Four states were set to go to the polls today but as Coronavirus fears sweep the nation we are seeing signs the disease may impact the 2020 electoral process. At the time of publishing, Florida, Arizona, and Illinois primaries are still on, but Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has issued an order demanding that polls be closed in his state for the good of public health. With over 300 pledge delegates left on the table, today could still prove decisive.
The contest between former VP Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has been thrown into turmoil due to COVID-19 precautions. With many key states postponing the ballot, has Sanders been cast a lifeline that could carry him all the way to the convention?
The Sunshine State
Florida offers the richest haul today with 219 pledged and 29 superdelegates. Most major polling since the beginning of March has given Biden at least 60% of the vote, signifying a likely win and at least 150 delegates.
In 2016, Floridians chose Hillary Clinton in the primary, awarding Sanders 73 delegates and just 33.3% of the vote. They went big for the establishment candidate, with Clinton earning almost twice as many votes as the Vermont socialist. It looks like today could be an almost exact repeat.
The betting markets give Biden a 1/200 chance of winning the most delegates.
The Prairie State
In 2016, Democratic primary voters in Illinois gave the edge to Clinton over Sanders in one of the closest contests of that season. Bernie Sanders was just 40,000 votes short of claiming victory, signifying that there is a large appetite for the more radical wing of the party.
With 155 pledged delegates up for grabs, polling suggests that this year’s primary will also be a close race. Through much of February, Sanders held the lead over Biden; the numbers only switched after Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar pulled out ahead of Super Tuesday. The betting odds show Biden finishing the day with the most delegates, but this could be a fairly even split.
Grand Canyon State
Arizona is the smallest prize on offer in today’s race with just 67 pledged delegates on the table, but it happens to be one of the most interesting in terms of its electoral history. The last time this state voted for a Democrat as president was in 1996 for Bill Clinton, edging out Bob Dole by just over 30,000 votes (Ross Perot representing the Reform Party scored 112,000 votes). Since then, Arizona has been firmly red, granting it’s Electoral College votes to G.W. Bush, John McCain, Mitt Romney, and, most recently, Donald Trump.
The 2016 Democratic primaries in Arizona were mired in controversy with accusations of voter suppression. Hillary Clinton won this contest, but both the Clinton and Sanders campaigns ended up suing the Arizona state government.
Most polling gives Biden the edge today, but it’s a close race. This could still turn out to be a Sanders victory.
All To Play For
Even if Joe Biden wins a significant victory in all three states, he will still be short of the 1,991 delegates needed to claim the nomination. And as President Trump announced on March 16, the Coronavirus situation could well carry on through to July. How likely is it that one wing of the Democratic Party will accept an anointed nominee if the primary process has not been carried out in full?
Bernie Sanders is rarely shy to remind the public that he is the candidate who can “get new voters.” Analysis of the figures to date show that this may not be true of the primaries, but could hold up in the actual November election.
Both main candidates need to ready their campaigns to fight tooth and nail to win the crown. This is not a normal primary season; standard operating procedures are out the window. Without a full slate of delegates being awarded, with almost certain low turnout, and Milwaukee less than four months away, all bets are off for who faces President Trump in November.
Make sure to check out Liberty Nation’s Primary Tracker for the latest results and polling.
Read more from Mark Angelides.
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