By Robert A. Vella
Joe Biden rode a wave of momentum to a convincing victory in yesterday’s pivotal Super Tuesday primary elections in 14 states, and seized a lead in pledged delegates over runner-up Bernie Sanders (currently 566 to 501 but counting is still in-progress, see: U.S. Primary & Caucus Results).
The Good News
Overall voter turnout far surpassed the 2016 numbers and rivaled or exceeded the record 2008 numbers in continuance of a national trend since President Trump took office which saw suburban voters shifting significantly from Republican to Democrat. Even Fox News acknowledged the intensity of the anti-Trump vote by describing the turnout as “massive” (see the story below). The high turnout is a very positive sign for Democrats and for all voters determined to defeat Trump in November. It is also an encouraging sign for Democratic Party hopes to win back the U.S. Senate by making more inroads into the solidly Republican Deep South. And, Super Tuesday was obviously good news for Joe Biden, the party’s centrist establishment, and for moderate voters who want a return to the stability of the Obama administration.
The Bad News
Voter turnout among young people dropped off to below that of 2016. This is a surprising reversal from the 2018 midterms, and it’s disturbing news for democracy in general and for the Sanders campaign which is especially dependent upon that demographic group. If they also don’t turnout in the general election, it will offset some of the Democrats’ popular vote advantage.
Whereas Sanders’ strength in western states is likely to translate to the November election regardless of who wins the nomination, Biden’s dominance in the southern states having higher percentages of black voters might not be as electorally significant because Trump is more likely to win them. In other words, if Biden is the Democratic nominee and gets big but not big enough turnout to win at least some of those southern states, then the Electoral College result will mirror that of 2016 in which Hillary Clinton lost to Trump. What was far more determinative in the election four years ago was the key Midwest rustbelt states of Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania which all were narrowly and surprisingly won by Trump. Since none of those states’ primaries have been held yet this year, we don’t know how well Biden will perform there.
In contrast to this uncertainty concerning a potential Biden-versus-Trump matchup, Super Tuesday delivered unquestionable bad news to the two other major candidates who didn’t win a single state. Billionaire Mike Bloomberg, who did win the U.S. territory American Samoa, has dropped out of the race and endorsed Biden. Progressive Elizabeth Warren, who finished third in her home state of Massachusetts, is considering exiting too and possibly endorsing Sanders.
Analysis and Questions
Biden’s candidacy – which was given up for dead just two weeks ago – was certainly boosted by his South Carolina victory, the dropouts of candidates Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, and Tom Steyer, as well as by several important endorsements which all moved many late-deciding voters to support him. Whether he can sustain this momentum going forward remains to be seen. Another question mark for Biden was revealed in the Super Tuesday exit polls which indicated that voters chose him primarily because they think he has the best chance of beating Trump and not necessarily because they think he is a great candidate.
Sanders’ candidacy is even more problematic now. With his young supporters eager to attend his rallies and speeches, but unenthusiastic about voting, Sanders has but one hope left – to sweep those key Midwest rustbelt states previously mentioned where he should be buoyed by working class voters.
Nate Silver’s 538 blog currently puts the chances of a brokered convention (i.e. no majority winner) at 3 in 5, an outright Biden win at 3 in 10, and an outright Sanders win at 1 in 12.
Here are today’s Super Tuesday stories plus other news:
From: Super Tuesday updates: California and Maine too close to project
The Sanders campaign had expected a sweeping Super Tuesday win, but with the last-minute departures of Sen. Amy Klobuchar and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg from the race and their endorsements of Biden, those expectations were disrupted.
Biden hugely benefited from the consolidation of those moderate candidates, pulling huge upsets in Klobuchar’s home state of Minnesota and Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s home state of Massachusetts. In total, nine states have been called in Biden’s favor — Alabama, Arkansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia — bringing his total pledged delegate count to 371 as of 5:21 a.m. ET.
Meanwhile, Sanders has taken wins in three states — Colorado, Utah and his home state of Vermont — bringing his total pledged delegate count to 301.
It’s a tale of two parties: Biden sweeps among black, suburban and older voters, while Latino and young voters sided with Sanders. Electability was the primary concern among voters across exit polls, but health care was polled as the electorate’s most important issue.
According to ABC News exit poll analysis, Sanders is leading in California while Biden is likely to take Maine.
From: Joe Biden romps in Super Tuesday presidential contests
Joe Biden powered to a dominating sweep of the South and surprisingly strong showings in New England and the Upper Midwest on Tuesday night, as he sought to seize control of the Democratic presidential race and overtake Sen. Bernie Sanders as the delegate leader.
His quick wins in Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee were also largely powered by big margins among women, black voters, moderates and those without college degrees. He also appeared to benefit from high turnout in the same kinds of suburban areas that helped Democrats win the House majority in the 2018 midterms, winning by massive margins in suburbs around Richmond.
Turnout in Virginia was almost double what it was in 2016 and also exceeded 2008 levels.
Late-deciders across the country broke in a major way for Biden. In Virginia, about half of Democratic primary voters said they made their decisions in the past few days, and Biden won about 6 in 10 of them, compared with about 1 in 6 for Sanders, according to preliminary network exit polls. In North Carolina, nearly a third of voters were late deciders, and more than half of them supported Biden, compared with Sanders who garnered about 2 in 10. In Tennessee, where almost 3 in 10 were late deciders, Biden carried more than 6 in 10 of them, compared with less than 2 in 10 for Sanders.
From: Lee Carter: Super Tuesday turnout numbers show Democrats are motivated to vote against Trump
Massive turnout in the 2020 Super Tuesday primary is proof that the Democratic Party is motivated to vote against President Trump, Maslansky & Partners president and pollster Lee Carter said Wednesday.
Appearing in a panel on “Fox & Friends” with host Steve Doocy, The Hill’s media reporter Joe Concha, and Real Clear Politics’ Tom Bevan, Carter said that she was surprised to see how many supporters of former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar actually flipped to support former Vice President Joe Biden.
“What that suggests to me is that support for moderates, support for somebody that they believe is going to win that is not Bernie Sanders, is that solid,” Carter said.
“These people are there to vote against Donald Trump — not necessarily for Joe Biden,” she told the group.
Voter Turnout Surges in Several Super Tuesday States, Boosting Biden
Voter turnout surged in Super Tuesday states that ditched caucuses
From: Many young voters sat out Super Tuesday, contributing to Bernie Sanders’ losses
WASHINGTON – Young voters cheer Bernie Sanders’ anti-establishment message. They turn out in throngs at his rallies. And they form the core of his grassroots efforts to win the Democratic presidential nomination.
But their fiery passion did not translate into the robust turnout he needed on Super Tuesday to win a number of key states, notably in the South where a strong showing by former vice president Joe Biden has made the nomination contest a two-man race.
Exit polls for five southern states that Biden won – Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia – found that young voters did not show up at the polls in the numbers they did in 2016.
From: Trump criticizes Sessions after Alabama Senate primary heads to a runoff
President Trump criticized Republican Alabama Senate contender Jeff Sessions early Wednesday, asserting that his former attorney general didn’t win the state’s primary outright because of what Trump described as Sessions’s lack of “wisdom or courage” in his handling of the Russia investigation.
Sessions and [former football coach Tommy] Tuberville were running neck-and-neck after polls closed Tuesday night — Sessions held 31.6 percent of the vote and Tuberville 33.4 percent with 99 percent of precincts reporting.
Both candidates will compete for the Republican nomination in the March 31 runoff, and the winner will face Sen. Doug Jones in the November election, who is among the most vulnerable Democratic senators facing reelection in 2020.
From: CDC blocked FDA official from premises
In a sign of growing tension among the Trump administration’s health agencies, officials are expressing frustration that a top scientist was initially rebuffed when attempting to visit the CDC in Atlanta last month to help coordinate the government’s stalled coronavirus testing, two individuals with knowledge of the episode told POLITICO.
Timothy Stenzel, who is the director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of In Vitro Diagnostics and Radiological Health, was made to wait overnight on the weekend of Feb. 22 — as senior health department officials negotiated his access in a series of calls — before Centers for Disease Control granted him permission to be on campus. Stenzel’s visit had been expected, the individuals said.
The FDA had dispatched Stenzel to the CDC in an effort to expedite the development of lab tests for the novel coronavirus outbreak. Problems with the CDC-developed test delayed the Trump administration’s plan to expand screening for weeks, POLITICO first reported on Feb. 20. A senior HHS official confirmed the episode.
From: Outbreak spotlights Trump admin effort to ease nursing home rules that prevent infections
The Trump administration last year moved to roll back regulations designed to prevent infections from spreading in nursing homes, a decision that is facing renewed criticism for endangering the elderly amid the coronavirus outbreak.
With older, vulnerable residents living in close quarters, nursing homes face a heightened risk from the coronavirus — four out of the six U.S. deaths reported so far from the virus were residents of a nursing center in Washington state. But over the last three years, the Trump administration has advanced — with the support of the nursing home industry — an effort to ease regulations on long-term care facilities and has taken significant steps to reduce fines for violations.
9th coronavirus death reported in U.S. as virus continues to spread
Washington state confirms 10th coronavirus death
From: Fed cuts rates by half a percentage point to combat coronavirus slowdown
The Federal Reserve announced an emergency rate cut Tuesday of half a percentage point in response to the growing economic threat from the novel coronavirus.
The move was the first such cut since December 2008, during the financial crisis. It comes amid a volatile patch on Wall Street and amid a steady stream of hectoring from President Donald Trump, who has called for lower rates to stay competitive with policy at other global central banks.
With the change, the Fed’s benchmark funds rate will now be targeted in a range between 1%-1.25%.
From: U.S. Supreme Court lets states prosecute immigrants for identity theft
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday widened the ability of states to use criminal laws against illegal immigrants and other people who do not have work authorization in the United States in a ruling involving identity theft prosecutions in Kansas.
In the decision, the justices upheld the authority of states to prosecute immigrants for identity theft when applying for a job. The court found that Kansas did not unlawfully encroach on federal authority over immigration policy in charging three men accused of using other people’s Social Security numbers.
From: Feds: Mystery witness will implicate ‘Putin’s chef’ in election interference
The mystery witness is prepared to testify at a criminal trial set to open in Washington next month in a case special counsel Robert Mueller brought accusing three Russian companies and 13 Russian individuals of meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, a prosecutor declared at a recent court hearing.
The anticipated testimony will focus on the most prominent Russian national charged in the indictment, Yevgeny Prigozhin, a St. Petersburg restaurateur who enjoys close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin and who has expanded his business empire to become a key contractor for the Russian military.
Prosecutors say Prigozhin ran the Internet Research Agency, a Russian firm that allegedly sponsored and coordinated online troll activity during the 2016 U.S. election.