Hot Air

Landslide: New polls of Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri show Biden running away with the primary tomorrow

The data sites can give you electoral odds on just about anything but I haven’t seen them gauge the probability yet that Bernie will be out of this race 48 hours from now. It can’t be much worse than 50/50.

Let’s start with Mississippi and Missouri:

‘Nuff said. Ed already wrote about how Washington state looks surprisingly close, which should’t be the case if a national Bernie revival is in the works. The big prize is Michigan, though, since it’s the first contest in a Rust Belt state which Dems need to flip to beat Trump. It’s also a state that Sanders won in 2016 despite poll after poll predicting an easy Clinton victory in the primary there. In hindsight that was a hint that Hillary would underperform in the states that formed the Democrats’ “blue wall.” If Biden routs Bernie there tomorrow night, the party will be ecstatic at the evidence that their new nominee will fare much better in November than Clinton did.

New Michigan numbers from the Detroit Free Press:

Sanders beat Clinton by a point and a half there four years ago. Could it be that the DFP poll is fluky, an outlier? Sure! But the other poll out of Michigan today looks a lot like it:

But wait. Didn’t I just say that the polls in 2016 predicted an easy Clinton win in Michigan? Why should we trust them to accurately gauge Bernie’s strength there now if they couldn’t do it before? The answer is demographics. The key bloc that the polls seem to have missed four years ago was working-class whites, a group with which Hillary struggled in MI in the primary and then, fatefully, again in the general election. Biden isn’t struggling with them.

What’s more, suburban voters may be more of a force in Michigan now. And suburbanites strongly prefer Joe to Bernie:

Angela Vasquez-Giroux, a Democratic operative who worked on Attorney General Dana Nessel’s winning 2018 campaign, said the constituency that could suffocate Sanders—potentially turning a defeat into a blowout—is suburban women. They were critical to the victories of two freshman Democratic congresswoman, Elissa Slotkin and Haley Stevens, who flipped red districts in 2018. They also powered the campaign of Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who, it happens, defeated a high-profile Sanders supporter, Abdul El-Sayed, by 22 points in the 2018 primary. (Whitmer, Slotkin and Stevens all endorsed Biden last week.)

Want more numbers? Okay. CNN has a national poll out today showing Biden up 52/36. He leads by 20 among whites and by 10 among nonwhites, thanks to Bernie’s relative strength with Latino voters. But even that strength might be overstated: Here’s the latest poll out of Arizona, a state with a large Latino minority that’s set to vote on March 17.

Joe Biden holds a large lead over Bernie Sanders in the state as Democratic voters consolidate around the former vice president, crushing the Vermont senator by nearly 30 percentage points…

Nearly one-half of likely voters (45 percent) prefer Biden with just 17 percent supporting Sanders.

This would be rough but survivable for Sanders if the map were suddenly about to shift to a series of states that look favorable to him, giving him a chance to chip away at Biden’s delegate lead. But the truth is the opposite. You can scroll through FiveThirtyEight’s chart on the relative likelihood of Biden/Sanders victories on the rest of the calendar, bearing in mind that a series of big wins for Joe tomorrow and next week will only tilt the odds further in his favor in later states as momentum there builds.

And even if Sanders does pull the upset in Michigan tomorrow…

Under normal circumstances I think Bernie might put Biden through his paces and force him to keep winning primaries to clinch the nomination. He won’t want to quit on his “revolution” even after Biden’s delegate lead becomes prohibitive. But these aren’t normal circumstances, for two reasons. One: The party badly wants to defeat Trump and that means ending a pointless and divisive primary as soon as possible in order to let the internecine wounds heal before November. Two: Continuing to hold rallies and elections when the outcome of the race is no longer in doubt would be irresponsible given the risk that doing so will accelerate the spread of coronavirus. Last night I wrote that Washington state might be Bernie’s best chance to win tomorrow given how tight the polls are and the likelihood that turnout will be down due to COVID-19. But as I think more about it, that seems wrong. With Democrats now presented with a golden opportunity to end the national primary and unite as the economy slides and the disease spreads, fencesitters might decide to tilt towards Joe for that reason alone.

And so, if Biden sweeps, Bernie might call it a day on Wednesday. Which, possibly, will embolden the DNC and state parties to cancel the upcoming primaries and let Biden scale his schedule of campaign events way back to keep people from congregating. No worse than 50/50, as I say.

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