2020 Democratic primaries on March 17, 2020: My final polling update

[Update, 4:02 pm EST on March 17, 2020:

  1. Ohio did postpone its Democratic presidential primary, though all votes cast early will still count toward the final result–and will be extended until June 2, when in-person voting will occur.
  2. Swayble (C+ rating from FiveThirtyEight.com) released polls of the four states scheduled to hold primaries today. The data below are updated accordingly.]

Assuming none are postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, on March 17, 2020, four more states will hold primaries to help select the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee, bringing the total number of such contests to 28. Table 1 lists these states, sorted by poll closing times, and the number of pledged delegates each state will provide to the Democratic National Convention, which is planned for July 13-16, 2020 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. A total of 577 pledged delegates are available on March 17, 14.5% of the total 3,979 to be awarded.[1]

Table 1: Democratic presidential nominating contests, March 17, 2020 by Poll Closing Times

Jurisidiction Poll Closing (EST) Pledged Delegates
Ohio 7:30 pm 136
Florida 8 pm

(most of state: 7 pm)

219
Illinois 8 pm 155
Arizona 9 pm 67
TOTAL PLEDGED DELEGATES 577

For what I have already written about the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination process, please see here. Three declared candidates remain—down from 28 in total, though only two have accumulated more than a handful of pledged delegates:

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden                                                               868
  • United States Senator (“Senator”) from Vermont Bernie Sanders      718

United States House of Representatives Member from Hawaii Tulsi Gabbard has earned two pledged delegates, while 135 have been awarded to candidates no longer seeking the nomination.

**********

In the remainder of this post, I present final WAPA (weighted-adjusted polling average) for Biden, Gabbard and Sanders in each state, calculated either one or two ways depending upon available data; polls are up-to-date as of 1 a.m. EST on March 17, 2020. As with the 24 previous contests, a candidate must win ≥15% of the vote to be awarded delegates either statewide or within a Congressional district. All publicly-available polls conducted since January 1, 2019 may be found here.

And here is my updated weighting scheme:

  • Polls conducted entirely or partially after February 3, 2020, but before February 12, 2020 are weighted 2.00 or 1.00+fraction[2] times, respectively, higher than polls conducted entirely before February 4, 2020.
  • Polls conducted entirely or partially after February 11, 2020, but before February 23, 2020 are weighted 3.00 or 2.00+fraction times, respectively, higher than polls conducted entirely before February 12, 2020.
  • Polls conducted entirely or partially after February 22, 2020, but before March 1, 2020 are weighted 4.00 or 3.00+fraction times, respectively, higher than polls conducted entirely before February 23, 2020.
  • Polls conducted entirely or partially after February 29, 2020, but before March 4, 2020 are weighted 5.00 or 4.00+fraction times, respectively, higher than polls conducted entirely before February 29, 2020.
  • Polls conducted entirely or partially after March 3, 2020, but before March 11, 2020 are weighted 10.00 or 5.00+fraction times, respectively, higher than polls conducted entirely before March 4, 2020.
  • Polls conducted entirely or partially after March 10, 2020, but before March 18, 2020 are weighted 15.00 or 10.00+fraction times, respectively, higher than polls conducted entirely before March 11, 2020.

To provide context for the percentage either truly undecided or selecting a different candidate (“DK/Other”), I also include the aggregate final state WAPA for former New York City Mayor Bloomberg; former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg; Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar; billionaire activist Tom Steyer and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren combined (“BBKSW”). Their supporters still comprise a sizeable proportion of the “DK/Other” group in a few states (or represent votes cast early), adding a modicum of uncertainty to the outcomes of Tuesday’s races.

7:30 pm EST

Ohio

Here is the breakdown of publicly-available polls of the 2020 Ohio Democratic Primary, which will conclude on June 2, 2020:

  • 10 since January 1, 2019
  • 4 since the Iowa Caucuses on February 3, 2020

Table 2: Final (until June 2) Ohio Primary WAPA for declared 2020 Democratic presidential nomination candidates

Candidate All Polls Post Iowa Caucuses
Biden 59.9 60.3
Sanders 31.4 32.0
Gabbard 2.4 2.4
DK/Other 7.2 5.3
BBKSW 1.1 0.0

Biden appears headed for a landslide victory in the Buckeye state and could easily net 25-35 pledged delegates.

8:00 pm EST

Florida

On a lark in March 1993, I flew from Boston, Massachusetts to Tampa, Florida then rented a car to drive the short distance to Clearwater, where the Philadelphia Phillies hold their spring training. I attended four games that trip. Two years later, my then-girlfriend and I made the same trip, again attending four games; we followed up every year after that through 2000. Here is a photograph of Clearwater Beach from our 1998 trip.

Clearwater 1998

And here is the breakdown of publicly-available polls of the 2020 Florida Democratic Primary:

  • 33 since January 1, 2019
  • 18 since the Iowa Caucuses on February 3, 2020

Table 3: Final Florida Primary WAPA for declared 2020 Democratic presidential nomination candidates

Candidate All Polls Post Iowa Caucuses
Biden 60.6 61.5
Sanders 23.8 24.2
Gabbard 1.2 1.3
DK/Other 14.4 13.0
BBKSW 6.4 5.9

Biden appears headed for a better than 2-1 victory in the Sunshine State. In fact, the former Vice President could easily net 75-85 delegates out of Florida alone.

Illinois

In late June 2013, my then-coworkers and I attended the American Diabetes Association annual conference in Chicago, Illinois. On June 23, having a wee contrarian streak and a penchant for true crime, I abandoned the conference to make my way to this empty lot. On February 14, 1929, this was the site of the S-M-C Cartage Company—2122 N. Clark Street—then headquarters of the North Side Gang, led by George “Bugs” Moran. After the “massacre” that took place there that morning, however, Moran was pretty much the North Side Gang all by himself.

img_0425

Here is the breakdown of publicly-available polls of the 2020 Illinois Democratic Primary:

  • 10 since January 1, 2019
  • 8 since the Iowa Caucuses on February 3, 2020

Table 4: Final Illinois Primary WAPA for declared 2020 Democratic presidential nomination candidates

Candidate All Polls Post Iowa Caucuses
Biden 56.3 56.5
Sanders 30.6 30.7
Gabbard 1.4 1.4
DK/Other 11.7 11.4
BBKSW 2.4 2.2

These are very similar numbers to Ohio; Biden could easily net 25-35 delegates from Illinois.

9:00 pm EST

Arizona

Here is the breakdown of publicly-available polls of the 2020 Arizona Democratic Primary:

  • 11 since January 1, 2019
  • 6 since the Iowa Caucuses on February 3, 2020

Table 5: Final Arizona Primary WAPA for declared 2020 Democratic presidential nomination candidates

Candidate All Polls Post Iowa Caucuses
Biden 50.7 51.8
Sanders 30.9 31.5
Gabbard 0.9 1.0
DK/Other 17.4 15.7
BBKSW 5.1 4.0

Sanders’ demonstrated strength with non-Cuban Latinx voters may make Arizona his “best” state on March 17—meaning the only state in which Biden does not receive at least 60% of the vote. Even then, however, Biden is still likely to net 10-15 pledged delegates from here. 

**********

In a previous post, I cautioned that while Biden appeared headed for a 20-percentage-point (“point”) win in the 2020 Michigan Democratic Primary, Sanders had upset former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a similar situation in 2016, winning by 1.3 points. Well, history did not repeat itself: Biden won Michigan by 16.6 points last Tuesday, topping Sanders in every county in the state.

Assuming my WAPA are equally predictive on March 17 [eds. note: including the 25-35 pledged delegates he will likely earn from Ohio on June 2], I estimate Biden will earn between 150 and 160 net pledged delegates on March 17 (splitting the BBKSW percentage 3-2 for Biden and the “pure DK/Other” percentage 2-1 for Sanders). This would give Biden a commanding lead of just over 300 pledged delegates, one which will be exceptionally difficult for Sanders to overcome, barring something extraordinary like a health crisis or catastrophic stumble.

As always, though, I urge caution and humility. These polls are based on turnout models that the coronavirus may render moot. If, despite the need for social distancer, supporters of either Biden or Sanders are far more likely to make their way to the polls—or if Ohio does postpone its primary—the final results could be substantively different, and in either direction.

Still, my best guess is that as of March 18, 2020, Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. will be the presumptive 2020 Democratic presidential nominee.

We shall see.

Until next time…

[1] An additional 764, at least, “automatic delegates” (also known as “superdelegates”)—mostly elected Democrats—would vote on a second ballot if no candidate clears the 1,991-vote threshold on the first ballot at the Democratic National Convention.

[2] Percentage of days the poll was being conducted were after the most recent primary or caucuses

3 thoughts on “2020 Democratic primaries on March 17, 2020: My final polling update

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