• In New National Poll, Biden Leads
• Fed Slashes Interest Rates, Markets Tank
• Some Election Websites Are Running Unprotected, Obsolete Software
• Los Angeles County Used an Insecure Voting System
A week ago, there was a fair chance that the Biden campaign was entering its final week. Four days ago, a strong Biden showing in South Carolina hinted that the dynamics of the race were undergoing a sea change. Today, with a leaner, meaner Democratic field, and with the Super Tuesday states' votes (mostly) in the books, it's clear that the sea change was real. Here are last night's numbers, as of 1:00 a.m. PT (a blue background indicates that the candidate is projected to "win" that state once all the ballots are counted):
|State||Reporting||Biden Pct.||Biden Del.||Sanders Pct.||Sanders Del.||Warren Pct.||Warren Del.||Bloomberg Pct.||Bloomberg Del.||Gabbard Pct.||Gabbard Del.|
The delegate totals reflect only those that the AP has already called. If you add them up, it means that the disposition of 475 of the 1,357 delegates up for grabs on Super Tuesday is actually known. That's only a little more than a third, so there are still plenty of delegates to be awarded.
That said, we have more than enough data to reach some solid conclusions. We're going to focus exclusively on the Democratic presidential race, in part because there is so much to be said, and in part because a lot of the interesting downballot races are still being sorted out. We'll address other races later this week. We will also update our map and our delegate totals once everything is official (including a slight adjustment to the total needed to claim the nomination, which now stands at 1,991).
And with that explained, here are some observations about what happened on Super Tuesday:
- Joe Biden wins: It's hard to see how Tuesday night could have gone much better for the former
veep. Every state he was expected to win, he won. Every state that was up in the air heading into Super Tuesday, he won.
Two major states he was expected to lose—Massachusetts and Texas—he won. When all is said and done, Biden
is likely to come out ahead in 10 of the 14 Super Tuesday states. Further, he won the demographic groups he really needs
to win: moderates, senior citizens, and black voters. Why are those groups so darn important? Because they show up to vote.
- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) disappoints: The power of narrative is real, kids. When all is
said and done, Sen. Sanders and Biden are going to end up with roughly the same number of delegates from Super Tuesday,
thanks to California breaking for the Vermont senator. But just one week ago, Sanders was expected to cruise to a big
victory, and Biden was supposed to hope for a respectable second-place performance. With Biden winning a clear majority
of states, and likely winning a slight plurality of delegates, he's on the upswing. With Sanders winning only four
states, and winning slightly fewer delegates, his momentum is headed in the wrong direction.
This is not to say that Sanders' campaign is dead in the water; his win in California is a feather in his cap, as is his win in Colorado. However, if he's going to claim the Democratic nomination, he's got to do one of two things. The first is to get the young voters who love the Senator to get out and vote. The problem here is that it's not happening; the number of voters under 30 who have showed up to vote in this year's primaries is not up compared to 2016 or 2012. In fact, in Texas—which was something of a must-have primary for Sanders—the under-30 turnout was actually down by 20% compared to 2016.
If Sanders is not going to get new voters to the polls, then his alternative is to convince existing voters to support him. That is to say, to make gains among moderates, independents, and NeverTrump Republicans. Thus far, however, the Senator is not doing much to bring other demographics into the tent. We've written, for example, about his decision to identify as an independent, rather than as a Democrat. The good news about this is that it affirms his outsider status to his base. The bad news is that it affirms his outsider status to mainstream Democrats. Similarly, Sanders often belittles those Democrats who are not as far left as his base, slurring them as "corporate Democrats" or "the establishment" or "neoliberals." Those sorts of statements, in fact, composed the bulk of the Senator's speech to supporters on Tuesday night. That's not a good way to win over new supporters, and his negative tone was so obvious that even outspoken Sanders supporter (and CNN pundit) Van Jones commented on it, noting that such remarks are "not going to grow your movement."
- Whither Mike Bloomberg?: Former NYC mayor Mike Bloomberg executed his strategy about as
aggressively as possible, with the price tag (so far) coming in at a reported $500 million. And what does he have to
show for it? Roughly 12% of the vote and, thus far, a small handful of delegates (and if you're wondering about that
weird American Samoa result, it's because a grand total of 351 people voted in the entire caucus—Bloomberg's
"win" came on the strength of 175 whole votes).
Anyhow, what can Bloomberg possibly do to improve on those results? Spend even more money, and buy every commercial slot on TV between now and July? Take classes in how to debate? If his goal, as a former Republican, is to find a moderate candidate with the best chance to beat Donald Trump, it's pretty clear that Joe Biden is now that candidate. If Bloomberg's goal is, in fact, to get himself elected, it should be clear that's not happening. Either way, it argues for him getting out of the race, and either throwing his money and support to Biden, or—if he doesn't much care for the former Veep—throwing his money and support behind things likely to help any Democratic nominee, like voter registration efforts.
- It's time to go, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA): The Senator came in third...in her own home
state. And outside of Massachusetts, she has thus far claimed exactly as many Super Tuesday delegates as Rep. Tulsi
Gabbard (D-HI). Warren wants to be available as a compromise candidate in the event of a brokered convention, but a
brokered convention is looking unlikely, and, in any event, her case for that honor is only strengthened if she has
multiple hundreds of delegates, not multiple dozens.
If Warren would like concessions, she likely has more leverage right now than at any other time. Either Sanders or Biden would benefit from her endorsement, and so she could extract some pretty juicy promises from either, should she choose to go that path. And yes, we know she's a progressive, and thus would seem likely to gravitate toward the Vermont Senator if she cannot be the nominee herself. However, she's also a pragmatist, and worked closely with the Obama administration (and thus Joe Biden). So, it would not be a complete surprise to see her join Team Biden.
- It's beyond time to go, Tulsi Gabbard: Perhaps the Congresswoman was staying in the race
until Hawai'i, since claiming a single delegate would keep her name in the public eye for months (inasmuch as every
site/outlet, including us, prints and reprints the delegate totals throughout primary season). Well, she's got her
delegate now, and if that was the game, she doesn't need to hold on for Hawai'i anymore.
- The Canary in Bernie Sanders' Coal Mine, Number 1: Massachusetts. Most of the attention is
on Texas, since it's such a big state, and Joe Biden's win was so unexpected. Fair enough, but we would suggest there
are three other states whose results are nearly as meaningful. The first of those is Massachusetts. The Bay State is
pretty blue. It is home to Elizabeth Warren, while Bernie Sanders is a neighbor. Joe Biden did not campaign there and
did not spend any money there. And yet, he won the state handily. This gives him a strong case that he can keep New
England in the Democratic fold, including the two states (Maine and New Hampshire) whose EVs are potentially in
- The Canary in Bernie Sanders' Coal Mine, Number 2: Minnesota. Just 48 hours ago, Sen. Amy
Klobuchar (DFL-MN) was still in the race, and Biden was looking like an also-ran in Minnesota. Then, Klobuchar dropped
out, endorsed Biden, and he leveled his competition. This despite the fact that Team Sanders felt good about their
chances of winning the Gopher State, so much so that the Vermont Senator spent Monday evening holding a rally there. The
states of the upper Midwest (MN, MI, WI) are must-haves for the Democrats this year. If Biden can so easily sweep
Sanders aside in the bluest of the trio, he's surely a force to be reckoned with in all three, now that the moderate
competition has been cleared out.
- The Canary in Bernie Sanders' Coal Mine, Number 3: North Carolina and Virginia. The states
of the coastal South are also pretty critical to the Democrats this year, particularly as an insurance policy in case
the Upper Midwest goes sour. Powered by his strong support among black voters, Biden trounced all of his competitors in
the Southern states that voted on Tuesday. It is easy to dismiss the importance of an Alabama or an Oklahoma, since
those states are going to vote for Trump in the general election. However, can anyone doubt now that if any Democrat is
going to hold Virginia and flip North Carolina (and maybe even Georgia), it's Joe Biden?
- Swing states: While we're at it, let's take a look at the dozen swing states that will decide the
election, and how Biden and Sanders compare in them. First the states that have cast their primary ballots:
State Result EVs Iowa Sanders +10.3% 6 Maine Biden +1.2% 4 Minnesota Biden +8.7% 10 New Hampshire Sanders +17.3% 4 North Carolina Biden +18.8% 15 Texas Biden +3.5% 38
And now, the states for which we only have polls (based on average of all polls taken):
Arizona Biden +9.3% 11 Florida Biden +23.5% 29 Georgia Biden +18.5% 16 Michigan Biden +6.8% 16 Pennsylvania Biden +1.0% 20 Wisconsin Sanders +15.5% 10
You should be somewhat leery of this polling information, since some of the polls are pretty old, and all of them were conducted while the Democratic field had many more people. Still, it's pretty clear that Biden is overall stronger in the key swing states, especially the bigger ones, than Sanders is.
- Biden Clearly Has a Great Pollster: Before New Hampshire and Nevada, Joe Biden correctly
warned supporters that he was not going to do too well, giving an even more grim prediction than what public polling
said. Before Super Tuesday, Biden predicted he would overperform his polling in North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia.
That's 5-for-5. Whoever is doing Biden's internal polls (very likely someone he inherited from Barack Obama) obviously
knows what they're doing.
- Bye, Bye Iowa Caucus: Are we still talking about this? Yes, we are. The winner of this
year's Iowa caucus is no longer in the race for President. The third-place finisher is on life support, and may be gone
by the end of the day today. The newly reborn Democratic frontrunner, meanwhile, finished in fourth place. The argument just got
that much stronger that a small state whose population bears little resemblance to the Democratic base should not be the
first to vote.
Meanwhile, Minnesota, Colorado and Maine all switched from caucuses to primaries this year. In all three, Sanders did worse in 2020 than he did in 2016. That could suggest that caucuses tend to favor more extreme candidates. Or, it could indicate that caucuses can be gamed by candidates who happen to have a lot of money and volunteers. Either way, the DNC is going to see this as yet another strike against caucuses (which are already an endangered species).
- Mail-in ballots: To an extent, the results on Tuesday were skewed by the fact that many people voted by
mail before Tom Steyer, Amy Klobuchar, and Pete Buttigieg withdrew from the race. This likely worked to Sanders' benefit, since it
presumably used up votes that would have broken pretty heavily for Biden. And, for what it's worth, the two states with the highest
percentage of early ballots cast were California and Colorado, arguably Sanders' two strongest states on Tuesday (outside of his home state of
- Latino/Black Votes: The Sanders/Latino voters and Biden/black voters split is real,
although the effect is more pronounced in Biden's direction. That is to say, the Vermont Senator is winning the Latino
vote by 30-35 points, on average, while the former Veep is winning the black vote by 45-50 points, on average. Looking again at
the list of swing states, here's how they break down, in terms of those two ethnic groups:
State Black Pct. Latino Pct. EVs Arizona 4.1% 31.4% 11 Florida 15.9% 25.6% 29 Georgia 31.4% 9.6% 16 Iowa 2.7% 5.9% 6 Maine 1.0% 1.6% 4 Michigan 14.2% 5.1% 16 Minnesota 4.6% 5.3% 10 New Hampshire 1.2% 3.8% 4 North Carolina 21.6% 9.5% 15 Pennsylvania 10.8% 7.3% 20 Texas 11.9% 39.4% 38 Wisconsin 6% 6.9% 10
From this admittedly crude analysis, we would say there are five states (IA, ME, MN, NH, WI) where this divide does not appear to matter very much. There are three states (AZ, FL, TX) with 78 EVs where the balance would appear to work in Sanders' favor. And there are four states (GA, MI, NC, PA) with 77 EVs where the balance would appear to work in Biden's favor. In short, it would appear that these two candidates' relative strength with two key ethnic Democratic constituencies is something of a push when it comes to the all-important swing states.
- A mess in Texas: Texas shut down a bunch of polling places, almost exclusively in minority neighborhoods.
There was also widespread use of new and unfamiliar equipment. And, it appears turnout was up substantially over 2016 among Democrats.
Add it up, and it
for something of a mess in the Lone Star State, with some people waiting as long as five hours to vote, and polling places open many hours
beyond the supposed 8:00 closing time. The Texas Democratic Party is furious, and there is talk of lawsuits.
- A mess in California: Even states that try their best to get every vote counted sometimes have disasters.
California did just as badly as Texas did on Tuesday night, with lines of 2-3 hours to vote in many parts of the state. Los Angeles county was
the county was trying a new system wherein voters were allowed to vote at any precinct in the county, and did so using
brand-new equipment that involved encoding selections on a touch screen, having them printed on a piece of paper,
reviewing the piece of paper, and then shoving it right back in the same hole it just came out of in order to have it
counted (more on this below). (Z) had direct experience with this; he waited over 2 hours to vote, and got to watch for
at least a half an hour as polling place workers struggled to make sense of the system. All of that trouble, only to get
to the front of the line and discover that Abraham Lincoln wasn't even on the ballot. In fact, they didn't even have
Whig Party ballots. Must have run out of them.
- Enthusiasm: Although the situations in Texas and California were aggravating to voters,
they appear to have been triggered, in large part, by very high levels of Democratic turnout. It would seem that there
is much enthusiasm on the left side of the aisle, and that once members of the blue team were persuaded that there were
important decisions to be made, they showed up in droves. That bodes well for the party in November. Also, when final
tallies for those two states are reported, one should keep in mind that large numbers of voters showed up, figured out
how long it was going to take, and gave up. (Z) saw at least 50 people abandon the line as he waited. So, whatever the
official turnout is, the real turnout was actually much higher.
- What's Next?: As we note above, the narrative currently favors Joe Biden over Bernie
Sanders. Does Sanders have a good chance to turn it around in the next couple of weeks? Well, let's make our best guess,
based on the best data available, namely the 2016 Democratic primary results (where, you may recall, Sanders was on the
State Date Clinton 2016 Pct. Sanders 2016 Pct. Idaho March 10 21.2% 78.0% Michigan March 10 48.3% 49.7% Mississippi March 10 82.5% 16.6% Missouri March 10 49.6% 49.4% North Dakota March 10 25.6% 64.2% Washington March 10 27.1% 72.7% Northern Mariana March 14 54.0% 34.4% Arizona March 17 56.2% 41.3% Florida March 17 64.4% 33.3% Illinois March 17 50.6% 48.6% Ohio March 17 56.1% 43.1%
If we start with the assumption that Clinton and Biden are roughly equivalent in the minds of Democratic voters, then Sanders should have a pretty good day next Tuesday. Washington, which has much in common with Colorado, is Bernie territory, and should give him a big win. He also does well in sparsely populated mountain states, primarily because the small Democratic rump in those places is pretty liberal (and generally very young). That said, Michigan is the most important state that will vote next Tuesday, and if Biden wins big there, that will be the talk of the town.
Thereafter, things definitely look good for Biden. Even with his support among Latinos, Sanders would have to significantly outperform his 2016 numbers to win Arizona and/or the delegate-rich Florida. More likely, however, is that Biden sweeps the four states that vote on March 17.
In any event, that's what we've got for now. Much more tomorrow, as more and better data becomes available. (Z)
We have pointed this out maybe 100 times, but in politics, a week is a long time. A few days after the Nevada caucuses, just about everyone was writing off Joe Biden as yesterday's candidate. Now, a new Morning Consult poll puts Biden on top (again, where he was when the campaign started). Here are the numbers:
The poll was taken Monday afternoon and also Tuesday morning, so after the drop-outs/endorsements by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (DFL-MN) and Pete Buttigieg but before any of yesterday's election results were known. (V)
Donald Trump got a big "win" yesterday. He has long called on Fed Chairman Jerome Powell to slash interest rates (presumably because the real-estate business lives on borrowed money), and yesterday the Fed did it and cut interest rates by 0.5%, a huge cut and the first emergency cut like this since late 2008. This was in response to the COVID-19 virus. Of course, lowering interest rates won't stop the spread of the virus itself, but it could allow companies affected by it to borrow money more cheaply so as to keep from going under until the virus subsides. While there is little doubt that Powell made the cut to help the economy, a side effect of it could give Trump's reelection campaign a major boost.
Except maybe not. The stock market wasn't impressed and the Dow was off almost 800 points yesterday. It is not back to its low of last week, but moves up and down of 800 to 1000 points on alternate days aren't making investors feel happy. They don't know—and no one knows—how bad COVID-19 will be. In public health terms, nobody knows how many people will die or be sickened, of course. Whatever the total is, however, it's probably not going to have an obvious political/economic impact. In fact, somewhere between 18,000 and 46,000 people have already died this season from the regular garden-variety flu, and that clearly hasn't had a palpable effect.
What will have a clear political and financial impact is the economic disruption the COVID-19 virus might cause, in particular due to factories in China being shut down, thus disrupting critical supply chains all over the world. If a U.S. company sells a product made in China and the product is not being manufactured because the workers are quarantined, the U.S. company will show lower revenues and profits, and investors are worried that this could happen on a large scale and pull the economy down. (V)
A study by ProPublica, a nonprofit group that does investigative journalism, has discovered that more than 50 election-related websites for counties that voted yesterday are running operating systems like Windows Server 2003 (used in Virginia and Massachusetts), which are no longer supported and haven't been for 5 years. This means that security holes in them are no longer fixed. Windows Server 2003 is an egregious example, but even Windows 7 is no longer supported and no one should be using it, certainly not any government organization.
While these websites did not directly relate to vote counting, they could have been hacked to provide voters with incorrect information about where and when to vote, possibly causing some voters to show up at the wrong place or time and thus not being able to vote. Fake results posted there could have been published in the media, giving people the wrong idea about who won. When they were later corrected, many people wouldn't know which version was right and simply conclude that all elections were rigged. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) foresaw this problem and tweeted this a month ago:
Think #IowaCaucus meltdown is bad?— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) February 4, 2020
Imagine very close Presidential election
Russian or Chinese hackers tamper with preliminary reporting system in key counties
When the official results begin to be tabulated it shows a different winner than the preliminary results online
Clearly, Rubio understands that what the Russians want is not only to elect their preferred presidential candidate (Donald Trump), but to cause Americans to lose faith in the concept of democracy itself. And when election administrators run unsupported software on any election-related computer, they are unwittingly playing the role of useful idiots. (V)
The websites examined by ProPublica aren't the only election-related security problem. A report by Politico points out security problems in the voting system used by Los Angeles, the nation's most populous county. The flaws allow someone with physical access to the system to potentially change votes or otherwise disrupt the election.
The problems start with the company that built the system, the U.K.-based Smartmatic. It was founded by three engineers that may have ties to the Venezuelan government. Their system was used in the Philippines, where government officials charged three of its employees with illegally altering code during the 2016 national election.
When asked about this, the California Secretary of State's office offered a long-winded explanation that boils down to: "We think everything should be OK." Security experts are not convinced. Susan Greenhalgh, a vice president at the National Election Defense Coalition, said about the system: "Some of the security flaws found in VSAP are staggering and should be disqualifying." Prof. Philip Stark of UC Berkeley, an election security expert said: "The failure to release the source code belies the county's assurances about the system's transparency and trustworthiness."
Having the vendor release the source code isn't that hard. One of us (V) was once a consultant to the elections board in the Netherlands and helped write the tender for the vote-counting software (actual voting is by paper ballot, but the precinct-level votes are tallied by a computer). The tender explicitly stated that the contract would specify that the government had the right to post the source code to a public website and that companies finding this unacceptable should not bid. Computers and elections don't mix well (like drinking and driving), but if they have to meet, security should be #1 on everyone's agenda. (V)
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Mar03 Everybody Is Endorsing Biden
Mar03 What to Watch for on Super Tuesday
Mar03 Supreme Court Will Hear Obamacare Case
Mar03 Dow Rallies
Mar03 Will Trump Drop the Mike?
Mar03 Another Israeli Election, Another Hazy Result
Mar02 Buttigieg Bows Out
Mar02 Sanders Raises an Incredible $46.5 Million in February
Mar02 Why Do the Kids Love Bernie?
Mar02 Would a Large Turnout Help Sanders?
Mar02 Super Tuesday is Tomorrow
Mar02 Could COVID-19 Impact the Election?
Mar02 McGahn Skates
Mar02 House Judiciary Committee Wants to Interview the Stone Prosecutors
Mar02 Trump Nominates Ratcliffe as DNI
Mar02 Americans Are Worried about Election Integrity
Mar01 Biden's South Carolina Firewall Holds—and Then Some
Mar01 Sunday Mailbag
Feb29 Saturday Q&A
Feb28 Coronavirus Gives Trump Administration a Headache
Feb28 Prepare for Another Trump 2020 Photo-op
Feb28 A Candidate Like No Other, Part II: Bernie Sanders, Socialist
Feb28 Polls Have South Carolina Results All Over the Map
Feb28 Today's Ratfu**ing News
Feb28 Buttigieg Is Still Your Winner in Iowa
Feb28 Trump May Not Be Able to Pardon Stone
Feb27 Takeaways from the South Carolina Debate
Feb27 Clyburn Endorses Biden
Feb27 Poll: Biden Has a Huge Lead over Sanders in South Carolina
Feb27 Schumer and Pelosi Would Be Comfortable with Sanders as Nominee
Feb27 Five Thirty Eight's Super Tuesday Predictions
Feb27 He Hasn't Been Here
Feb27 Are Primaries Being Done Wrong?
Feb27 Schumer Meets with Bullock
Feb27 Trump Asks for the Wrong Recusals
Feb27 Court Rules that Trump Can Withhold Money from "Sanctuary Cities"
Feb27 Trump Campaign Sues the New York Times
Feb26 Democrats Do the Charleston
Feb26 A Candidate Like No Other, Part I: Bernie Sanders' Base
Feb25 Trump Administration Fears Coronavirus
Feb25 Nevada Results Are Final...
Feb25 ...And Now It's South Carolina's Turn
Feb25 But First, a Debate
Feb25 Sanders Gives Florida Democrats Conniptions
Feb25 The Hill Closes the Henhouse After the Fox Already Had His Way
Feb24 Takeaways from the Nevada Caucuses
Feb24 How Did Sanders Do It?
Feb24 Never-Trump Republicans Are in Full-Blown Panic Mode
Feb24 New National Poll Has Sanders on Top