Heading into Super Tuesday, Bernie Sanders was the frontrunner to become the Democratic presidential nominee. Though Joe Biden had scored an impressive victory in South Carolina on Saturday, Sanders could stump on a similarly triumphant win in Nevada and favorable polls in a suite of Super Tuesday states to support his grassroots movement. Plus, some of those places had been voting early, which would have seemed to temper some of the nascent “Joementum.”
But something unexpected happened last night: Biden prevailed in a slew of states and pulled ahead in the all-important (and confounding) delegate count. Still, the race is far from over. Despite a disappointing performance in Minnesota and the East, Sanders fared well in the West, taking the most votes in Colorado, Utah, and the night’s big prize, California. (As of this writing, votes are still being counted there, but Sanders holds a commanding lead.)
Sanders’s ability to continue that Left Coast success will be one of the storylines heading into next Tuesday’s Washington primary which, as local Democratic leaders hoped when they switched to the earlier, mail-in system, will actually matter this time. While pundits often point to Super Tuesday as the night that decides the primary race, it’s clear that no candidate will clinch the nomination by the time Washington’s votes are counted on March 10. That day, Idaho, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, and North Dakota will also tally their votes. Michigan, with its 125 delegates and 2016 election battleground status, stands to receive the most attention. But Washington will dole out the second-most delegates (89) that night, so Biden and Sanders would be wise to stop in Washington soon. (Or, maybe not, given coronavirus concerns.) The state already received a flurry of candidate visits around the time ballots were sent out.
Given that he won the state's caucuses in 2016, Sanders especially needs a good result in Washington. According to FiveThirtyEight's polling average, Sanders was indeed the favorite here, at 31 percent, as of Tuesday. Michael Bloomberg was second, at 15.8 percent, and Elizabeth Warren was third, at 13.5 percent. Biden was fourth, at 11.8 percent. Those numbers will undoubtedly change to some degree following last night’s results and the news this morning that Bloomberg has dropped out, joining the likes of Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, and a bevy of other Dems who qualified for Washington’s ballot but ultimately failed to advance.
How much the numbers will change is hard to say. The state’s early voting complicates predictions. Some of those anticipated Bloomberg votes may have already been cast—the state has received nearly a million primary ballots, according to the Secretary of State’s office—and Warren appears, for now, intent on continuing her campaign, perhaps hoping for a contested convention. (Update: She has dropped out.)
The bottom line? A number of different outcomes are still on the table this primary season, which is all the more reason why Democrats should be sure to vote over the next week. Then, they should grab their popcorn.