Super Tuesday open thread: Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Arkansas; Update: Biden wins AL

Update:You’d expect early voting in Texas, a supposedly tight race, to skew towards Bernie since many of those ballots were cast when Sanders was dominating the race. But that’s not what we see:https://twitter.com/PatrickRuffini/status/1235008224966914048Literally one week ago we were gaming out Super Tuesday as the night Sanders would become the de facto presumptive nominee. It may turn out to be the night *Biden* becomes the presumptive nominee.

Update: Will Bernie hit the 15 percent mark in Alabama and qualify for delegates there, or will Biden take the whole haul? Hmmmm:

Update: It’s 8 p.m. and the polls are finally closed in Alabama and Oklahoma. The latter is momentarily too close to call but Alabama has been called — a Biden landslide, as expected, thanks to its majority African-American electorate. This was a foregone conclusion; the real stunners thus far this evening are North Carolina and Virginia, where Biden is north of 50 percent with more than 70 percent of the vote in. He’s blowing the doors off there, in a state where Bernie competed hard.

Update: Based on the results in Virginia and North Carolina — two states that seemed close-ish just a week ago — Joementum is very, very real. How real?

Update: A good early omen for Bernie?

Update: A poor early omen for Bernie:

His entire argument for nominating him is that he’ll unleash the youth vote in November. He can’t even unleash it now!

Update: The only candidate left who’s spent less on ads than Joe Biden is Tulsi Gabbard, notes Chris Cillizza. If Joe cleans up tonight, it’ll be a lab-quality experiment that a candidate with very, very high name recognition doesn’t need much advertising to parlay one big win into a national electoral force.

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We could start with a few paragraphs on the state of Joementum, but you know all about that already if you read this post. And even if you didn’t, this new national poll from Morning Consult should tell you all you need to know. Two days ago Bernie led 29/26. Today?

Bro.

In almost 15 years of blogging elections I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a momentum shift like that. It’s anyone’s guess how big the break towards Biden might be tonight coast to coast now that Buttigieg and Klobuchar have endorsed him. That’s not to suggest he’ll win everywhere; he’s all but certain to finish behind Bernie in the most delegate-rich state on the map, in fact. But no one should be surprised if Biden outperforms his polling this evening the same way he did in South Carolina a few days ago.

In particular, he may blow the doors off in more than one of the states I’m covering. The deep south is Biden country thanks to the large share of black voters in the primaries there. The southwest is less predictable, but Biden is now favored in FiveThirtyEight’s model to finish first there too. You can think of these four contests as being on a spectrum of certainty, in fact:

1. Alabama’s electorate was 54 percent African-American in the 2016 primary. That’s a Biden landslide in the making.

2. Arkansas’s electorate tilts towards whites but more than a quarter of voters there in 2016 were black. Hillary Clinton, a semi-native daughter, handled Bernie easily in 2016 because of it. Biden should have little difficulty too, especially at a moment when he’s surging nationally. FiveThirtyEight gives him a 69 percent chance of winning with Mike Bloomberg, not Bernie, the biggest threat to defeat him. The new Data for Progress poll that I wrote about this morning found Biden ahead by 13 points.

3. Oklahoma was a Bernie state in the 2016 primary, with Sanders defeating Clinton by a comfortable 10-point margin. African-Americans were just 14 percent of the primary electorate four years ago, making this a heavier lift for Joe. Even so, Data for Progress found him up seven points there over the weekend. FiveThirtyEight actually gives him better odds of winning here, 78 percent, than in Arkansas.

4. Texas is the real prize tonight and the outcome that’s most in doubt. Sift through the polling over the last few months and you’ll find that the state has been bouncy. Right up until the eve of the Iowa caucus Biden was leading steadily, sometimes by blowout margins. Then Bernie won Iowa and New Hampshire and things took a turn: Sanders led eight straight polls of Texas between mid-February and the start of March. An Emerson poll taken on Saturday and Sunday found him still ahead by five — but today’s Data for Progress survey shows Biden surging back into a narrow two-point lead. It’s anyone’s ballgame, although FiveThirtyEight narrowly favors Biden (55 percent chance to win) over Sanders (43 percent) partly because of Joementum and partly because Hillary won this state handily in 2016. Last night’s party unity rally in Dallas featuring Buttigieg, Klobuchar, and Texas’s own Beto O’Rourke may help too.

It may be, in fact, that the outcome in Texas drives the national media narrative on the race tomorrow. The state would be closely watched tonight regardless since it’s the second-biggest delegate haul at stake and famously trended purple in the 2018 midterms, but because California takes so long to count its votes there’s apt to be no clarity from the west coast when reporters sit down to weigh the overall state of play late tonight. If Biden stuns Bernie with an easy win in Texas — or vice versa — that’ll be taken as a leading indicator of who’s likely to end up as the nominee. Especially since Texas is racially diverse and the two key minority groups there are expected to go different ways. Will Bernie’s Latino base prevail or will Joe’s base of black voters? The Texas electorate was 32 percent Latino and 19 percent black four years ago. Watch those numbers tonight.

If you’re following returns, don’t get completely caught up in the Biden vs. Bernie showdown. Remember that each of them has an also-ran candidate crowding their “lane” of the primary who may reach the magic number of 15 percent viability statewide and in individual districts, which means that that candidate will get a cut of the state’s total pool of delegates. In the four I’m covering here, it’s Biden who has to worry about an also-ran more so than Bernie: Mike Bloomberg is the X factor, having spent a combined $66 million in these states — including $52 million in Texas alone — to try to get a piece of the delegate pie. Some of the biggest suspense this evening is whether Bloomberg’s support will hang in there at levels of 15 percent or better, which will reduce the delegate haul that the winner will get from a particular state, or whether Joementum will carry some critical mass of Bloomberg’s voters into Biden’s column. The best-case scenario for Joe tonight is a clean sweep of all four with Bloomy missing the 15 percent threshold in each. Not only will that mean a delegate bonanza for Joe but it might convince Bloomberg to quit immediately.

And of course the same goes for Bernie and Elizabeth Warren elsewhere. Any place where Sanders wins but Warren clears the 15 percent bar — in California, possibly — means a lighter haul of delegates for Bernie. And given the way things are going between him and Biden, every delegate counts.

Thanks to California, it may be weeks before we know how all of the delegates at stake nationally tonight were awarded among the candidates. But here’s a rule of thumb from Cory Booker’s former campaign manager about how to judge if it was a good or bad showing by Bernie:

As I write this on Tuesday afternoon, Nate Silver’s model suddenly has Biden’s odds of winning a plurality (not a majority) of delegates before the convention at 65 percent. Expectations for Joementum are sky high — maybe unreasonably so. The polls close in Alabama and Oklahoma at 8 p.m. ET, in Arkansas at 8:30 ET, and in Texas at 8 and 9 p.m ET. Updates will be posted at the top of this thread. One question to bear in mind as this gets going: Will coronavirus jitters affect turnout? I ask because, in reading up on Texas today, I ran across this story about some poll workers not showing up to work for fear of catching the disease, leading to delays at some polling places. If turnout is lower than expected nationally, that might explain why. And that might bode well for Sanders, whose cultish followers are more likely to show up to serve The Cause than the “meh, fine, I’ll vote for Joe” moderate contingent.

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