Why? Because for both parties it will determine the narrative for the rest of the primary. Tomorrow, I’ll take a look at the important Republican contests. Today: the Democrats, who vote in Florida, Illinois, Ohio, North Carolina, and Missouri.
Here’s why today is so huge for the two remaining donkeys (or, as Republicans call them, the “asses”):
- Hillary Clinton was close to putting this primary to bed. She had built up a 200-pledged delegate lead on Bernie Sanders and held big leads in Michigan and Mississippi heading into last Tuesday. As her lead grew, Democratic rules, which keep all state allocations proportional, made it increasingly difficult for Sanders to close the gap.
- But then Sanders’s Michigan victory made us realize that he could be extremely competitive across the delegate-rich Rust Belt up north, which was largely untapped in the primary, while Clinton’s strength in the black-dominated southeast was mostly tapped out. Theoretically, if Sanders had success across the north, he could slowly gnaw into Clinton’s lead until he was the clear candidate of momentum heading into the liberal behemoth that is June’s California Primary, where, like a late fourth quarter buzzer-beater, he could grab the lead with no time remaining for Clinton to respond. The superdelegates would then switch sides to respect the will of the voters, making Independent democratic-socialist Bernie Sanders the Democratic nominee for president as Satan hurriedly insulated his house.
- Meanwhile, Michigan also showed that, potentially, the polls are missing the Sanders groundswell. Clinton was up in every Michigan poll by as many as 20 points, but Sanders pulled out the victory. Was it but the first of many big Clinton leads that were actually mirages?
Ides of March Tuesday will tell us. As you’ll see below, she has leads similar to her Michigan margin across a few of these states. There are three general scenarios possible today:
- If she holds onto these leads and wins four or five states, she puts the primary to bed with a pledged delegate lead of well over 300.
- If most of these leads evaporate like Michigan’s did and Sanders takes two or three states, the gnawing will commence and the primary will be decided in May or June.
- Something in between: three or four Clinton victories but only one or two of them convincingly. The slow build-up of her delegate lead would continue, but Sanders and his supporters would still find signs of encouragement.
Hopefully, I’ve convinced you of tomorrow’s importance. Now to break it down.
Here are state-by-state previews for Ides of March Tuesday, sorted in order of delegate weight. In total, there are 691 pledged delegates up for grabs across five states, more than one-sixth of all pledged delegates (4,051) for the Democratic Primary. These states are all proportional allocations for candidates who earn 15 percent of the vote.
#1. Florida Primary — 214 pledged delegates (does not count 32 superdelegates)
Delegate allocation rules: 15 percent threshold to earn district or statewide delegates; 140 awarded across 27 Congressional districts of varying size, 74 for statewide results (both proportional)
Most recent polls: Seven polls in the last week show Clinton averaging 62 points to Sanders’s 31.1. One outlier has Clinton at 68 and Sanders 23, but the rest show Clinton between 59 and 62 and Sanders between 30 and 34. Until more polls blow up in our faces like Michigan’s did, I’ll trust that kind of consistency. I also think Sanders is a natural late closer, so he’ll get most of the late undecideds.
Prediction for the state: Clinton 63, Sanders 37
Estimated delegate split: Clinton 135, Sanders 79 (Clinton +56)
#2. Illinois Primary — 156 pledged delegates (26 superdelegates)
Delegate allocation rules: 15 percent threshold to earn district or statewide delegates; 102 awarded across 18 Congressional districts of varying size, 54 for statewide results (both proportional)
Most recent polls: Three polls in the last week have Clinton 53.0, Sanders 39.3. However! The first of the three polls had Clinton with a 37-point lead, the next one with a 6 point lead, and the most recent in a 2-point deficit. That’s Bernmentum if I ever saw it. The Clinton connection to unpopular Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel might be killing her.
Prediction for the state: Sanders 55, Clinton 45
Estimated delegate split: Sanders 86, Clinton 70 (Sanders +16)
#3. Ohio Primary — 143 pledged delegates (17 superdelegates)
Delegate allocation rules: 15 percent threshold to earn district or statewide delegates; 93 awarded across 16 Congressional districts of varying size, 50 for statewide results (both proportional)
Most recent polls: Five polls in the last week average to Clinton 56.2, Sanders 38.4. An outlier was sandwiched right in the middle that showed Clinton 63, Sanders 33. Remove that and it’s Clinton 54.8, Sanders 39.8. Meanwhile, the most recent poll showed Clinton at just a 9-point lead, 52-43. Considering how well Sanders closes, I think that’s the most accurate of the bunch, and I like him to win most of the remaining undecideds.
Prediction for the state: Clinton 53, Sanders 47. I say this with extremely low confidence. Ohio and Michigan are similar states in close proximity, and the Michigan polls had Clinton up by a heck of a lot more before Sanders’s surprise.
Estimated delegate split: Clinton 76, Sanders 67 (Clinton +9)
#4. North Carolina Primary — 107 pledged delegates (14 superdelegates)
Delegate allocation rules: 15 percent threshold to earn district or statewide delegates; 70 awarded across 13 Congressional districts of varying size, 37 for statewide results (both proportional)
Most recent polls: Three polls in the last week have Clinton at 57.3, Sanders 32.0. The polls don’t show any kind of ground being made up, and North Carolina should extend Clinton’s southern dominance.
Prediction for the state: Clinton 63, Sanders 37
Estimated delegate split: Clinton 67, Sanders 40 (Clinton +27)
#5. Missouri Primary — 71 pledged delegates (13 superdelegates)
Delegate allocation rules: 15 percent threshold to earn district or statewide delegates; 47 awarded across 8 Congressional districts of varying size, 24 for statewide results (both proportional)
Most recent poll: Just one poll here, and it was done from 3/3 – 3/10, so it didn’t capture much of the Sanders’s strong news cycle after Michigan. It had Clinton up only 47 to 40, which is kind of surprising. It looks like a toss-up.
Prediction for the state: Sanders again closes well and nips Clinton, 52-48.
Estimated delegate split: Sanders 37, Clinton 34 (Sanders +3)
- Clinton 3 (Florida, Ohio, North Carolina)
- Sanders 2 (Illinois, Missouri by a nose)
- Clinton 382
- Sanders 309
New Standings (without superdelegates)
- Clinton 1,148
- Sanders 860 (Clinton +288)
- Combined pledged delegates: 2,008
- Remaining pledged delegates: 2,043
New Standings (with superdelegates)
- Clinton 1,613
- Sanders 885 (Clinton +728)
- Combined delegates: 2,498
- Remaining delegates: 2,267
This wouldn’t be a total disaster for Sanders, but he needs more out of Ides of March Tuesday. He’s running out of time. What hurts him most is that losing Florida big would probably eliminate any chance he has today of eating into Clinton’s lead, so ultimately his deficit will be even larger with fewer delegates remaining. I expect the slow bleed to continue.
What should we watch for if he’s having a better than expected night? A) Winning Illinois by double digits; B) Winning Ohio at all; C) Breaking 40 percent in Florida.
What should we watch for if it’s Clinton having the big night? A) Winning Illinois; B) Winning any four states; C) A second blowout in addition to Florida.
Tomorrow: the Republican breakdown. Can I find SOME way to keep Florida from Trump? (Spoiler: almost certainly not. Thanks for nothing, protesters.)