Recap of Democratic Primaries

Bernie Sanders takes the lead in delegates, popular vote, and polls

By Andrew Millman

Executive Editor

The 2020 Democratic Presidential Primaries got off to a great start earlier this month when a series of cascading errors prevented the Iowa Caucus from releasing full results for days. Pete Buttigieg claimed victory on election night, before any results were made public, and he currently has a 0.8 state delegate equivalent lead over Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders; despite Sanders’ 6,000-vote lead in the popular vote (26.5% to Buttigieg’s 25.1%). This was good enough to give Buttigieg 13 national delegates to Sanders’ 12. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren took third place with 20.2% of the vote (and 8 delegates), but what got more attention was former VP Joe Biden’s weak showing at 14% and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar’s relatively surprising 12%.

And, despite it now being three weeks later, there is still no official winner. The Sanders and Buttigieg campaigns have both asked the Iowa Dems to recount the votes in certain precincts. That is expected to happen later this week, so maybe soon we’ll finally know who actually won.

After Iowa, candidates went from campaigning in the sixth-whitest state in America to the fourth-whitest (white people account for 92% of NH’s population and 88% of IA’s). This, among other reasons, makes both states unrepresentative of both the United States in general and Democratic voters specifically. The latter of which has its highest levels of support among nonwhite communities.

In New Hampshire, Bernie won a clearer victory with 26% of the vote and 9 delegates to Buttigieg’s 24% and also 9 delegates. After a week of positive press for her “strong” fifth-place showing in Iowa, Klobuchar earned 19% and 6 delegates. Both Warren and Biden had disappointing results with 9% and 8%, respectively, missing the delegate threshold. Delegates are awarded at the statewide and congressional district level; candidates need to reach 15% to earn any delegates at either level.

After New Hampshire, the race stood at 22 delegates for Buttigieg, 21 for Sanders, 8 for Warren, 7 for Klobuchar, and 6 for Biden. After the former VP’s underwhelming results in the first two states, he saw his national numbers drop. After NH, according to 538’s average, Bernie established a sizable lead with 25% support nationally. Biden dropped significantly to 16% with Warren at 12%, Buttigieg at 11%, and Klobuchar at 6%.

In addition to all that, former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg was polling at 16% as well, despite not competing in the first four states. Instead, Bloomberg has focused on the Super Tuesday primaries, when 34% of all delegates will be awarded. By comparison, Iowa and New Hampshire account for 1.6% of total delegates and the first four states (IA, NH, Nevada, and South Carolina) equal 4%. To this end, Bloomberg, who is the twelfth-richest person in the world, has spent almost half a billion on campaigning and advertising, which has ranged from standard television adverts to asking Instagram influencers and meme accounts to make content for him.

It turns out spending hundreds of millions of dollars to become ubiquitous on television and online can get you up to 16% in national polls for the Democratic primary. However, because of this strategy, Bloomberg’s entire campaign has been scripted and shaped exclusively by his campaign. He doesn’t do interviews and hasn’t been in the debates, until the Nevada debate last week.

And, as that debate shows, he’s just an awful candidate. The other candidates attacked him for his racist stop-and-frisk policy, the 60+ women who have accused him of sexual harassment, his past racists, misogynistic, transphobic and otherwise awful commments, and so much more.

But, there was one candidate that shined the most in attacking Bloomberg and that was Elizabeth Warren. Up until the Nevada debate, Warren had been fading from the media conversation surrounding the primary, despite being in third place in the delegate count, but her performance was widely considered the best of the night.

The Senator from Massachusetts had previously pitched herself as a unity candidate, but went on attack mode during that debate, not only attacking Bloomberg for forcing women into NDAs, but also Bernie, Klobuchar, and Buttigieg for the various problems with their healthcare proposals.

However, it was too little too late for Nevada. Because of the state’s early voting, 75,000 of the roughly 120,000 estimated participants in Nevada’s caucus voted before the debate. As of Sunday afternoon, Senator Sanders has received about 33% of the popular vote and 46% of the county delegates. Former VP Biden came in at second with 19% of the vote and an equal percentage of county delegates. Buttigieg is at 15% and Warren is at 10% (the former is right on the cusp of the delegate threshold.)

As previously stated, less than 1 in 33 delegates have been awarded, but so far Bernie has won all three states (yes, Pete, including Iowa). Within the next week another 30% of delegates will be awarded and, if Bernie wins most of those, it will be very hard for anyone to catch up to him.

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