We’re at the point in the election cycle — after three states have voted — that the debate stage is supposed to shrink, not grow. But apparently the 2020 Democratic field didn’t get the memo. After six candidates debated in Nevada last week, seven have now qualified for this Tuesday’s showdown in South Carolina. The debate will reunite the six debaters from last week’s heated fracas and also welcome philanthropist Tom Steyer back to the stage.
Seven candidates have made the South Carolina debate
Democratic presidential candidates by whether and how they’ve qualified for the South Carolina debate, as of Feb. 24 at 10 a.m. Eastern
MET THRESHOLD FOR …
National, SC ≥10%
1+ IA/NH/NV DELEGATES
The Democratic National Committee’s rules to qualify for the South Carolina debate were functionally the same as they were for the Nevada debate. Candidates could qualify in any of three ways: They could receive 10 percent support or more in at least four national or South Carolina polls conducted by a DNC-approved pollster2; they could receive 12 percent support or more in at least two such South Carolina polls3; or they could receive at least one pledged delegate from Iowa, New Hampshire or Nevada, the three states that have voted so far. To count toward qualification, polls must have been released between Feb. 4 and Feb. 24.
There was not much suspense about who would make the debate, especially among the top candidates. Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden met all three criteria; Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg met two (the four-poll threshold and the delegate threshold). Sen. Amy Klobuchar will almost certainly fail to meet either polling criterion, but her spot on stage was secure when she won delegates in Iowa and New Hampshire.4 And former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg impressively surpassed 10 percent in six out of the six qualifying national surveys to be released during the short polling window.
Steyer was the only question mark, as his easiest path to the debate stage was getting at least 12 percent in two polls of South Carolina, where he has strong numbers. But state polls have been few and far between lately — in fact, unluckily for Steyer, only one was released during the entire qualifying period for the previous debate, making it impossible to make last week’s stage on the basis of state polls alone. However, this time around, two DNC-approved South Carolina polls were released between Feb. 4 and today, and Steyer got 15 percent in one and 18 percent in the other.
That leaves Rep. Tulsi Gabbard as the only “major” candidate (by FiveThirtyEight’s definition) who will not participate in Tuesday’s debate. Although the deadline to qualify is technically not until 11:59 p.m. Eastern tonight, Gabbard has gotten none of the qualifying polls she needs (or, for that matter, gotten any pledged delegates), so it’s next to impossible for her to qualify.
And with Steyer likely to pick up at least some pledged delegates in South Carolina, and Bloomberg likely to do the same on Super Tuesday, seven candidates may soon meet the delegate threshold automatically, making the polling threshold obsolete. If the DNC wants to shrink the debate stage further for the March 15 debate or beyond, either the delegate threshold will have to get stricter, or candidates must start to drop out of their own accord.
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With 60 percent of precincts reporting in Nevada, it’s time for us to turn our 2020 primary forecast back on, as we think the results we have are pretty representative and the topline picture appears set. Sen. Bernie Sanders won, and he won big. As of the time of this writing, he leads the initial popular vote in Nevada by 16 percentage points. He also gained the most votes on realignment: He leads the final, realigned popular vote by 21 points and is even further ahead, 26 points, in county convention delegates. In short, he’s projected to receive the bulk of Nevada’s 36 national convention delegates. Here’s The New York Times’s results (they seem to have more of the result in than other outlets):
Our model had already anticipated a pretty good showing for Sanders in Nevada; we expected him to win, 39 percent of the final vote, on average — exactly what he won. So there isn’t a huge change in how the model sees the race. But Sanders’s outlook still meaningfully improved: His chances of winning a majority of pledged delegates are up 6 points, to 46 percent. In fact, as you can see in the table below, he is the only candidate whose odds of clinching the nomination significantly improved.
How the preliminary Nevada results changed our forecast
With 60 percent of precincts reporting, as of Feb. 23, 2020, 2 p.m. ET
Avg. projected delegates
Chance of majority
Former Vice President Joe Biden did see a small uptick in our overall forecast thanks to a good CBS/YouGov South Carolina poll released on Sunday that put him at 28 percent, and 5 points ahead of the rest of the field. It also edged him ahead of Sanders in our South Carolina forecast, giving him a 1 in 2 chance of winning the most votes, compared with Sanders’s 2 in 5 shot. Similarly, a national CBS News/YouGov poll put Sen. Elizabeth Warren in second place at 19 percent, which helped her overall odds tick up ever so slightly in our forecast despite a disappointing fourth-place finish in Nevada.
But perhaps the biggest wildcard after Nevada is that former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg took the biggest hit of any candidate, dropping more than 4 points in our forecast, even though he wasn’t on the ballot in Nevada. That’s because we’re starting to get some post-debate polls, and they do not have good numbers for Bloomberg. In that national YouGov poll, Bloomberg was in fourth with 13 percent, and in a Morning Consult poll released on Friday, he was in third with 17 percent, down 3 points from Morning Consult’s pre-debate poll. It’s not necessarily clear that only Biden will benefit from a Bloomberg stumble, but it certainly holds good news for him at this point, especially if he holds onto his second place finish in Nevada.
Notably, the odds that no one wins a majority of pledged delegates fell by 1.5 points, too, meaning that is no longer the single most likely outcome in our forecast. (Going into the caucuses, there was a 41 percent chance no one would win a majority of delegates and a 39 percent chance Sanders would win.)
That voting will end without anyone winning a pledged-delegate majority is still the second most likely outcome in our forecast after a Sanders win, but Sanders’s decisive victory in Nevada helped him put a little distance between himself and that more chaotic scenario. And remember, there are also plenty of eventualities in which Sanders wins the nomination with only a plurality of pledged delegates — his chances of winning the most delegates (though not necessarily a majority), rose from 61 percent before Nevada to 69 percent after.
The model now also sees Sanders as more likely to win in the two most delegate-rich Super Tuesday states: California and Texas and, even though he may no longer be in the lead in South Carolina, things are incredibly close between him and Biden there, and it’s probably best thought of as a tie at this point.
Put simply, the model now puts Sanders in a modestly stronger position across the board. His chances of winning rose in a bunch of states. As always in the wake of a caucus or primary, treat the forecast as a bit of an educated guess until we get more polls — the model will quickly update if new polling differs from what it expects. But the picture here isn’t all that fuzzy — Sanders is the front-runner in a race that remains extremely fluid.
For the first time this cycle, a state that isn’t more than 85 percent white will weigh in on who should be the Democratic nominee for president. There are significant demographic differences among Nevada’s four congressional districts, too, which could mean different candidates will win different districts — unlike in Iowa and New Hampshire where the district-level picture didn’t vary much. This is important because 23 of the 36 pledged delegates at stake in Nevada today are actually awarded based on the winner of each congressional district, not who wins statewide.
Our primary model takes this into account, calculating the average forecasted pledged delegates for each candidate in each district. And while we forecast that Sen. Bernie Sanders will win the state so handily that he also carries all four congressional districts, some of the lower-polling candidates are still likely to do better in some corners of the state than in others.
Nevada’s 1st Congressional District, which covers the heart of Las Vegas, is the least white district in Nevada — which also makes it the most racially diverse district to vote in the primary thus far. A plurality (45 percent) of the population here is Latino, while 31 percent are white and 11 percent are black. Given Sanders’s and former Vice President Joe Biden’s strength with Latino voters and black voters, our forecast thinks they will do the best here: Sanders gets 2.7 of the 1st District’s five total delegates in our average model run, while Biden nabs 1.0.
In addition, the 1st District has the lowest median income in the state, and few residents here have a college degree. That probably hurts candidates such as former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, whose bases include college-educated white voters. We are forecasting all three to get fewer than one delegate in the 1st District.
However, Warren isn’t letting this district go without a fight — she has opened three field offices in the district, tied with Sanders for the most. And while philanthropist Tom Steyer technically has zero field offices in the 1st District, that doesn’t mean his field operation doesn’t have easy access to the area. His 3rd and 4th district field offices are just a few blocks away from the border with the 1st.
The 2nd Congressional District is the only one not to include a portion of metro Las Vegas; it covers the northern half of the state, most notably the Reno area, and it is the most rural district in Nevada. But before you picture a vast desert, consider that it is still about as dense as the most urban congressional districts in Iowa and New Hampshire.
In 2016, this was the only district in Nevada that Sanders carried, which he did by about 9 points. Our model anticipates that he will dominate here again in 2020, winning an average of 3.0 of its six delegates. But we’re also expecting Buttigieg to earn 1.4 delegates here, making it his best district. Buttigieg did well in rural counties in Iowa, and he appears to be courting them in Nevada too. Buttigieg has opened four field offices in the 2nd — his most of any district — and is the only candidate with an office in Fallon, a city of 8,500 on U.S. Route 50.
The 2nd, however, might be Biden’s worst district. He only wins, on average, 0.5 delegates in our forecast. This could be due to the fact that this is the whitest district in Nevada (although there is still a substantial Latino population). Perhaps to offset this, Biden also appears to be putting in a disproportionate amount of effort in the 2nd District: There are two Biden field offices here, while every other district has only one.
The 3rd Congressional District, worth six pledged delegates, covers the southern tip of Nevada, including southern Las Vegas and the booming suburb of Henderson. In this fairly working-class state, the 3rd District qualifies as Nevada’s most affluent and college-educated. That’s good news for the likes of Buttigieg, whom we expect to perform better here than in most other districts, with 1.2 delegates on average. (He and Sanders are the only candidates with more than one field office here.)
Despite voting for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by 5 points in 2016, this year the 3rd District is expected to be Sanders’s best district, awarding him 3.1 delegates. No other candidate — including Biden — averages more than one delegate here in our forecast.
Finally, the 4th Congressional District stretches from North Las Vegas to several rural counties upstate. In 2016, this was Clinton’s best district — she defeated Sanders here by more than 17 points. The fact that the 4th District has Nevada’s highest share of black voters, with whom Clinton excelled in 2016, may have contributed to that. And this year, although black voters have warmed to Sanders recently in national polls, most are still behind Biden, helping to explain why our forecast thinks this will be Biden’s best district: He gets 1.1 of the 4th District’s six delegates on average. Once again, Sanders is on track to receive the most delegates from the district, at 3.1.
However, Buttigieg has opened the most field offices of any candidate in the 4th District — three, including one in Pahrump in rural Nye County, where he is the only candidate with a presence. But while he may do well at the district’s rural caucus sites, the bulk of the Democratic vote has historically come from urban Clark County, explaining why he only gets an average of 0.8 delegates here in our forecast.
Got all that? There will be a quiz — it’s called the FiveThirtyEight live blog of the Nevada caucuses, coming to your computer screen this afternoon.
Welcome to The Riddler. Every week, I offer up problems related to the things we hold dear around here: math, logic and probability. Two puzzles are presented each week: the Riddler Express for those of you who want something bite-size and the Riddler Classic for those of you in the slow-puzzle movement. Submit a correct answer for either,<a class="espn-footnote-link" data-footnote-id="4" href="#fn-4" data-footnote-content="<p>Important small print: Please wait until Monday to publicly share your answers. In order to win , I need to receive your correct answer before 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Monday. Have a great weekend!</p> “>4 and you may get a shoutout in next week’s column. If you need a hint or have a favorite puzzle collecting dust in your attic, find me on Twitter.
From Nick Harper comes a question of tempered temperatures:
On a warm, sunny day, Nick glanced at a thermometer, and noticed something quite interesting. When he toggled between the Fahrenheit and Celsius scales, the digits of the temperature — when rounded to the nearest degree — had switched. For example, this works for a temperature of 61 degrees Fahrenheit, which corresponds to a temperature of 16 degrees Celsius.
However, the temperature that day was not 61 degrees Fahrenheit. What was the temperature?
From Abijith Krishnan comes a game of coin flipping madness:
You have two fair coins, labeled A and B. When you flip coin A, you get 1 point if it comes up heads, but you lose 1 point if it comes up tails. Coin B is worth twice as much — when you flip coin B, you get 2 points if it comes up heads, but you lose 2 points if it comes up tails.
To play the game, you make a total of 100 flips. For each flip, you can choose either coin, and you know the outcomes of all the previous flips. In order to win, you must finish with a positive total score. In your eyes, finishing with 2 points is just as good as finishing with 200 points — any positive score is a win. (By the same token, finishing with 0 or −2 points is just as bad as finishing with −200 points.)
If you optimize your strategy, what percentage of games will you win? (Remember, one game consists of 100 coin flips.)
Extra credit: What if coin A isn’t fair (but coin B is still fair)? That is, if coin A comes up heads with probability p and you optimize your strategy, what percentage of games will you win?
Last week, you undertook an urban planning challenge in Riddler City, which was a large, circular metropolis, with countless square city blocks that each had a side length of 1 km. At the very center of the city was Riddler City Hall, whose many employees all walked to and from work, and their homes were evenly scattered across the city. The sidewalks they walked along had always been adjacent to the streets.
But recently, several employees requested that the sidewalks instead cut diagonally across the city blocks, connecting nearby street intersections. These were represented by the thicker blue lines in the diagram below, which showed a small section (some readers missed this!) of the city:
What fraction of City Hall employees would have had a shorter walk home (that is, to the street intersection nearest to their home) if the city replaced its traditional sidewalks with these diagonal sidewalks?
First off, many readers pointed out that for employees whose front doors were on a street and halfway down a block, these new sidewalks wouldn’t even get them to their front door. Indeed, last week’s puzzle was ambiguous about exactly how an employee would enter their home once they had reached their block. Because it was stated that Riddler City was very, very large, you could safely assume that virtually all of each employee’s commute was spent just trying to reach their block. They’d then get into their home some way or another.
Okay, back to the problem. Most solvers used a coordinate grid in thinking about their answer, where City Hall was located at the point (0, 0), and an employee’s home (i.e., the intersection nearest their home) was located at (x, y). Here, x represented how many blocks east of City Hall their home was located, and y represented the number of blocks north of City Hall. So if x was negative, then the employee lived west of City Hall; if y was negative, the employee lived south of City Hall.
Under the original system of sidewalks, the employee would have had to walk a total of |x| blocks east or west, and a total of |y| blocks north or south. (We took the absolute values of x and y so that the number of blocks walked would be positive — you can’t walk a negative number of blocks!)
But what about when the sidewalks were diagonal, as the puzzle stated? It helps to look at a specific point close to City Hall, like (5, 3), as illustrated in the diagram below.
There are several ways to travel from City Hall to the home at (5, 3) using the diagonal sidewalks, and one such way is shown in red. First, you’d walk northeast to the point (4, 4), a distance of 4√2, and from there you’d walk an additional √2 southeast to reach the point (5, 3). In general, to reach the point (x, y), the employee would have to walk a distance of |x+y|/√2 northeast (or southwest), and then a distance |x−y|/√2 southeast (or northwest).
So when was this new commute shorter than the original? As solver Kimberly Powell noted, the original sidewalks resulted in shorter commutes for homes closer to the x and y axes, while the diagonal sidewalks resulted in shorter commutes to homes closer the lines y = x and y = −x — that is, along lines that made 45 degree angles with the axes.
With a little trigonometry, solver Mike Strong found that Riddler City was precisely carved in half. That is to say, half the employees would have a shorter commute with the new sidewalks.
If you’re still not convinced, here’s an animation showing the original and diagonal sidewalk paths to each block. When it’s a shorter walk via the original sidewalks, the intersection is shown as a gray dot; when it’s faster via diagonal sidewalks, the intersection is a blue dot. Sure enough, the diagonal sidewalks resulted in a shorter commute for half the blocks.
So when it came to diagonal sidewalks, the employees were evenly split. No wonder the measure didn’t pass.
Moving beyond diagonal sidewalks, you were next asked to consider octagonal sidewalks (similar to those found in Barcelona), as shown in the diagram below.
If the city replaced its traditional sidewalks with these octagonal sidewalks, now what fraction of employees had a shorter walk home?
Once again, many readers pointed out that some front doors might be inaccessible via these new sidewalks, or even that entire homes might have been bulldozed to make way for these rhomboidal intersections! And once again, these concerns could be treated as negligible due to the vastness of Riddler City.
To solve this puzzle, it was helpful to have a bathroom floor with octagonal tiles.
If you didn’t have one of those, it was also helpful to start with a diagram of an employee who just happened to live very close to City Hall, which we said could be represented by the point (0, 0). For example, consider an employee who lived near the intersection (5, 3):
The red path represents this employee’s shortest path home. How long is it? Well, they started at (0, 0) in the lower left corner and first walked up toward (3, 3), represented by the black point. During this part of the trip, walking along the diagonal sidewalks shaved off some distance compared to the original sidewalks. For homes like this, where x and y were positive and x > y, the distance saved turned out to be 2yd(√2−1), where d was the length of the short diagonal segments on each block.
Upon reaching (3, 3), the path straightened out, heading due east toward home. But not exactly due east, thanks to the diagonal sidewalks at the intersections. During this part of the trip, the diagonals added some distance, since it would have been a straight line to home with the original sidewalks. Again, for homes where x and y were positive and x > y, the additional distance turns out to be (x−y)d(2−√2).
Thus, the problem became a balancing act: When did the distance saved exceed the distance gained? When this happened, an employee would prefer the octagonal sidewalks; otherwise, they’d prefer the original grid.
Combining these shortening and lengthening effects meant the octagonal sidewalks wouldn’t affect the commute when 2yd(√2−1) — the reduction in distance — equaled (x−y)d(2−√2) — the additional distance. After rearranging some equations (amazingly, the length of the diagonal segments of the sidewalk didn’t matter), these effects canceled out when y = (√2−1)x. Employees who lived above this line, and closer to the line y = x, preferred the octagonal sidewalks, while employees who lived below this line, and closer to the x intercept, preferred the original sidewalks.
But that was just for the case when x and y were both positive, and x > y — that is, below the line y = x. Similar results could be worked out for all the other cases (in all four quadrants). And for those of you who worked through the trigonometry of last week’s Riddler Express, you might have noticed that the Riddler Classic gave you the exact same result! That is, in the case of a very, very large Riddler City (as stated in the puzzle), half of the employees preferred octagonal sidewalks, while the other half preferred to keep the original sidewalks. This symmetry did not go unnoticed by Riddler Nation.
After all this analysis, it would appear that Riddler City is stuck in gridlock when it comes to sidewalk legislation.
Want more riddles?
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So two questions: How well is Biden holding up among black voters in the wake of the first two contests? And how much could the debate on Wednesday night in Las Vegas, which seemed to go poorly for Bloomberg, shift the race in the last few days before Nevada and South Carolina vote?
Two answers: Not particularly well. And maybe quite a bit.
In an average of national polls, Biden’s support among black voters has dropped about 12 percentage points from before the Iowa caucuses to the post-New Hampshire period.4 Conversely, during the same period, Bloomberg and Sanders (the two other candidates averaging double-digit support among black voters in recent national polls) each gained 10 points among black voters. And recent polls show Biden dropping fast among all voters while Sanders and Bloomberg are gaining ground. So if the Nevada debate really hurt Bloomberg, Biden stands a decent chance of winning back a lot of voters. Not only are he and Bloomberg both running in the same “moderate” lane, but it appears that a lot of voters left Biden for Bloomberg after Iowa and New Hampshire.
Biden’s 12-point drop among black voters is particularly bad considering how much his nomination hopes rest on support from that voting bloc. Black voters account for about one-fifth of the national Democratic primary electorate but make up a disproportionately large share of Biden’s potential electoral coalition — about a third, most likely.5 Indeed, Biden has dropped 10 points in our national polling average since the Iowa caucuses — from being the national polling leader to finding himself behind Sanders and in a battle with Bloomberg for second — and roughly a quarter of that slide is likely due to his drop among black voters specifically. Proportionally, Biden has actually lost more white support than black support, but he still lost around one-fourth of his support among black voters nationally since Iowa voted.
Biden’s diminished support among black voters matters in Nevada too, where Biden is currently running second to Sanders by about 12 percentage points in our polling average of all the state’s voters. Nevada is more racially and ethnically diverse than Iowa or New Hampshire, and while Hispanic voters form the state’s largest nonwhite voting group, there are a fair number of black voters in the Silver State, too — 13 percent of the 2016 caucus electorate was black, according to the 2016 entrance poll.
But Biden’s standing among black voters matters especially in South Carolina, where 61 percent of Democratic primary voters were black in 2016. Often referred to as a “firewall” for the Biden campaign, the former vice president basically has to win South Carolina — maybe even “win big” — or his campaign could find itself on its last legs.
Indeed, some recent South Carolina polls, though not all, have shown a similar trend to the national polls. Right before Iowa, East Carolina University found Biden leading with 37 percent overall, including 44 percent support among black voters. But in ECU’s latest poll, conducted after New Hampshire, Biden slipped to 28 percent overall (still leading), with 36 percent support among African American primary voters. Another South Carolina survey from The Welcome Party/Change Research dropped on Wednesday, and it found Biden tied for first overall with Sanders at 23 percent, and Biden leading among black voters with 33 percent. Unlike the ECU polls, this wasn’t much of a change for Biden compared to Change Research’s previous South Carolina survey just before Iowa6 that found Biden at 25 percent overall — 5 points ahead of Sanders — and at 30 percent support among black voters. Meanwhile, another new poll from UMass Lowell found that even if Biden’s black support holds up in South Carolina, it might not be enough to get him the big win his campaign is hoping for — the survey found him ahead of Sanders by just 2 points overall even though 43 percent of black voters backed Biden, double Sanders’s 20 percent support.
Biden doesn’t have to worry about Bloomberg in South Carolina because Bloomberg is not on the ballot there, but there’s another billionaire who may be hurting Biden’s chances of consolidating support among black voters in the Palmetto State: Tom Steyer. The post-New Hampshire polls from ECU, Change Research and UMass Lowell put Steyer at 17 percent, 31 percent and 19 percent among black voters. Indeed, Steyer’s place in the South Carolina race is somewhat analogous to the way Bloomberg may be complicating Biden’s ability to retain support among black voters in Super Tuesday states with sizable African American electorates, as recent polls of North Carolina and Virginia have suggested.
Sanders’s gains, meanwhile, likely have less to do with Biden’s struggles. Instead, Sanders’s uptick in African American support is likely spurred by his early wins in the primary. Sanders started the campaign with essentially a tie in Iowa and a narrow win in New Hampshire. So his positive performances are helping him capture new supporters from lots of demographic groups. Sanders may also have benefited at the margins from the departure of tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang, who had a modicum of black support and whose supporters were far more likely to pick Sanders as their second choice than any other candidate. Unlike Bloomberg, Sanders doesn’t have any recent endorsements from black leaders in our tracker, but that certainly hasn’t stopped him from winning over some African American voters.
Now the question is whether Biden can maintain enough support among black voters to get a win in South Carolina. The fact Steyer failed to make the Nevada debate could help the former vice president there, and more broadly any erosion in Bloomberg’s support in the wake of the debate could help Biden win back black voters across the country. And a Biden victory in South Carolina might produce a “comeback” narrative that could dramatically shift the tone of media coverage surrounding Biden’s campaign and help him remain competitive in the larger nomination race.
If Biden’s falling support is mostly about his poor performances in the first couple states, a respectable showing in Nevada and a win in South Carolina could turn things around. And if Biden’s slide has as much or even more to do with Bloomberg’s overwhelming advertising firepower and his effort to win over black elites and voters, the former vice president might not be able to recover even if he has a solid performance in South Carolina later this month — unless, of course, the Wednesday night debate really cuts into Bloomberg’s standing. Regardless, Biden’s current trajectory among black voters is a serious problem for his campaign, so he absolutely needs something to change for the better.
According to the FiveThirtyEight primary forecast, the single most likely outcome of the Democratic presidential primary is that no one wins a majority of pledged delegates (there is a 2 in 5, or 41 percent, chance of this). However, it is almost equally likely that Sen. Bernie Sanders will bag a majority (a 2 in 5 chance, or 37 percent). And a recent avalanche of national polls has been particularly good for Sanders.1
Sanders leads in 10 out of 10 national polls released since Monday — many of them from high-quality pollsters — giving him a firmer handle on the race. He currently sits at 25.3 percent in our national polling average — more than 3 percentage points higher than on Feb. 10 (the day before the New Hampshire primary). Meanwhile, former Vice President Joe Biden and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg are roughly tied for second place in the polls, but they are heading in opposite directions. Bloomberg’s average is up 3.5 points since Feb. 10, while Biden’s is down 5 points.
Here’s a snapshot of how the candidates’ standing in those 10 polls has changed since the previous national primary poll from each pollster. (Note that the polls we are comparing to all predate the New Hampshire primary, and most predate the Iowa caucuses as well. The only one older than mid-January is Marist’s, which is from December.)
Sanders and Bloomberg up, Biden down in national polls
How the top six Democratic presidential candidates’ standing changed compared to each pollster’s last pre-New Hampshire national primary poll
ABC News/Washington Post
NBC News/Wall Street Journal
And here’s a rundown of those polls, from newest to oldest:
According to The Hill/HarrisX, 22 percent of voters back Sanders, 19 percent back Biden, 18 percent back Bloomberg, 12 percent back Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 10 percent back former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and 5 percent back Sen. Amy Klobuchar. However, the results look different if you account for the pollster’s house effects, which our forecast does. The adjusted top lines that our model digests are Sanders at 23 percent; Bloomberg, Biden and Warren all at 16 percent; Buttigieg at 12 percent; and Klobuchar still at 5 percent.
The Economist/YouGov gave Sanders 24 percent, Biden 18 percent, Warren 16 percent, Bloomberg 12 percent, Buttigieg 11 percent and Klobuchar 7 percent. When adjusted for house effects, the results are similar, per our model: Sanders 24 percent, Biden 18 percent, Bloomberg 14 percent, Warren 13 percent and Klobuchar 7 percent.
In ABC News/Washington Post’s latest survey, Sanders had 32 percent, Biden had 16 percent, Bloomberg had 14 percent, Warren had 12 percent, Buttigieg had 8 percent and Klobuchar had 7 percent.2 Our forecast didn’t really adjust these numbers much for house effects, either, so this was an unambiguously great poll for Sanders — and a bad one for Biden.
In Morning Consult’s most recent poll, Sanders got 28 percent, Bloomberg got 20 percent, Biden got 19 percent, Buttigieg got 12 percent, Warren got 10 percent and Klobuchar got 6 percent. But because Morning Consult often shows good numbers for Sanders, our model treated this poll as somewhat less strong for him after accounting for house effects. (Our model interpreted this poll as Sanders at 24 percent, Bloomberg at 18 percent and Biden at 15 percent.)
Emerson College also put Sanders in the lead at 29 percent, with Biden at 22 percent, Bloomberg at 14 percent, Warren at 12 percent, Buttigieg at 8 percent and Klobuchar at 6 percent. However, note that Emerson has typically had very rosy numbers for Sanders, so our model interprets this poll as more like one where Sanders leads Biden by a much smaller margin — 24 percent to 21 percent.
According to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey, Sanders had 27 percent, Biden had 15 percent, Bloomberg and Warren each had 14 percent, Buttigieg had 13 percent and Klobuchar had 7 percent.
A Reuters/Ipsos survey found Sanders at 25 percent, Bloomberg at 17 percent, Biden at 13 percent, Buttigieg at 11 percent, Warren at 9 percent and Klobuchar at 5 percent. However, once adjusted for house effects, the poll looks even better for Sanders: Our model reads it as more like Sanders at 26 percent, Bloomberg and Biden tied at 16 percent, Buttigieg at 13 percent, Warren at 12 percent and Klobuchar at 6 percent.
According to SurveyUSA, Sanders had 29 percent, Bloomberg and Biden each had 18 percent, Buttigieg had 12 percent, Warren had 10 percent and Klobuchar had 4 percent. And this poll is even worse than it looks for Biden because of SurveyUSA’s house effects, which tend to benefit Biden; his adjusted support is closer to 15 percent in our model.
An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist College poll put Sanders at 31 percent, Bloomberg at 19 percent, Biden at 15 percent, Warren at 12 percent, Klobuchar at 9 percent and Buttigieg at 8 percent.
Finally, Zogby Analytics gave Sanders 24 percent, Bloomberg 20 percent, Biden 18 percent, Warren 10 percent, Buttigieg 9 percent and Klobuchar 5 percent. However, our model thinks Bloomberg is probably closer to 17 percent support in this poll than 20 percent, thanks to Zogby’s Bloomberg-friendly house effects.
With house effects factored in, these polls give Sanders an adjusted lead of anywhere from 2 to 15 percentage points. There’s simply not much ambiguity right now that Sanders is the first choice of a plurality of Democrats nationwide. Accordingly, if you look at who is most likely to get the most pledged delegates, though not necessarily more than half (we usually cite the forecast’s odds of a candidate getting a majority), our model is fairly confident it’ll be Sanders who gets a plurality (he has a 3 in 5, or 56 percent, chance of doing so). The big question is whether the other candidates stay competitive enough for long enough to deny him the majority he needs to win the nomination outright.
It’s been a good 24 hours for Michael Bloomberg. Early this morning, on the brink of the deadline to do so, the former New York City mayor qualified for Wednesday’s Democratic presidential debate thanks to a NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist College poll that gave him 19 percent of the national primary vote. He’s up to 16.3 percent in our national polling average — essentially tying him with former Vice President Joe Biden for the first time. However, he’s still 9 points behind front-runner Sen. Bernie Sanders, and — by Bloomberg’s own design — it will be a couple weeks before we know how much actual voter support Bloomberg has.
That’s because Bloomberg has decided not to contest the first four states on the primary calendar (Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina), instead focusing his massive financial resources on the 15 states and territories1 that vote on Super Tuesday. Since he declared he was running in November, Bloomberg has built out a number of impressive field organizations and has aired millions of dollars’ worth of TV ads — and on Monday, we got a handful of state polls that suggest that investment may pay off. To wit:
Monmouth University, one of the best pollsters in the biz, found Bloomberg in a virtual tie for first place in Virginia. He and Sanders each received 22 percent support, while Biden grabbed 18 percent. Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg got 11 percent, Sen. Amy Klobuchar got 9 percent and Sen. Elizabeth Warren got 5 percent.
The excellent SurveyUSA produced very similar results in a poll of next-door North Carolina for WRAL News. Bloomberg and Sanders netted 22 percent each, Biden received 20 percent, Buttigieg got 11 percent, Warren got 8 percent and Klobuchar got 5 percent. That said, SurveyUSA has some small house effects to consider, so our model interprets this more like a poll that showed Sanders and Bloomberg at 21 percent and Biden at 17 percent.
Cole Hargrave Snodgrass & Associates also released an Oklahoma poll that gave Bloomberg 20 percent of the vote among likely Democratic primary voters, followed by Sanders at 14 percent, Biden at 12 percent, Buttigieg at 11 percent, Warren at 8 percent and Klobuchar at 6 percent. However, the sample size was only 172 likely voters, which is smaller than we like to see; accordingly, the margin for error is very high.
But Bloomberg may not want to let his Super Tuesday expectations get too high. We also got polls of two Super Tuesday states in which he was not doing so hot:
SocialSphere polled Maine on behalf of Colby College and put Bloomberg at only 14 percent support; Sanders led with 25 percent, followed by Buttigieg at 16 percent. Meanwhile, Biden got 12 percent support, Warren 9 percent and Klobuchar 4 percent. When adjusting this poll for house effects, however, Sanders has a slightly smaller lead: 22 percent to 17 percent over Buttigieg.
Finally, Braun Research (polling on behalf of Vermont Public Radio and Vermont PBS) unsurprisingly found that Sanders has a huge lead in his home state of Vermont. He nabs 51 percent of the vote, followed by Buttigieg at 13 percent, Warren at 9 percent … and only then comes Bloomberg at 7 percent. Biden got 5 percent, and Klobuchar 4 percent.
It’s probably not a huge deal that Bloomberg trails in the two New England states; they are worth only 40 pledged delegates, compared with 246 for the three other states. But it shows that he may not run the table on Super Tuesday, and that other candidates — namely, Sanders, who also held a share of first place in the Virginia and North Carolina polls — may do even better.
That’s a big part of why our primary model still thinks that Sanders and even Biden are likelier than Bloomberg to win the most pledged delegates. While we are forecasting Bloomberg to receive a hefty 812 pledged delegates, on average, after every state and territory has voted, his chances of winning a majority of pledged delegates are just 1 in 12 (8 percent). Sanders has a 2 in 5 (40 percent) chance of doing so, while Biden is clinging to a 1 in 10 (10 percent) chance. And as has been looming for a while, there is still a 2 in 5 (38 percent) chance that no one gets a majority of pledged delegates, which could lead to a contested convention.