Bernie Sanders, Super Tuesday And The South: What To Expect

Across the country, millions of Bernie Sanders supporters are gearing up for today’s vote. Since Super Tuesday is the single biggest day in the presidential primary season, the Sanders campaign needs to catalog a few wins tonight to keep its momentum going strong, especially after the loss in South Carolina on Saturday. With votes taking place in 13 states, including several in the South, now is the last chance for Bernie Sanders’ team to examine predictions and finalize battle plans to win over voters in these key states.

Bernie Sanders supporters who are keeping a close eye on Super Tuesday have likely heard the term “SEC primary.” This is an all-inclusive term the media is using in an attempt to group the seven Southern states that are holding primaries today. However, grouping these seven states politically seems as ridiculous as a plan to move Auburn to the Big Ten.

The media claims Bernie Sanders will have difficulty securing wins in all seven of the Southern states thanks to the black vote. However, only Alabama and Georgia have an African-American population near that of South Carolina’s, making Hillary’s chance of carrying the other states based purely on the power of the black vote anything but secure. Or is it?

Can Bernie Sanders win over black voters? [Photo by Elise Amendola/AP Images]In Tennessee, the state’s House of Representatives is 73 percent Republican. Using this statistic, one can infer that the majority of Tennesseans will likely be voting in the Republican primary, which could leave black voters as the majority of those voting in the Democratic primary on Super Tuesday. In that case, a Hillary win seems likely. Can Bernie Sanders expect the same from the other Southern states?

Virginia, with its proximity to Washington, seems like a state that should be owned by the establishment. In addition, African Americans make up nearly 20 percent of the state’s population, making a Bernie Sanders loss definite. Are these two inferences supported statistically? Respectively, the answers are no and yes.

According to 2008 primary statistics published by The New York Times, Obama beat Clinton by more than 28 percent of the vote, which leaves a gaping hole in the establishment-support theory. However, the black vote may indeed make a difference today, just as it did in 2008. Approximately 67 percent of the state representatives are Republicans, leaving 33 percent of the voters to cast ballots in the Democratic primary. For simplicity’s sake, assume all African Americans are going to vote in the Democratic primary and all support Hillary. In this scenario, Bernie Sanders suffers a loss in Virginia.

Using the same set of statistics, it is not unreasonable to assume that Bernie Sanders will also suffer losses in both Alabama and Georgia. Both states are Republican strongholds, and both have populations that are more than 25 percent African American.

In Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma, things get a little more interesting for Bernie Sanders’ campaign. The Arkansas House of Representatives is split 64-36, favoring the Republicans. This means 36 percent of the population will be voting in the Democratic primary. Meanwhile, the black vote accounts for only 16 percent of the population. If the Arkansas Democratic vote is divided along a racial line, Bernie Sanders could easily secure 55 percent of the state’s delegates.

Bernie Sanders Texas supporter at rally [Photo by Brandon Wade/AP Images]In Texas, 65 percent of voters are expected to vote in the Republican primary, according to the split in the state’s House, leaving 35 percent to cast ballots for either Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton. With only 13 percent of the state’s population listed as African American, according to statistics published by the U.S. Census Bureau, Bernie Sanders also has an excellent opportunity to win Texas’ 222 very important delegates. In Oklahoma, the scene is similar to that in Texas, with an African-American population of only eight percent.

According to these statistics, one can expect Hillary Clinton to carry Tennessee, Virginia, Alabama and Georgia and Bernie Sanders to carry Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Will these statistics hold up tonight when the votes are counted? The answer to that questions is… maybe, which leads to the important thing to take away from this column: Anyone can create believable statistics with Google, time, and a calculator.

These predictions are the result of simple assumptions and equally simple calculations. The number of Republicans versus Democrats in each state’s House of Representatives does not necessarily equal the number of Republicans versus Democrats in the state, even though it does seem like a fairly decent measure. Additionally, the assumption that no African-American voters will vote for Bernie Sanders is entirely too basic an assumption to carry any real weight.

To prepare for today, the Bernie Sanders campaign simply needs to continue doing what it has been doing since the beginning: ignore statistics and keep motivating Americans to believe Bernie Sanders is the candidate that represents the change America so badly needs.

[Photo by David Goldman/AP Images]