Bernie Sanders likes his chances on Super Tuesday. As recently as last week, when asked by ABC News how many of the 865 Democratic delegates he expected to win in the 11-state primary election, Sanders predicted “Know what? We’re going to win a lot of them.” But if he is going to fulfill that promise, experts believe, there is one state in particular that Sanders cannot afford to lose.
The biggest prize on Super Tuesday is Texas, with 222 delegates of the 1,460 needed to win the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination up for grabs. But despite his belief that he will outperform the polls and grab a healthy share of those delegates, the fact is, the Texas polls heavily favor the frontrunner, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
In the polling average compiled by FiveThirtyEight.com, Clinton’s support among Democrats in the Lone Star State stands at 60 percent in the latest polling prior to Super Tuesday voting. Sanders lags well behind at just under 40 percent. With the proportional method of splitting delegates between the candidates, the site’s statistical projection model sees Clinton coming out of Texas with 126 delegates, compared to 96 for Sanders.
Sanders holds a big lead in his home state of Vermont, with just 16 delegates total, and is running in a statistical tie with Clinton in Oklahoma with 38 delegates. Sanders is also believed to have a legitimate chance at winning the Colorado caucuses, although meaningful poll data is scarce in the state. Sanders has poured twice as much campaign cash into Colorado as Clinton, however, and the Democratic electorate is largely white and liberal — Sanders’ base.
Another caucus state without much polling data with a largely white and liberal Democratic electorate, Minnesota, is also widely seen as a potential win for Sanders.
But the one state where most political experts say he must come out on top — a state with 91 delegates — is Massachusetts.
Watch Sanders deliver his closing argument to Massachusetts voters at a rally Monday in the Boston suburb of Milton, Massachusetts.
The problem for Sanders’ chances there heading into Super Tuesday is that in the latest poll to be released in the Bay State, an Emerson College poll released on February 27 showed Clinton leading by 11 percentage points. The day before, a separate poll — by Suffolk University — showed Clinton ahead by a comfortable eight points.
In the FiveThirtyEight weighted polling average, Clinton comes in at 50.9 percent, well ahead of Sanders at 43.2 percent.
Hillary Clinton defeated Barack Obama in Massachusetts in 2008 by a wide margin if 16.2 percentage points.
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Working against Sanders in Massachusetts, according to FiveThirtyEight’s Harry Enten, is the upscale nature of Massachusetts Democrats. Sanders has performed well with young white voters and with lower-income whites. But his message of “revolution” has not connected as well with liberal white voters with money.
“Remember, Sanders nearly lost wealthy Hanover, New Hampshire, even though it borders Vermont and is very liberal,” Enten wrote on Tuesday. “There are a lot of wealthy, liberal suburbs around Boston — such as Concord — that Obama easily won in 2008. Will these suburbs vote for the more liberal candidate or the candidate who is less likely to tax them?”
However, Enten cautions, “Sanders must win here.”
Another problem for Sanders in must-win Massachusetts is, at least according to a WBUR survey released last week, most Massachusetts voters already have their minds made up, leaving little room for Sanders to grab enough last-minute undecided Democrats to turn the election in his favor.
The WBUR poll found not only that Clinton led Sanders in Massachusetts by five points, 49-44, but that only two percent of likely primary voters said they had not yet made up their minds.
At least one voter on Tuesday had definitely made up his mind. At about 7:30 a.m. on Super Tuesday, Sanders increased his own chances by voting in Burlington, Vermont, where he served as mayor from 1981 to 1989, telling reporters, “After a lot of thought, I voted for me.”
[Photo by Jacquelyn Martin/AP]