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.


Whoa, Look at Texas

Since the last update (not counting the update about new graphs) there have been new polls in Maine (All), South Carolina, Ohio, Michigan, Texas, and North Dakota.

Of those, only Texas and Michigan resulted in category changes for any of the six best-polled candidate pairs.

In Michigan, Buttigieg moved from a 6.4% lead to a weak 2.8% lead in the Election Graphs average.

In Texas, Sanders, Warren, and O'Rourke pulled Trump's lead down under 5% into the "weak" category in the Election Graphs average. Biden had already gotten there back in June.

Texas is the headline.

Trump's lead in Texas in the Election Graphs average is now down to under 5% for four of the six most polled Democrats against him. Only Buttigieg and Harris lag. But even they are trending stronger as more polls come in.

None of the averages show a Democratic lead in Texas. That would be seismic. However, at this point five of the six Democrats have at least one poll showing them ahead in Texas. (The exception is Buttigieg.)

Nobody would call Texas blue at this point. But it is trending purple. We have enough polls for enough candidates showing only narrow Republican leads (or even Democratic leads) to say that it looks competitive.

Now, what does competitive mean? Let's look at the "odds" view, where we use the historical performance of final Election Graphs averages to convert the poll margins into odds of victory:

Democrats making Texas "close" essentially means Trump has a noticeably less than 100% chance of winning.

Of these six Democrats, Buttigieg is weakest…  with Trump still having a 99.2% chance of winning the state.

Biden is strongest, but Trump still has a 64.6% chance of winning Texas against him.

Now, that means Biden has a 35.4% shot, which is remarkable given where Texas has been in other cycles. But Trump is still favored.

Now is the time to once again mention that Election Graphs does not model how the race evolves. These "odds" are static snapshots in time. "If the election was today." The election is not even remotely today. Polls can swing wildly in just a matter of weeks, let alone the 15 months we still have until the general election.

This "closeness" in Texas could evaporate long before we get to November 2020. Or it could turn into a Democratic lead.

But it is clear that Texas is a state to watch, and Republicans will need to play defense there, and not take it for granted, as has often been the case in recent cycles.

Now, the national picture, where all the caveats above also apply:

This batch of polls changed the "Best Case" scenarios for Sanders, Warren, and O'Rourke in the category based ranges (their best cases now include winning Texas). But the "Expected Case" and "Tipping Point" did not change.

However, the new probabilistic based simulations do show changes worth reviewing.

This first chart shows the "median case" of the simulations, the spot where half the time the Republican does better, and half the time the Democrat does better.

Biden doing better than the rest of the pack stands out clearly. His median case is a 126 electoral vote margin over Trump. To put this in historical context, this would exactly match Obama's 2012 margin over Romney but be quite a bit less than Obama's 2008 margin over McCain.

Sanders also breaks out from the pack, doing considerably better than the other Democrats.

Both Biden and Sanders have improved their median positions significantly over the last few weeks covered by this batch of new polls.

Meanwhile, Warren, Buttigieg, O'Rourke, and Harris stay within a zone maintaining only small electoral college margins in the median case.

So, switching from looking at margins to looking at chances of winning:

Biden is pegged near the top right now. 99.6% chance of victory over Trump. There isn't that much room to improve, although weaker polls could certainly knock him off this pedestal.

Sanders clocks in second at an 89.0% chance of beating Trump.

Looking at the others, while they do have the upper hand on Trump, if this were election day, it wouldn't be fair to say it was anything other than "too close to call" with odds ranging from Warren at 58.2% to O'Rourke at 64.7%.

Election Graphs didn't have a probabilistic view in 2016, but the median "chance of Trump winning" from the sites that did was 14% going into Election Day. Only Biden and Sanders push Trump below that line at the moment.

So how have things been changing?

Comparing the odds of the Democrat winning from the update on June 23rd to where things stand now, we see this:

Dem 23 Jun 3 Aug 𝚫
Biden 99.4% 99.6% +0.2%
Sanders 86.0% 89.0% +3.0%
Buttigieg 65.5% 62.9% -2.6%
Harris 62.3% 62.2% -0.1%
O'Rourke 50.5% 64.7% +14.2%
Warren 53.2% 58.2% +5.0%

The stand out is, of course, O'Rourke. His improvement is almost all due to his performance in the latest Texas poll, which was better than all other Democrats, and significantly better than his previous polling in the state as well. So he adds to his chances of winning Texas, which while still under 50%, is enough to boost his chances of taking the whole thing significantly.

Warren and Sanders also improved a bit. Buttigieg dropped a bit. And Biden and Harris are essentially flat.

Finally, a quick preview of a new chart type coming soon to Election Graphs:

It is the equivalent of the Electoral College trend chart based on the straight-up categorization of states based on who is ahead, but with the results of the probabilistic modeling.

The dark line represents the median electoral college result in the simulation. Then the bands represent result ranges at different levels of probability. The deeper the shade, the more likely the result.

This is a visual representation of the single candidate time series of the probabilistic summary now on the comparison page:

The text summary will also, of course, be added to the candidate national summary pages once I get a chance.

I also added little circles in a lot of the time series charts to highlight the current values better. I think it makes the charts clearer. Hope you like them.

In any case… 458.1 days until polls start to close. Stay tuned!

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.

The First 2020 Polls

A few days ago I looked at where all the states ended up if you just look at the average results of the last few elections. No 2020 specific data.

But there have already been state level 2020 polls. Sixteen by my count. They are now all included on Election Graphs.

When I do updates here, unless there is a strong reason to do otherwise, I'm going to only discuss the five "best polled" candidate pairs. At the moment, the only Republican polled so far has been Trump. (Sorry Weld fans.) The five best polled Democrats against him right now are Biden, Warren, O'Rourke, Sanders, and Harris… in that order.

So with that out of the way, let's start looking at some graphs!

The chart above shows the "expected" electoral college result for each of these five candidate pairs, assuming each candidate wins all the states they lead in the Election Graphs five poll averages. This average still includes previous election results since there are no states where there are actually five polls yet.

So what do we see? From the very limited polling we have so far, we see Biden doing noticeably better than any of the other four Democrats when pitted against Trump. In the electoral college, Biden leads Trump by a 42 electoral vote margin. Sanders leads Trump by 6 electoral votes. And then Warren, O'Rourke, and Harris all lose to Trump by 6 electoral votes.

The "tipping point" is perhaps a better way to look at things. It is similar to looking at a popular vote margin, but adjusted for the structure of the electoral college. Here Biden has a 1.2% tipping point margin over Trump and Sanders has a 0.9% tipping point margin over Trump, but Warren, O'Rourke, and Harris all trail Trump by an 0.1% margin.

Frankly, ALL of these results, for all five possible opponents to Trump, are firmly within the "too close to call" zone. Even if it was the day before the election, not 607 days before the election. With this much time left, and with the extremely limited polling so far, any patterns we see may easily disappear as new polls come in. It might even be safe to say they will probably disappear. It is still very very early.

Having said that, the Biden advantage is even more striking as you start looking state by state. The following charts show how the polling average in each state has moved as the polls so far have come in.

Note: Keep in mind these are all measuring how each of the Democrats would fare against Trump in the general election, NOT how they might fare against each other in the primaries.

Watch the red line. The red line is Biden. Down is better for Democrats.

OK, in California Biden hasn't broken out. He hasn't actually been polled in California yet. So his average is just the average of the last five presidential elections.

Biden doing better than the other four Democrats in Texas.

Biden doing better than the other four Democrats in Ohio.

Biden doing better than the other four Democrats in Michigan.

Biden doing better than the other four Democrats in North Carolina.

Biden doing better than the other four Democrats in Arizona.

OK, none of the top five have been polled in Minnesota yet. (Only Klobuchar has been.) So they are all still on one line.

Biden doing better than the other four Democrats in South Carolina.

Biden doing better than the other four Democrats in Iowa.

OK, we finally have a state where Biden has been polled and he isn't doing better than the other Democrats. In New Hampshire, both Sanders and Warren do better against Trump than Biden does.

But that is it. Out of 10 states where we have state polls so far, Biden does better than the other four Democrats in 7. In 2 Biden hasn't been polled yet. Only in 1 does another Democrat do better against Trump.

Now, to be clear, at this stage in a Presidential race, this may be due entirely to name recognition. Most people may still not have much of an idea who Warren, O'Rourke, and Harris even are. But surely they would know who Sanders is, right? His name recognition must be comparable to Biden's. Right?

In any case, the way Biden consistently is outperforming other Democrats against Trump in the polls so far is striking. And he hasn't even officially said he is running yet.

It will be interesting to see if this pattern continues as the field starts to gel, and the other candidates get better known.

Election Graphs will of course update as the new polls come in…

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 they are added. If you find the information in these posts interesting or useful, please consider visiting the donation page.