Super Tuesday Delegate Update

On March 4th, we posted an initial delegate status after Super Tuesday, but we noted that results were preliminary and would continue to shift and change as the votes got counted. That process is ongoing. It will be quite some time yet before those results are final.

But since in just a few hours we'll be in the thick of reporting delegate results for a new set of states, it seems like a good time to review how things have changed since the immediate election night results.

Bottom line, as the counting continued, Bloomberg lost lots of delegates to Biden, Sanders, and Warren.

Here is a quick before and after for the total delegates so far:

Dem 4 Mar 𝚫 9 Mar
Biden 667 +26 693
Sanders 581 +35 616
Bloomberg 140 -70 70
Warren 76 +9 85
Buttigieg 26 0 26
Klobuchar 7 0 7
Gabbard 2 0 2

So while Bloomberg did comparatively well in the vote that came in and was counted on election night, as later ballots came in, his delegate haul was cut in half.

Of those delegates, a full half ended up redistributed to Sanders, followed by Biden, then Warren.

I usually prefer looking at the charts of "% of delegates remaining needed to win," using "% of delegates allocated so far" on the x-axis. Still, in this case, it is useful to look at a chart showing delegate totals with the date on the x-axis:

You can see the spike up for Bloomberg on election night, followed by those delegates draining away over the next few days, with Bloomberg eventually falling below Warren in the delegate totals, while both Biden and Sanders benefit from Bloomberg's losses.

Since Sanders got the lion's share of the delegates Bloomberg gave up, he closed the gap between himself and Biden from 86 delegates to 77 delegates.

But the raw number of delegates doesn't matter here. It is time to think once again about the percentage of the remaining delegates they need to win. And what that means for the 352 delegates allocated on March 10th.

With the election night estimate, Biden needed 53.39% of the remaining delegates to win (188 of the 352 on March 10th), while Sanders needed 56.85% of them (201 of the 352 on March 10th).

Updated with several additional days of vote counting, Biden needs 52.34% of the remaining delegates to win (185 of the 352 on March 10th), while Sanders needs 55.44% of them (196 of the 352 on March 10th).

While the numbers change a little bit, the overall picture remains the same.

Although mathematically still possible, the chances for a contested convention have almost disappeared. We will probably end up with a winner on the first ballot. With the current numbers, that is a lot easier for Biden than it will be for Sanders.

If you consider not just the pure mathematics of the current position described above, but also the current polling, the picture gets even more dire for Sanders.

So as returns come in from the March 10th contests, ignore who wins what states, and look at the total delegate numbers. Does either Biden or Sanders meet the marks listed above? Do both "% of remaining needed" lines continue to go up? Or does one swing down? If one goes up, does it go up high enough that a comeback is ridiculously unlikely?

We will do a blog post here once the election night results have stabilized. If you want hourly updates of the delegate counts, follow @ElecCollPolls on Twitter as well.

We'll know in just a few hours if Biden has wrapped this thing up, or if Sanders manages to keep the contest going.

125.4 days until the Democratic National Convention.

167.4 days until the Republican National Convention.

Update 2020-03-11 00:31 UTC – Of course, me posting about it does not stop the vote counting. Since the above, Bloomberg loses 8 more delegates. Of those 5 go to Biden, 2 go to Warren, and 1 goes to Sanders. Biden now needs 52.14% (184 of tonight's 352 delegates) to be on pace for a majority. Sanders now needs 55.40% (196 of tonight's 352 delegates) to be on pace for a majority.

For more information:

This post is an update based on the data on the Election Graphs 2020 Delegate Race page. Election Graphs tracks estimates of the convention delegate totals for both parties. The charts, graphs, and maps in the post above are all as of the time of this post. Click through on any image for the current interactive versions of that chart, along with additional details.

Follow @ElectionGraphs on Twitter or Election Graphs on Facebook to see announcements of new blog posts. For those interested in more granular updates of delegate updates or general election polling, follow @ElecCollPolls on Twitter. If you find the information in these posts informative or useful, please consider visiting the donation page.

The Field Is Winnowed

Since the last general election update on February 29th, there have been new state-level polls in Texas (x3), North Carolina (x3), Colorado, Florida, California (x2), Virginia, Georgia, Mississippi, Maine, Arizona, Utah, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Although, as always, not all the polls individually go the same direction, in aggregate, this was a very good set of polling for the Democrats. Or to be more precise, the new results tended to be better for the Democrats than the older polls they displaced from the Election Graphs averages.

In this time frame, quite a few Democrats dropped out as well.

I would typically just go ahead and remove them from the charts and graphs I present here and leave us showing only Biden and Sanders. But some notable things happened in this last batch of polls for some of the others. So I will include them one last time.

In the next update, they will be gone.

But for now, here we go. This time lets start with the old fashioned chart of just how we would end up if every candidate won every state where they lead the Election Graphs averages:

Dem 29 Feb 9 Mar 𝚫
Biden +178 +124 -54
Sanders +66 +124 +58
Bloomberg +58 +88 +30
Buttigieg -40 TIE +40
Warren -8 -8 Flat

First of all, Biden moved from just barely winning Georgia (16 EV) and Arizona (11 EV) to losing them, while Sanders went from just barely losing Florida (29 EV) to winning it.

With these changes, Biden and Sanders end up winning the same states and end up with the same 124 electoral vote margin over Trump.

Either way, the Democrat gets 331 electoral votes, and Trump gets 207.

Now, their margins in the close states are different, which will impact all of the other metrics we track here at Election Graphs, including the odds of winning. Every other metric still shows Biden in a stronger position than Sanders.

Nevertheless, it is striking that in terms of who leads states, you have the two leading Democrats with identical maps. At least for the moment.

Now, I could have left out the other candidates and still noted the above.

But there was also a comeback for Buttigieg in the weeks before he dropped out of the race.

On February 21st, the "Expected Case" showed Buttigieg losing by 84 electoral votes.

On February 22nd, the average for Nevada (6 EV) flipped, and he was only down by 72 electoral votes.

On February 23rd, the average for Michigan (16 EV) flipped and he was only down by 40 electoral votes.

On March 7th, the average for Pennsylvania (20 EV) flipped and he was now TIED with Trump in the Electoral College.

That's right, an exact 269 to 269 tie in the Electoral College.

If that were to happen, the election would go to the House, voting by state delegations, and Trump would almost certainly win.

But still, that was a big movement in this metric in a short time, resulting in the all so exciting and rarely seen tie scenario.

This showed him performing better than Warren against Trump as well.

But Buttigieg and Warren are both out now, so that doesn't matter anymore. Bloomberg's improvement doesn't either.

Now the tipping point metric:

Dem 29 Feb 9 Mar 𝚫
Biden +2.6% +2.8% +0.2%
Bloomberg +0.7% +2.4% +1.7%
Sanders +0.8% +1.5% +0.7%
Warren -0.5% -0.5% Flat
Buttigieg -2.1% -1.4% +0.7%

The tipping point is how much polls have to move uniformly to flip the outcome. In other words, you can look at it as a measure of how easy it would be to change the outcome.

By this measure, every Democrat except Warren improved.

Despite being at a tie, to actually WIN Buttigieg would still need polls to move another 1.4%.

But as I have pointed out before, the main thing to note with the tipping point is that all of these numbers are small. The largest is Biden at 2.8%, and that is TINY. Polls can move 3% or even 5% in a week or two easily. They can also have systematic errors that cause them off by that much.

The shift from Buttigieg losing by substantial margins to rally back to a tie in a matter of weeks is a perfect example of this, and another reason to note these other candidates one last time.

The structure of the Electoral College means small changes in the polls can result in a massive change to the Electoral College margin.

The small tipping point is the warning flag that whatever the Electoral College margins look like, either in the simplistic categorization model or in the probabilistic model we'll look at shortly, that it is still a close race, and things could change very very quickly.

Now the median margins in the probabilistic simulation:

Dem 29 Feb 9 Mar 𝚫
Biden +100 +116 +16
Sanders +50 +66 +16
Bloomberg +8 +50 +42
Buttigieg -40 TIE +40
Warren -10 -18 -8

In this view, all of the Democrats except Warren improve. In addition to the Buttigieg surge, there was a Bloomberg surge here too. But both Biden and Sanders improve nicely as well.

Notably, since the median case and the earlier expected case usually don't match, Buttigieg still ends up in a tie in this view too.

I guess that is a fine way for him to close things out.

Finally, let's look at the odds:

Dem 29 Feb 9 Mar 𝚫
Biden 97.7% 98.3% +0.6%
Sanders 82.0% 87.9% +5.9%
Bloomberg 54.1% 83.6% +29.5%
Buttigieg 15.9% 46.2% +30.3%
Warren 40.9% 34.4% -6.6%

Again, both Buttigieg and Bloomberg made huge gains.

Sanders and Biden gained too, but the higher up you are, the harder it is to make further gains.

And Warren slipped a bit further, ending out her run at only about a one-in-three shot at beating Trump.

That would have required winning the nomination though.

But Bloomberg, Buttigieg, and Warren have all dropped out of the presidential race.

So now there are two.

239.7 days until polls start to close.

For more information:

This post is an update based on the data on the Election Graphs Electoral College 2020 page. Election Graphs tracks a poll-based estimate of the Electoral College. The charts, graphs, and maps in the post above are all as of the time of this post. Click through on any image for current interactive versions of the chart, along with additional details.

Follow @ElectionGraphs on Twitter or Election Graphs on Facebook to see announcements of updates. For those interested in individual poll updates, follow @ElecCollPolls on Twitter for all the polls as I add them. If you find the information in these posts informative or useful, please consider visiting the donation page.

Coming Up Biden

The delegate counts will continue to shift for days, perhaps weeks, as counts are finalized, especially in California, which is notorious for how slow it is at counting the vote, but as of the morning after Super Tuesday, we have a good idea of how Super Tuesday went.

There were 1357 delegates on my list for Super Tuesday. We have results for all of that except the 13 for Democrats Abroad, for which I guess we will have to wait a little while longer. Of the 1344 other delegates, the distribution as of right now is:

  • Biden 613
  • Sanders 521
  • Bloomberg 140
  • Warren 68
  • Gabbard 2

If there are minor changes to these totals as vote counting continues, I'll add updates to the bottom of this post on a daily basis. If there are changes that are big enough to change the overall picture, I'll make a new post.

In the meantime, forget what states the various delegates come from. That doesn't really matter. Only the delegate totals matter.

Obviously the big news is Biden.

Even though Biden was surging out of South Carolina, the expectation was still that Sanders would get the most delegates out of Super Tuesday, and quite probably amass a significant lead over Biden in the total delegate count.

Nope. It didn't happen.

Instead, Biden had a huge night.

Looking back at my post-South Carolina post, I had done some math and pointed at a milestone to watch for in terms of the Sanders delegate haul. That number was 686 Super Tuesday delegates. Correcting for not having Democrats Abroad, that shifts to 679 delegates.

I had laid out possibilities for where things looked to be headed if the Sanders total was way above, near, or way below that number.

Sanders fell significantly below that number.

Which pointed toward this possibility being in play:

"All lines heading upward: By gosh, a contested convention may be a real possibility!"

So are all lines heading upward?

So that would be a yes. While Sanders came nowhere near the 676 delegates he needed to be on track for 1991 delegates, Biden would have needed 681, and although Biden came closer, he didn't hit that milestone either.

No candidate has been on pace yet to get to 1991.

But does that mean we will have no candidate with a majority by the end of the primary season?

No. Not at all.

Time to look back at my post-Nevada update where I looked at the 2008 to 2016 races as a comparison.

We're only at the 37.67% mark in this race.

Looking at when the winner's lines started making the big turn down toward a clear victory in previous years:

  • 0% for the Democrats in 2016
  • 5% for the Republicans in 2008
  • 43% for the Republicans in 2012
  • 50% for the Democrats in 2008
  • 67% for the Republicans in 2016

Sure, we are past the turning point for the Dems in 2016 and Republicans in 2008, but those were the two races where things were clear the soonest.

But when the turn happened is not the only thing to look at here. The other is what the maximum "% of remaining needed to win" each winning candidate hit.

Right now Biden needs 53.39% of the remaining delegates to win. How does this compare to the worst situation each winning candidate was in before actually managing to win?

  • 50.02% – Clinton's worst spot in 2016
  • 50.29% – Romney's worst spot in 2012
  • 51.84% – McCain's worst spot in 2008
  • 53.02% – Obama's worst spot in 2008
  • 57.41% – Trump's worst spot in 2016

At the closest equivalent time in the cycle to where we are now (when the 2016 Republicans had allocated 36.45% of their delegates), Trump needed 53.85% of the remaining delegates to win.

That was worse off than Biden is today. But he ended up with a majority of the delegates. We did not have a battle at the 2016 Republican convention.

What happened? Let's look at the chart for the 2016 Republicans again:

At this point in 2016, Trump was at 53.85%. His closest competition was Cruz, who was at 59.39%.

Cruz stayed in the race for quite a bit past this point. He kept competing. He kept collecting delegates.

Those Cruz delegates, as well as the delegates from some of the others, managed to keep Trump from consistently hitting the delegate pace he needed. But sometimes he did, so he basically managed to keep his line flat. The Trump line never was rushing rapidly up toward 100%.

But meanwhile, Cruz (and the others) only hit the needed pace on a couple of isolated occasions. For the most part, every time there were delegates allocated, they fell further and further behind Trump.

Eventually, once it became clear that there was no way to win, one by one all the other Republicans dropped out. The last hold outs were Cruz and Kasich.

But it just wasn't feasible for them to continue on with no chance of a majority, only an increasingly desperate "stop Trump" narrative in the face of Trump winning victory after victory.

Now, a quick look at 2020 on the same scale:

The one thing that is immediately obvious is that Sanders is closer to Biden than Cruz was to Trump.

In 2016 Trump was at 53.85% while Cruz was at 59.39% for a 5.54% gap.

Right now Biden is at 53.39% while Sanders is at 56.85% for a 3.46% gap.

This means that the path for Sanders to actually hit marks to catch up isn't quite as bad as it was for Cruz in 2016.

But 56.85% is still a pretty high mark to need to hit.

To get to a contested convention scenario, you need BOTH Biden and Sanders to miss their delegate targets more often than they hit them.

And it would certainly help if someone else continues to accumulate at least a few delegates as well, even though they clearly can't win.

But as of the writing of this post, Buttigieg and Klobuchar were already out, news has just broken that Bloomberg is dropping out, and Warren is considering her options. Absent a massive surge for Warren or Gabbard, it looks like we now have a true two-person race. Which makes it harder to get to a contested convention.

Although it is still possible that we get there, now that we only have two serious candidates, the scenario where the leader (currently Biden) just builds on their momentum and starts getting what they need for a majority seems more and more likely.

The next primary date is March 10th when Michigan (125 delegates), Washington (89 delegates), Missouri (68 delegates), Mississippi (36 delegates), Idaho (20 delegates), and North Dakota (14 delegates) have their say. That adds up to 352 delegates.

To be on track for 1991:

  • Biden needs at least 188 of the 352 delegates
  • Sanders needs at least 201 of the 352 delegates

These are difficult numbers, but not impossible numbers. Especially now that we only have two serious candidates left.

If one of them hits their number, we may well be on the path for an actual direct winner.

If both of them fail to hit those marks, then the chances of a contested convention stay alive a little while longer.

Basically, assuming no additional delegate accumulation by anybody else, the gap between the top two has to remain less than the total number of delegates held by the also-rans. If they both keep winning states, and those victories are pretty narrow, then that is still possible.

But honestly, it seems like as usual, the chances of a contested convention are slipping away… and it looks like things are coming up Biden.

131.1 days until the Democratic National Convention.

173.1 days until the Republican National Convention.

Update 2020-03-05 01:01 UTC: The votes continue to be counted, and so the delegate estimates change. I'll be updating here no more than once a day. Since the post above was written, Bloomberg has lost 27 delegates. 16 of those went to Sanders, 9 to Biden, 1 to Warren, and one to Buttigieg. This makes the totals for Super Tuesday: Biden 622, Sanders 537, Bloomberg 113, Warren 69, Gabbard 2, Buttigieg 1. And the overall totals: Biden 676, Sanders 597, Bloomberg 113, Warren 77, Buttigieg 27, Klobuchar 7, Gabbard 2. This makes Biden's new magic number 53.02% (187 delegates on March 10th), and Sanders's number 56.21% (198 delegates on March 10th).

Update 2020-03-06 01:18 UTC: Bloomberg continues to bleed delegates as vote counting continues. Since yesterday's update, Bloomberg lost 35 more delegates. 19 went to Sanders, 11 went to Biden, and 5 went to Warren. New Super Tuesday totals: Biden 633, Sanders 556, Bloomberg 78, Warren 74, Gabbard 2, Buttigieg 1. And the overall totals: Biden 687, Sanders 616, Warren 82, Bloomberg 78, Buttigieg 27, Klobuchar 7, Gabbard 2. So Biden's new magic number is 52.58% (186 delegates on March 10th). Sanders's number is now 55.44% (196 delegates on March 10th).

Update 2020-03-07 01:24 UTC: In today's update Warren loses 10 delegates and Sanders loses 3. They go 12 to Biden, 1 to Bloomberg. New Super Tuesday totals: Biden 645, Sanders 553, Bloomberg 79, Warren 64, Gabbard 2, Buttigieg 1. New overall totals: Biden 699, Sanders 613, Bloomberg 79, Warren 72, Buttigieg 27, Klobuchar 7, Gabbard 2. Biden's new magic number is 52.10% (184 delegates on March 10th). Sanders's new magic number is 55.56% (196 delegates on March 10th).

Update 2020-03-08 01:57 UTC: Today Warren gains back 12 delegates, taking 6 from Biden, 5 from Sanders, and 1 from Buttigieg. New Super Tuesday totals: Biden 639, Sanders 553, Warren 76, Bloomberg 74, Gabbard 2. New overall totals: Biden 683, Sanders 613, Warren 84, Bloomberg 74, Buttigieg 26, Klobuchar 7, Gabbard 2. So Biden's new magic number is 52.34% (185 delegates on March 10th). Sanders's magic number remains 55.56% (196 delegates on March 10th).

Update 2020-03-09 01:48 UTC: Today Bloomberg loses 3 delegates. 2 go to Sanders, 1 goes to Warren. New Super Tuesday totals: Biden 639, Sanders 555, Warren 77, Bloomberg 71, Gabbard 2. New overall totals: Biden 693, Sanders 615, Warren 85, Bloomberg 71, Buttigieg 26, Klobuchar 7, Gabbard 2. So Biden's magic number is still 52.34% (185 delegates on March 10th). Sanders's magic number is now 55.48% (196 delegates on March 10th).

Update 2020-03-10 01:35 UTC: Today Bloomberg gives 1 delegate to Sanders. That's it. New Super Tuesday totals: Biden 639, Sanders 556, Warren 77, Bloomberg 70, Gabbard 2. New overall totals: Biden 693, Sanders 616, Warren 85, Bloomberg 70, Buttigieg 26, Klobuchar 7, Gabbard 2. Biden's magic number is still 52.34% (185 delegates on March 10th). Sanders's number is now 55.44% (196 delegates on March 10th).

For more information:

This post is an update based on the data on the Election Graphs 2020 Delegate Race page. Election Graphs tracks estimates of the convention delegate totals for both parties. The charts, graphs, and maps in the post above are all as of the time of this post. Click through on any image for the current interactive versions of that chart, along with additional details.

Follow @ElectionGraphs on Twitter or Election Graphs on Facebook to see announcements of new blog posts. For those interested in more granular updates of delegate updates or general election polling, follow @ElecCollPolls on Twitter. If you find the information in these posts informative or useful, please consider visiting the donation page.

Biden's South Carolina Boom

Welp, results came in pretty quickly for South Carolina. It was clear from the moment that polls closed that Biden had won, and pretty substantially so. The exact delegate totals took longer but settled in a few hours.

Note 2020-03-01 19:38 UTC: Or maybe it wasn't fully settled after all. See the updates at the end of this post.

South Carolina broke down like this:

  • Biden 39 (72.2%)
  • Sanders 15 (27.8%)

Given where we were before South Carolina, Biden only needed 50.95% of today's delegates, that would be 28 delegates, to improve his "% of remaining delegates needed to win" number. He did that easily, and the chart reflects that:

Biden's line curves down, meaning that at least in this contest, he collected delegates at the pace he needed to be on track to get the 1,991 delegates required to win the nomination.

Everybody else's position got a bit worse.

But to be clear, Sanders is still in the best position coming out of South Carolina. He now needs 50.50% of the remaining delegates to win, where Biden needs 50.65%.

Those numbers are still very close to each other. And even candidates with no delegates at all yet, like Bloomberg, only need 52.07%.

From a purely mathematical point of view, the race is still completely wide open. But we do not have a clean slate. We know how candidates are doing in the polls, so have some idea what is coming.

In just three days, we have Super Tuesday, when the results will allocate 1,357 delegates. Right now, Sanders leads in polling averages in many of those states, including some of the biggest ones. Biden leads in a few states as well. Klobuchar even leads in her home state. And Bloomberg is right up there in quite a few as well.

If there is a big enough "Biden bump" coming out of South Carolina, that picture may change. There may not be enough time for polling to measure such a thing if it does indeed happen. So we think we know where things stand from a polling point of view, but there is room for surprise.

Absent that sort of surprise though, nobody seems to expect a big enough Biden bump that Biden could win a majority of delegates on Super Tuesday. So the main question seems to be if all the non-Sanders candidates do well enough to put us on a path where a contested convention is a live possibility? Or will we be on a road where one of them is close enough that catching up is still a live possibility? Or is Sanders going to run away with this thing?

Well, let's quantify that.

As we said earlier, Sanders needs 50.50% of the delegates to be on a path to an outright win. With 1,357 delegates at stake, that means he needs to win at least 686 delegates for the day. As you start seeing delegate estimates come in, that is the magic number to watch.

You will also want to observe how the other candidates are doing. For a contested convention scenario to be realistic, at least three candidates must be collecting substantial numbers of delegates, and be able to continue to compete even once it is clear they won't reach a majority. Otherwise, it may take a while, but you will eventually end up with an outright winner.

I won't repeat all of the comparisons with previous cycles from the last post. Still, the key thing we'll want to try to distinguish after Super Tuesday using our "% of remaining delegates needed to win" graph is which of several paths we are on:

  1. All lines heading upward: By gosh, a contested convention may be a real possibility!
  2. Two mostly flat lines: We're looking at a real two-person race, but one of the candidates is likely to win eventually.
  3. One flat line: This person will likely end up winning, but enough others are still collecting delegates to make it difficult for them.
  4. One line diving downward: The person heading down is on a path to an outright victory.

Now, it may be possible that even after Super Tuesday, it isn't 100% clear which of these is happening. But we should have an idea.

If Sanders is right near 686 for the day (or 746 delegates total), we might be on paths 2 or 3.

If Sanders blows away 686 and is just raking in the delegates, it will be looking like path 4.

If Sanders is way below 686 (and nobody else unexpectedly gets more delegates than he does), then we are on path 1, the outcome that all election geeks root for every four years, but never happens.

There are 14 states, American Samoa, and the Democrats Abroad voting on Super Tuesday. But 30.4% of the delegates will be coming from California. And another 16.8% from Texas. Add in another 8.1% from North Carolina, and you've already accounted for 55.3% of the Super Tuesday results.

So those states will matter a LOT. And how the second-tier candidates navigate around the 15% thresholds in all of the contests will also be critical.

Right now, in California, Sanders and Warren are the only candidates over 15% in the RCP Average, and Warren is just barely over. If that holds, Sanders might end up taking a massive supermajority of the California delegates. That alone might be enough to ensure that he hits 686 if he even does respectfully in the other states.

In Texas, RCP shows Sanders, Biden, and Bloomberg all over the 15% threshold. Sanders is in the lead, but with the current distribution, all three might get decent numbers of delegates.

In North Carolina, RCP has the same three candidates over 15%, with Biden in the lead, but the other two close behind. This contest is also a state where a relatively even three-way split is possible.

I won't go further down the list. The bottom line is that current polling gives a significant chance that Sanders will rack up a big delegate lead on Super Tuesday.

Unless the Biden bump from South Carolina ends up being huge and upends everything, the question is just how big an advantage Sanders gets, and what that means to the rest of the primary season.

So we'll be watching all those "% of remaining needed to win" lines, and we will see what things look like in a few days.

It will be an exciting evening.

You may even want to tune in to the hourly delegate estimate updates we'll be tweeting over on @ElecCollPolls rather than waiting for the blog post(s) here that we'll post once it looks like the results have stabilized.

2.7 days until the polls close on Super Tuesday.

134.4 days until the Democratic National Convention.

176.4 days until the Republican National Convention.

Update 2020-03-01 16:34 UTC: This post was written when 99%+ of precincts were reporting, and three hours had gone by with no changes to the delegate estimates, but those last few votes did indeed make a difference. Biden took back one delegate from Sanders, making the South Carolina total Biden 40, Sanders 14. This shifts the national numbers to Sanders 59, Biden 55, Buttigieg 26, Warren 8, Klobuchar 7. This changes Sanders' "% of remaining needed to win" to 50.52%. That's still 686 delegates for his target level on Super Tuesday though.

Update 2020-03-01 19:34 UTC: And… it looks like there are still some vote total adjustments happening. Sanders took back two delegates from Biden. This makes the South Carolina total Biden 38, Sanders 16. Which makes the national numbers Sanders 61, Biden 53, Buttigieg 26, Warren 8, Klobuchar 7. So the "% of remaining needed to win" is 50.47%, and the number of delegates Sanders needs on Super Tuesday is down to 685.

Update 2020-03-01 20:33 UTC: Clearly I have to wait longer before making my summary post. I keep thinking we are done. But no. One delegate moves from Sanders back to Biden. So the new South Carolina totals are Biden 39, Sanders 15. Which puts everything back to where it was when I originally wrote this post.

For more information:

This post is an update based on the data on the Election Graphs 2020 Delegate Race page. Election Graphs tracks estimates of the convention delegate totals for both parties. The charts, graphs, and maps in the post above are all as of the time of this post. Click through on any image for the current interactive versions of that chart, along with additional details.

Follow @ElectionGraphs on Twitter or Election Graphs on Facebook to see announcements of new blog posts. For those interested in more granular updates of delegate updates or general election polling, follow @ElecCollPolls on Twitter. If you find the information in these posts informative or useful, please consider visiting the donation page.

 

Some Dems Up, Some Dems Down

It has only been eight days since the last update. Still, there have been new polls in Nevada, Michigan, Pennsylvania (x2), Wisconsin (x2), Virginia, New York, Missouri (x2), Maryland, Montana, New Hampshire, Arkansas, California (x2), Texas (x2), and South Carolina.

So we might as well get in another update before South Carolina primary results start coming in, and Super Tuesday results three days later.

There are lots of reasons not to pay attention to current head-to-head polls against Trump when making decisions about primary choices. Most pointedly, things change and change quickly, so where things are at the end of February do not necessarily correspond to where they will be at the beginning of November. And of course, things like policy and character should also play a role.

But for those for whom "How might the general election go?" is an important decision making factor, here is the latest from Election Graphs, based on state poll averages.

Let's start with the "odds of winning the electoral college" based on the state level head-to-head poll averages, and a Monte Carlo model using the historical accuracy of the final Election Graphs poll averages to determine how far off the polls tend to be. Keep in mind this is "if the election was today." Which it is not.

Dem 21 Feb 29 Feb 𝚫
Biden 98.4% 97.7% -0.7%
Sanders 77.9% 82.0% +4.1%
Bloomberg 59.9% 54.1% -5.8%
Warren 38.3% 40.9% +2.6%
Buttigieg 9.3% 15.9% +6.6%

The last week of polling has improved Sanders, Warren, and Buttigieg's prospects against Trump.

Meanwhile, Biden and Bloomberg have both slipped.

The order has not changed, though.

  • Biden still is the strongest against Trump by far.
  • Sanders is more of a gamble but still significantly favored.
  • Bloomberg is a little better than a coin toss, but not much.
  • Warren is a bit worse than a coin toss but still has a decent chance.
  • Buttigieg would be a long shot. About the same as Trump in 2016.

Now would be a good time to talk a little about a Twitter thread by Johnathan Mummolo, a political scientist at Princeton. The thread summarizes a paper by Westwood, Messing, and Lelkes titled "Projecting Confidence: How the probabilistic horserace confused and demobilizes the public."

The bottom line is that the vast majority of people do not understand probabilities.

I have repeatedly ranted both here and on my Curmudgeon's Corner podcast ever since the 2016 election about people looking at a 14% chance of Trump winning (the median odds from all the sites I could find that gave odds) and acting as if it was 0%. That 14% is approximately the same as rolling a one on a six-sided die. And while people might be disappointed in that result if they wanted a six, nobody would be surprised by getting a one. Ones happen all the time.

This paper gets at a different but related problem. When looking at a probability of a candidate winning, vs. an equivalent percentage margin in the polls, people looking at the margins will interpret the situation as being a closer race and be more likely to vote than the people looking at probabilities even though the underlying truth is precisely the same.

Here at Election Graphs, we used the historical performance of the final, right before election day, Election Graph poll averages for every state vs. actual election results in 2008, 2012, and 2016 to estimate given a particular margin, how often would each party win? The detailed methodology is in this post from January 2019.

This analysis gives us numbers like if a Democrat is leading a state by 3.0% entering election day, they have a 73.8% chance of winning the state.

But it seems if people see 73.8%, they think it is a sure thing, so why should they bother voting? Whereas if they see a 3.0% lead, they believe it is a close race, and maybe they should vote.

Of course, 73.8% is not a sure thing at all! There is more than a one in four chance things will go the other way!

But human psychology and probabilistic innumeracy win the day!

The thread and paper also mention that at the moment, Democrats are more likely to frequent sites (like this one!) that give probabilistic forecasts. So presenting this sort of information ends up serving as a form of voter suppression for Democrats (if the Democrat is in the lead anyway).

I'll also note that when looking at a national election based on the Electoral College instead, people are going to be confused too. A significant Electoral College margin can rely on a small number of states being just barely on one side of the line or the other. A lead there can disappear in a flash with a slight movement in those states.

But of course, looking at the popular vote isn't a solution either, since as both 2000 and 2016 illustrated nicely, we don't pick presidents by the popular vote.

Here at Election Graphs, we are going to continue to present the probabilistic views anyway, of course. But if you are paying attention to them, you do need to understand what they mean, as well as pay attention to the various caveats about how quickly things change that I repeat endlessly. It is important.

But to get a full view of what is going on, we also present the national picture in three other ways regularly in the blog, and there are even more available on the blog. We let you dig into what is happening in all of the states and see all the individual polls too if you want to get granular.

This stuff is complicated. Dig in. Understand the details.

Anyway, we now turn to the median of the Electoral College margin simulations. Roughly speaking half the time, the Democrat will do better than this, and half the time, they will do worse than this. Maybe that is a little less confusing than the probability of winning?

Dem 21 Feb 29 Feb 𝚫
Biden +104 +100 -4
Sanders +42 +50 +8
Bloomberg +14 +8 -6
Warren -14 -10 +4
Buttigieg -54 -40 +14

The changes here parallel the odds, of course. But does presenting it at a margin make you FEEL differently about the results? Maybe.

Also, of course, the median margin in the model does not alone tell you how about the distributions, and how easily it would be for things to change. That is what the probability helps to understand. Two candidates might show the same median margin, but be in very different situations depending on the margins in the individual states.

Simplifying this even further to look at the margins if each candidate wins exactly the states they lead, you get this:

Dem 21 Feb 29 Feb 𝚫
Biden +198 +178 -20
Sanders +66 +66 Flat
Bloomberg +52 +58 +6
Warren -20 -8 +12
Buttigieg -84 -40 +44

Interestingly, in this view, Bloomberg improves, even though his odds of winning and his median margin got worse. This divergence is because Bloomberg improved his margin by 6 EV by taking the lead in Virginia (13 EV) and losing the edge in Wisconsin (10 EV). But meanwhile, he weakened in other states enough to lower his overall chance of winning, even though the straight-up list of places he is ahead improved.

Finally, the tipping point, representing how much of a national shift in polls would change the outcome:

Dem 21 Feb 29 Feb 𝚫
Biden +2.8% +2.6% -0.2%
Sanders +0.5% +0.8% +0.3%
Bloomberg +0.7% +0.7% Flat
Warren -0.5% -0.5% Flat
Buttigieg -2.9% -2.1% +0.8%

If I could only keep two of these charts, it would be the probability of winning and the tipping point. The likelihood of winning tells you what might happen if the election was today. But the tipping point tells you how easy it is for those probabilities to change.

There is not a single one of these five candidate combinations that are further than 3% from the centerline. That means that if there is a systematic bias of 3% in the polls toward the other side, the outcome will change. Similarly, any news event that can move the margins by 3% can change the results.

To kill a 3% margin, only 1.5% of the public needs to change their minds. People deciding to stay home and not vote can also eliminate a 3% margin in an instant.

So yes, the odds here show that if a Biden vs. Trump election were today, Biden would have a 97.7% chance of winning. But a tipping point of only 2.6% tells you that Biden's entire advantage could disappear virtually overnight with the right bit of negative news hitting the headlines, or with a pretty slight polling error in the critical states.

Which brings us back to the importance of correctly interpreting the numbers we share here on Election Graphs.

There is a big difference between "would probably win if the election was today" and "will probably win in November."

And even if the election was tomorrow, 97.7% is not the same as 100%. And 82.0% is certainly not the same as 100%.

No matter which candidate pair you look at, this is still a close and highly contested election.

The results of the South Carolina primary start coming in just a few hours.

248.2 days until polls start to close on the general election.

We have a long way to go.

For more information:

This post is an update based on the data on the Election Graphs Electoral College 2020 page. Election Graphs tracks a poll-based estimate of the Electoral College. The charts, graphs, and maps in the post above are all as of the time of this post. Click through on any image for current interactive versions of the chart, along with additional details.

Follow @ElectionGraphs on Twitter or Election Graphs on Facebook to see announcements of updates. For those interested in individual poll updates, follow @ElecCollPolls on Twitter for all the polls as I add them. If you find the information in these posts informative or useful, please consider visiting the donation page.

The Post-Nevada Sanders Lead

It took a couple of days, but as of Monday afternoon, the Nevada results were final. It was clear from the moment returns started coming in that Sanders was going to win handily, but the extent of that lead in terms of the delegate estimate moved around a bit as the returns slowly came in.

During this time, the estimated number of Sanders delegates in Nevada ranged from 22 to 28, Biden ranged from 7 to 11, Buttigieg ranged from 0 to 6, and Warren ranged from 0 to 1. But once we knew the final count, these were the results from Nevada:

  • Sanders 24
  • Biden 9
  • Buttigieg 3

Sanders needed to get 19 or more of the Nevada delegates to improve his overall position in terms of the % of remaining delegates needed to win. He did that handily. The updated chart of that metric looks like this:

Remember, for this chart down is positive and up is negative. When you get down to 0%, you clinch the nomination. If a candidate goes up to 100%, they become mathematically eliminated.

Sanders has made a turn downward. He is not only in the lead, but Nevada put him on a winning pace.

Now, the general talk is about how absent a significant change, Sanders may be in an uncatchable position after Super Tuesday. That isn't based simply on today's delegate totals, but also on his polling in South Carolina, the Super Tuesday states, and nationwide, and a bit of knowledge of how a small popular vote lead translates into a massive delegate lead.

For instance, in Nevada, Sanders got about 33% of the popular vote, but that translated into 67% of the delegates. This kind of magnification for the winner is intentional in the delegate allocation rules. The 15% delegate threshold in one cause. The fact that the results in individual congressional districts determine many of the delegates is another.

Rather than look at the prognostications of how future states might go, instead, let's look at how you would expect the % of remaining delegates needed to win chart to change as this progresses. That will help us know how we will identify if it seems like Sanders is on track to a clear win, if we are heading towards a contested convention, or if someone else still has a chance to win.

To illustrate, we'll look at some graphs from previous cycles to compare to where things are now.

Let's look at the contested races in both parties since 2008 when we did the first Election Graphs delegate tracking. We'll look at them in order of how quickly the nominee was pretty clear in each contest.

Which means we will start with the Democrats in 2016:

This chart shows what it looks like when we have a runaway victory that is clear from the beginning.

Sorry, Sanders folks. 2020 is going differently, but in 2016, because of the courting of superdelegates long before Iowa even happened, Clinton built up a delegate lead starting from the very beginning.

From the 0% starting line, Clinton improved her position with every contest, and Sanders's situation got worse. The only exception was a slight bump around the 58% mark when Sanders had one outstanding day. But the overall trend was clear from the very beginning. Clinton was on the road to an outright victory, and Sanders never managed to slow that progress.

Next up, the Republicans in 2008:

It took slightly longer for this one to become apparent. Romney took an early lead, but his line stayed flat, hovering around the 50% line. McCain was heading upward along with the also-rans. But at about the 5% mark, McCain started hitting his mark and improving his position with every contest. He pulled ahead of Romney at about the 10% mark, then when Super Tuesday jumped the race over 40% every other candidate was at the point where they needed 60%+ of the remaining delegates to catch up and win. That was, of course, unrealistic. Except for one short jog just past the 50% mark, McCain kept improving his position in every race.

Unlike Clinton in 2016, McCain had some issues before Super Tuesday but hit his pace quickly, and Super Tuesday made things inevitable.

Next up, Republicans in 2012:

This chart shows an example of a slower burn. Romney was in the lead from the very beginning, but his "% of remaining delegates needed to win" basically stayed flat right around the 50% mark for a long time.

This pattern means that he was accumulating delegates much faster than anybody else, and it was clear the other candidates were not going to win outright. But the other candidates were continuing to take enough delegates to keep a contested convention an active possibility for awhile.

That changed around the 43% mark though. Winner-take-all states on the Republican side undoubtedly helped with this. But also once it is clear that candidates can't win, it becomes tough for them to actively continue a campaign based on the idea of forcing a contested convention where maybe they will be picked, but probably not. So one by one, the other candidates drop out, and then the candidate in the lead starts rolling up the remaining delegates.

So this race had a clear leader way ahead of the rest virtually from the 0% mark, but Romney didn't start hitting a winning pace consistently until 43%.

Now Democrats in 2008:

This graph shows a real two-person race. Both Obama and Clinton maintained flat lines for a long long time. Clinton was even improving a little. But not very much. Obama was getting enough delegates to keep her from hitting the marks she needed to improve the "% of remaining delegates needed to win" number significantly.

Clinton still had the advantage for more than the first half of the campaign delegate wise. Around the 50% mark, though, Obama started consistently hitting the percentages needed to improve his position while Clinton fell further and further behind. For a long time, though, the situation was dynamic. Clinton didn't get mathematically eliminated until around the 96% mark!

Finally, the Republicans in 2016:

This graph shows the closest we have gotten to a contested convention since I started tracking delegates in 2008. The other Republican candidates kept Trump over 50% of delegates needed until more than 70% of the delegates were allocated; around the same time, Cruz became mathematically eliminated. Although there were a couple of ups and downs along the way, Trump didn't start consistently improving his numbers until about the 67% mark. Until then, while Trump was way ahead, the possibility of a contested convention was kept open. But just like 2012, once it was clear that other candidates did not have a realistic path, and they started to drop away, the leader was able to take all or almost all of the remaining delegates, and wrap things up.

This year after South Carolina, we will be at 3.9% of the delegates allocated.

After Super Tuesday, we will be at 38.0%.

We'll hit 50% on March 17th  after Arizona, Florida, Illinois, and Ohio.

We'll hit 67% on April 4th  after Alaska, Hawaii, Louisiana, and Wyoming.

As we pass each of these milestones, the question is, does 2020 look like one of these past patterns? Or something else entirely?

If Sanders (or any other candidate) is under 50% of remaining delegates needed, and the number goes down after each contest, then we are on track for that candidate running away to an outright win with no significant obstacles to that result. (This is like the Democrats in 2016, or the Republicans in 2008.)

If all of the candidates except one are racing up to 100%, but the leader is kept flat around 50%, it means that while one candidate has a chance of winning outright, the other candidates are combining at a level that keeps the possibility of a contested convention open. The tendency in this situation is that once all the opposing candidates are mathematically eliminated, they will drop out, and the leader will be able to at that point hit the marks they need to get to a majority. (This is like the Republicans in 2012 or 2016.)

If two candidates are managing to keep their lines relatively flat, you have a two-person race, with both really still in contention. Until the point where one person's line goes up consistently, and the other person's line goes down, you have a real race. Unless the two candidates are closer together than the sum of the other candidates' delegate totals though, one of the two will end up winning. The only question is how close to the end you get before the winner becomes clear. (This is like the Democrats in 2008.)

So what pattern would we see if we are actually on a path to a contested convention?

If after each contest ALL the candidates' numbers for "% of remaining needed to win" go up, time after time, and every candidate is heading up toward 100%, and no candidate is curving down toward 0%, then we are actually on a path to a contested convention.

Be aware, though, until EVERY candidate has gone over 100%, someone can still win. If every candidate other than the leader drops out and stops collecting delegates, allowing the remaining candidate to claim 100% of the remaining delegates, that remaining candidate can still manage to get the delegates they need to win outright.

A contested convention scenario requires multiple candidates who know they are not on pace to get a delegate majority to keep running and accumulating delegates anyway.

That is a pretty tricky path to follow, especially for the candidates who rely on fundraising to keep going.

So far, Sanders is ahead, but it is hard to classify which of these patterns will hold. The situation is even more apparent if you rescale the 2020 Democratic chart to show the entire race:

We have just barely started. Current polling in South Carolina and the Super Tuesday states is driving the current predictions of how this race will turn out. If those polls are correct, then the projections of Sanders winning outright or having a contested convention where Sanders has a significant plurality are probably right.

But we don't know for sure quite yet.

So after South Carolina, and especially after Super Tuesday, come back here and see which ways these lines are all moving, and we'll know a lot better which kind of pattern 2020 is going to follow.

Depending on what we see, this thing may be mostly over, or we'll have indications it will go on awhile.

It will be a fun week. Keep watching Election Graphs!

138.6 days until the Democratic National Convention.

180.6 days until the Republican National Convention.

This post is an update based on the data on the Election Graphs 2020 Delegate Race page. Election Graphs tracks estimates of the convention delegate totals for both parties. The charts, graphs, and maps in the post above are all as of the time of this post. Click through on any image for the current interactive versions of that chart, along with additional details.

Follow @ElectionGraphs on Twitter or Election Graphs on Facebook to see announcements of new blog posts. For those interested in more granular updates of delegate updates or general election polling, follow @ElecCollPolls on Twitter. If you find the information in these posts informative or useful, please consider visiting the donation page.

Nevada Eve

Since the last update on February 11th, there have been new state-level general election polls in Alabama, Wisconsin (x2), Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Jersey, North Carolina, California (x2), Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Over on the delegate side, we currently have Buttigieg in the lead with 23 delegates, with Sanders just behind with 21, followed by Warren, Klobuchar, and Biden in single digits. But the Nevada caucuses are tomorrow, and that will all get shaken up again, and we will have a new set of narratives to run with.

In the meantime, let's look at how the various contenders are doing versus Trump with the latest polling updates.

Using the poll recency weighted by polling margin metric I use to determine which candidate pairs are the "best polled" with this update Bloomberg vs. Trump finally has better polling than O'Rourke vs. Trump, so even though that polling is still a bit more sparse than we would like we'll start including that matchup in these summaries. (This may be temporary, this only happened because at the moment the Bloomberg vs. Trump margin happens to round to zero in Wisconsin.)

Starting this time with the bottom line, the odds of winning in our probabilistic model:

Dem 11 Feb 21 Feb 𝚫
Biden 98.4% 98.4% Flat
Sanders 74.2% 77.9% +3.7%
Bloomberg —– 59.9% —–
Warren 42.5% 38.3% -4.2%
Buttigieg 11.4% 9.3% -2.1%

First of all, Bloomberg debuts doing better against Trump than Buttigieg and Warren, but not as well as Sanders or Biden. At 59.9% he is better than a coin toss, but not by a lot.

Now, caveats on Bloomberg. So far he has only been polled against Trump in 17 states, and for some reason, many of those states are ones like California or Utah, where we pretty much know who will win and the poll doesn't change the picture very much. In the close states, there still isn't even a single state where he has been polled five times, which means that we are still heavily reliant on past election results rather than 2020 polls to estimate where things are.

So maybe consider the Bloomberg numbers provisional.

Bloomberg has been spending hundreds of millions of dollars on advertising campaigns that for the most part have not been directed at the other Democrats, but instead have been attacking Trump. Bloomberg has been trying to make the case that he is better positioned to win against Trump than the other candidates in part due to his ability to do that. At this week's debate, he also specifically claimed that nominating Sanders would guarantee a Trump win.

The numbers so far just don't back that up.

Where there have been polls including Bloomberg, he generally performs in the middle of the pack against Trump. He isn't clearly doing better than the other Democrats.

Now, the others.

Sanders is the only Democrat who has improved their position over the last 10 days, moving from a 74.2% chance of winning to 77.9%.

Biden still does better than anybody else against Trump, down from his highs, but still at a very strong 98.4% with no significant change since last we looked.

Warren and Buttigieg continue to fade. Current polling shows both to be more likely to lose than to win, and the picture is getting worse with time.

OK, now the view that shows the median electoral vote result in the Monte Carlo simulations for each candidate pair. As always, keep in mind that the simulations actually show that a very large range of results is possible for each candidate, this is essentially just the line marking the middle, where half the time the Democrat does better, and half the time the Republican does better.

Dem 11 Feb 21 Feb 𝚫
Biden +106 +104 -2
Sanders +34 +42 +10
Bloomberg —– +14 —–
Warren -8 -14 -6
Buttigieg -52 -54 -2

With this view, you can see Biden also dropped a little bit, even though his odds of winning didn't change within the rounding limit.

That's it for the probabilistic model.

For those of you who prefer the older and simpler categorization model, where we just look at what would happen if each candidate won every state where they lead the averages, here you go:

Dem 11 Feb 21 Feb 𝚫
Biden +178 +198 +20
Sanders +26 +66 +40
Bloomberg —– +52 —–
Warren -20 -20 Flat
Buttigieg -84 -84 Flat

Interestingly, in this view Biden actually improves a bit. How can he improve here while getting worse or staying flat in the last two views?

Well, without digging up all the specific state by state details, it boils down to flipping from just barely losing to just barely winning in one state (Wisconsin) while getting a bit worse in a few other close states without the state actually crossing the centerline. In the probabilistic view, the declines in the other states slightly outweigh the change in Wisconsin. But in the categorization view, the change in Wisconsin is the only change that matters at all.

Finally, the tipping point, which is in the margin in the state that would put the winner over the top (if the results all matched the polling averages and you sorted the states by the margins). Basically, this shows you how much polling would have to shift across the board in all states to change the winner.

Dem 11 Feb 21 Feb 𝚫
Biden +3.0% +2.8% -0.2%
Bloomberg —– +0.7% —–
Sanders +0.1% +0.5% +0.4%
Warren -0.5% -0.5% Flat
Buttigieg -2.2% -2.9% -0.7%

In terms of the tipping point, Bloomberg actually does slightly better than Sanders. Otherwise, this looks similar to the patterns seen elsewhere. One way to interpret this result is that while Sanders is in a stronger position than Bloomberg in the current polling, that position is a bit more tenuous, and could change more easily.

But bottom line, ALL of these tipping points show a very volatile race. In 2016 the tipping point showed it could swing 5% in just weeks as a reaction to campaign events in the news. None of these candidates are further than 2.9% from the centerline. So with the right stories in the news, they could go from winning to losing or vice versa very quickly.

And that is where we are a day before Nevada.

256.3 days until polls start to close.

For more information:

This post is an update based on the data on the Election Graphs Electoral College 2020 page. Election Graphs tracks a poll-based estimate of the Electoral College. The charts, graphs, and maps in the post above are all as of the time of this post. Click through on any image to go to a page with the current interactive versions of that chart, along with additional details.

Follow @ElectionGraphs on Twitter or Election Graphs on Facebook to see announcements of updates. For those interested in individual poll updates, follow @ElecCollPolls on Twitter for all the polls as I add them. If you find the information in these posts informative or useful, please consider visiting the donation page.

New Hampshire Tie Leaves Buttigieg Ahead

So, New Hampshire went much more smoothly than Iowa, so a few hours after polls closed, the delegates are already locked in.

A lot of coverage has talked about popular vote totals in both Iowa and New Hampshire. This is a mistake. That should be ignored. Just like winning the popular vote did not make Hillary Clinton president, winning the popular vote means nothing in the nomination process. What matters is delegates, and only delegates.

In New Hampshire, the delegate breakdown is:

  • 9 for Buttigieg
  • 9 for Sanders
  • 6 for Klobuchar

It was a tie.

No matter what happened with the popular vote.

Now, what does that mean for the race overall?

Time to look at the "% of remaining delegates needed to win" graph:

Remember, on this graph, down is good, up is bad. When a candidate gets down to 0%, they have won the nomination. If they go up to 100%, they have been mathematically eliminated.

Everybody is still going up!

This reflects the fact that nobody is even getting a majority of the delegates in contests yet, let alone performing at the (currently slightly higher) levels they would need to in order to actually start bringing these lines down.

There are clear differences between the candidates of course. We have two groupings at the moment.

The leaders are Buttigieg and Sanders, because they are going up more slowly than the others.

Buttigieg is doing the best, but Sanders is just behind him.

Sanders is also disputing some results in Iowa. If Sanders gets the best result he can hope for from those disputes, Sanders gains a delegate and Buttigieg loses a delegate, which would move Sanders and Buttigieg into an overall tie. (If that is resolved before Nevada anyway.)

Then there is a gap, followed by Warren, Klobuchar, and Biden (in that order) in the second tier, grouped pretty closely together.

The only actual change in the ordering caused by New Hampshire was Klobuchar overtaking Biden. This puts Biden in 5th place, which is clearly not where he wanted to be at this point.

Lots of people are making prognostications on how the rest of the race will play out based on these two contests. And it certainly does look like Biden's standing in future states has been hurt by his poor performance so far. But it is important to remember that only 1.63% of the delegates have been allocated so far.

All of the candidates still only need between 50% and 51% of the remaining delegates in order to be on pace to win. That is better than any of them have done so far of course, but that is not an outrageous or impossible number.

There is a long way to go. A lot can happen. And we haven't even gotten to the states where Bloomberg has been dumping money yet.

OK, especially at this stage, it may also be helpful to look at the chart in some more familiar ways before we close up.

Here are the results so far in terms of total delegate count :

And in terms of percentage of the delegates so far:

Or for those who prefer tables:

And broken down by state:

Bottom lines:

Buttigieg is the leader, with Sanders nipping at his heels.

Warren, Klobuchar, and Biden are behind, but it is so early, all three of them, and also candidates with no delegates yet for that matter, still have plenty of time to catch up… if they can get ahead of the rapidly growing narrative that the first 1.63% of the delegates have already determined their destinies.

152.5 days until the Democratic National Convention

194.5 days until the Republican National Convention

This post is an update based on the data on the Election Graphs 2020 Delegate Race page. Election Graphs tracks estimates of the convention delegate totals for both parties. The charts, graphs, and maps in the post above are all as of the time of this post. Click through on any image to go to a page with the current interactive versions of that chart, along with additional details.

Follow @ElectionGraphs on Twitter or Election Graphs on Facebook to see announcements of new blog posts. For those interested in more granular updates of delegate updates or general election polling, follow @ElecCollPolls on Twitter. If you find the information in these posts informative or useful, please consider visiting the donation page.

New Hampshire Eve

Yes, we had Iowa, but on the general election side of things, since the last update on February 3rd, we have had new polls for Tennessee, North Dakota, South Carolina, New Hampshire (x2), and Kansas.

With the exception of New Hampshire, these are solidly red states and so didn't really do anything to change the national picture. But things did jiggle just a little bit with the two New Hampshire polls, so we'll review the changes on all the major candidate pairs.

But first, for the first time in one of these updates, we actually have delegate leaders in both parties. This may well change as soon as we get results from New Hampshire, but for the moment, the delegate leaders are Buttigieg and Trump.

So before we look at comparisons of the various Democrats vs. Trump, let's look specifically at Buttigieg vs. Trump.


Looking at the Election Graphs probabilistic model, from September through the end of 2019, Buttigieg's position just kept getting worse. It seems to have leveled off a bit so far in 2020, so maybe Buttigieg is hitting a bottom. But currently, things don't look good for him, with the median case in our simulations being a 52 electoral vote defeat by Trump and only an 11.4% chance of an actual victory.

The categorization view, where every state just goes to whoever leads the average, regardless of how close it is, looks even worse. Buttigieg loses by 84 electoral votes.

If the election was today, things would look very grim for Buttigieg. However, looking at the center part of the spectrum of states, you can see that to flip this back to a Buttigieg lead, you need to pull Nevada, Michigan, Ohio, and Flordia back across the line without losing any currently blue states. (There are other combinations of states that would do it too, but this would be the "easiest" group.)

This may seem like a lot, and that 11.4% chance of victory may seem small. But remember, that is "if the election was held today". It does not account for potential future movement.

Of the four states mentioned, Buttigieg is doing worst in Florida. But he is only losing Florida by 2.2% in the polling average. So an across the board margin gain of 2.2% would put him in the lead again. In 2016, this metric (the tipping point) moved more than 5% in a month on several different occasions.

So while the current state of play for Buttigieg does not look great, this far out from the election, for that matter even a month out from the election, a lot can still happen to change a picture like this.

But for the moment, at this very instant, a Buttigieg vs. Trump general election looks like a pretty easy Trump win. If Buttigieg became the nominee, he would have some work to do in order to change his odds.

OK, now let's look at our top four candidate combinations on our national metrics:

Dem 3 Feb 11 Feb 𝚫
Biden +178 +178 Flat
Sanders +26 +26 Flat
Warren -12 -20 -8
Buttigieg -84 -84 Flat

In the "expected case" where everybody wins exactly the states where they lead the average, only Warren loses over these last 8 days, as New Hampshire slips from "Weak Warren" to "Weak Trump".

The tipping point doesn't move at all for any of these four between 3 Feb and 11 Feb, so we'll skip that one and move on to the probabilistic model.

Dem 3 Feb 11 Feb 𝚫
Biden +108 +106 -2
Sanders +36 +34 -2
Warren -6 -8 -2
Buttigieg -52 -52 Flat

In the median Monte Carlo simulation of our probabilistic model, every Democrat except Buttigieg slips by two electoral votes. Slipping a bit, but not a lot. Certainly less change than we've seen in previous updates.

Dem 3 Feb 11 Feb 𝚫
Biden 98.5% 98.4% -0.1%
Sanders 75.3% 74.2% -1.1%
Warren 43.9% 42.5% -1.4%
Buttigieg 11.4% 11.4% Flat

Finally, in terms of chances of winning the electoral college, Buttigieg is flat, but the others all continue to fade a bit.

The Democratic weakening we have been seeing since September may be slowing, but it has not stopped.

And that is where we are on the eve of NewHampshire. As I write this, Dixville Notch, Hart's Landing, and Millsfield have already posted their results. In less than 17 hours, we'll start getting results from the rest of the state. The Democratic nomination race is in full swing.

266.6 days until polls start to close.

For more information:

This post is an update based on the data on the Election Graphs Electoral College 2020 page. Election Graphs tracks a poll-based estimate of the Electoral College. The charts, graphs, and maps in the post above are all as of the time of this post. Click through on any image to go to a page with the current interactive versions of that chart, along with additional details.

Follow @ElectionGraphs on Twitter or Election Graphs on Facebook to see announcements of updates. For those interested in individual poll updates, follow @ElecCollPolls on Twitter for all the polls as I add them. If you find the information in these posts informative or useful, please consider visiting the donation page.

Iowa! (Finally)

I'm sure anyone reading blog posts on Election Graphs already knows about all the drama about getting results from the Iowa caucuses. So suffice it to say that they had some issues.

The 2020 Delegate Race page has been updating whenever new results have become available over the last few days. For the most part, we use the excellent delegate breakdowns at The Green Papers as our definitive source for this information. You can find their current detailed status of the Democratic results in Iowa here. Note that they present a more conservative estimate at the top of the page, but a more aggressive estimate (using more provisional data) at the bottom of the page. Election Graphs uses the second estimate.

The delegate estimates here represent the best estimates for national delegates at the point the Iowa Democrats reported 100% of the vote counted. These may change slightly if there are corrections or recanvasses based on some of the irregularities that were found. And they almost certainly will be adjusted months down the line when national delegates are actually selected at the Iowa Democratic Convention in June.

With that in mind, let's jump right in and explain the central chart that Election Graphs uses to examine the delegate race. It isn't a straight forward chart of the number of delegates each candidate has accumulated either at the present moment or over time. You can find that kind of chart, and others, on the 2020 Delegate Race page. But the most important chart to watch is actually this one:

Rather than the date on the horizontal axis, we show the percent of available delegates that have been allocated so far. In the case of the Democrats this year, this is only the PLEDGED delegates (no superdelegates) since superdelegates will not be able to vote in the first round at the convention unless it is mathematically impossible for them to change the winner.

Using % allocated rather than date gives us a better idea of how far along we are in the race, given that primary and caucus dates are scattered across the calendar irregularly, and the number of delegates available on different dates varies wildly based on which and how many states are handing out delegates that day.

Even more critically though, the vertical axis is not simply a count of delegates. We do have that graph too. But the headline graph shows something that gives a much better idea of how the race is going.

Namely: The percentage of the remaining delegates each candidate would have to win in order to have a majority of the delegates (and therefore clinch the nomination).

If you support a particular candidate, you want this number to go DOWN. When it reaches 0%, a candidate has clinched the nomination. If it goes above 100%, on the other hand, then a candidate has been mathematically eliminated. (Absent pledged delegates being released from their pledges and voting a different way than they were "supposed" to.)

In practice, a candidate can be in a position where they have not yet been mathematically eliminated, but it becomes harder and harder to envision a scenario where they would win. For instance, if a candidate would need 60% of the remaining vote to win, but their percentage of the vote so far is only 40%, unless you know that they are really heavily favored in the remaining states, their chances are actually very slim.

Candidates who are on a pace to win will see their lines moving down.

Candidates who are not on a winning pace will see their lines moving up.

So, what do we see so far after the preliminary results from Iowa?

Well, everybody is moving up. This is quite simply because nobody got over 50% of the available delegates in this first round, which is where you start when nobody has any delegates yet. To move your line down, you need to collect delegates faster than your current "% of remaining needed". If you don't, your line keeps going up, as it becomes harder and harder to catch up.

This is just like how if you are behind in a race, to win you have to not just go faster than the car that is in the lead, you have to go enough faster to catch up with them before the finish line.

As of this writing, the best estimate of the delegate breakdown is:

  • 14 for Buttigieg
  • 12 for Sanders
  • 8 for Warren
  • 6 for Biden
  • 1 for Klobuchar

This seems like an absolutely huge difference between the top and bottom of this list until you realize that only 41 delegates out of 3979 have been allocated so far. That is only 1.03%.

So the "% of remaining delegates needed" varies from 50.18% for Buttigieg, to 50.51% for Klobuchar. (It would be 50.53% for any candidates who still have zero delegates.) These numbers are still very very close to each other.

The news has been filled with pronouncements of the possibility of Biden being doomed by this result or hyperventilation about the momentum for Buttigieg or Sanders. If such a small percentage of the delegates have been allocated so far, and everybody is still pretty close to each other, why is this?

Well… How candidates do in Iowa impacts their perception in New Hampshire. And New Hampshire impacts their perception in Nevada. Which impacts South Carolina. Which impacts Super Tuesday. And perhaps even more importantly, their performance in each state impacts fundraising and media coverage.

In these early stages, the "narrative" dominates. It does matter. A lot.

But in the end, it is all about the delegates. And so far, there is still not all that much difference between the candidates. Anything can still happen.

In terms of the graph above, look for when one of the curves starts heading down instead of up. That's when someone is really getting some momentum. It means that in every new contest, they don't even have to do as well as they have before in order to win. They can just keep chugging along how they have been, and they will end up winning.

For now, though, things can still get crazy.

Finally, before wrapping up, there was another surprise in Iowa besides Biden doing badly and Buttigieg doing well. The surprise was on the Republican side, where Iowa was actually the third state to allocate delegates (after Hawaii and Kansas).

In the Republican Iowa Caucuses, Bill Weld got 1.29% of the vote. Which was enough to get him one delegate out of the 40 available. So we have a race on the Republican side too!

Yeah, OK. Not really. But hey. Weld got a delegate.

157.4 days until the Democratic National Convention.

199.4 days until the Republican National Convention.

It is going to be a fun ride…

For more information:

This post is an update based on the data on the Election Graphs 2020 Delegate Race page. Election Graphs tracks estimates of the convention delegate totals for both parties. The charts, graphs, and maps in the post above are all as of the time of this post. Click through on any image to go to a page with the current interactive versions of that chart, along with additional details.

Follow @ElectionGraphs on Twitter or Election Graphs on Facebook to see announcements of new blog posts. For those interested in more granular updates of delegate updates or general election polling, follow @ElecCollPolls on Twitter. If you find the information in these posts informative or useful, please consider visiting the donation page.