelmingly backed Biden, while the record turnout among young voters that Sanders has long promised did not materialize.


It’s worth watching whether those trends continue on Tuesday. For one, it could provide some insight into voter enthusiasm and just how energized Democrats in critical states like Michigan are ahead of the general election in November.

But just as important as how many voters turn out on Tuesday is which voters turn out. If Sanders is able to galvanize his younger supporters and get them to the polls, it could be a massive boon for his campaign. But if recent trends hold and moderates show up in force, it may ultimately boost Biden.

There’s also the lingering question of the impact of Republican voters on primary turnout. In Michigan, for example, voters do not have to belong to a particular political party to vote in that party’s primary. Because Republicans don’t have a competitive nominating contest in the state, some may choose to cast ballots in the Democratic primary instead.


What happens next?

The nominating contests on Tuesday may be Sanders’s last best chance to bounce back in the primary race, given his 2016 wins in Michigan, North Dakota, Idaho and Washington, as well as his near-miss in Missouri that year.

After Tuesday, the primary contest will move to a handful of states that are likely to be tougher for Sanders to win.


In Florida, which holds its primary on March 17, a recent survey from St. Pete Polls showed Biden leading Sanders by 49 points. With 219 delegates in play, the Sunshine State is one of the biggest prizes of the nominating contest, and a runaway victory there would be a massive get for Biden.

Likewise, a survey released on Monday by the Phoenix-based firm OH Predictive Insights gave Biden a 28-point lead in Arizona, which also holds its primary on March 17.

Georgia’s primary on March 24 is also expected to be a tough contest for Sanders, given Biden’s strength in other Southern states and his wide support among black voters, who made up more than half the state’s Democratic primary electorate in 2016.