Essential Research leadership ratings

Scott Morrison records a preferred prime minister lead for the first time this year, although his personal ratings remain in net negative territory.

Essential Research continues to disappoint on the voting intention front, but its latest fortnightly poll does include its monthly leadership ratings, which record a recovery in Scott Morrison’s personal standing after the battering it copped during the bsuhfires. Morrison now leads Anthony Albanese 40-35 as preferred prime minister after being tied 36-36 in the last poll, which his first lead out of the six sets of results published so far this year (three apiece from Essential and Newspoll). His approval rating is up two to 41% and disapproval down three to 49%, while Albanese is respectively steady on 41% and up two to 33%.

As related by The Guardian, the poll also finds 71% want investigations into sports rorts to continue, but I suspect that should actually say 51%, as 43% favoured the alternative option that the resignation of Sports Minister Bridget McKenzie should be the end of the matter. The poll also has the unsurprising finding that concern about coronavirus is growing, although we will have to wait for the publication of the full report later today to see by how much.

Other questions produce familiar findings on energy sources (71% favour further taxpayer research into renewables, compared with 57% for hydrogen, 50% for “clean coal” and 38% for nuclear energy) and economic management (the Coalition was rated better overall, but was also seen to favour big business whereas Labor was better at managing the economy to benefit workers). The poll was conducted from 1096 respondents from an online panel, no doubt from Thursday to Sunday.

UPDATE: Full report here. It turns out the poll doesn’t really find an increase in concern about coronavirus over the past month: there’s a two point increase in “very concerned” to 27%, but a five point drop in “quite concerned” to 36%, a two point rise in “not all that concerned” to 28% and a three point increase in “not at all concerned” to 9%. I’d have been interested to see breakdowns by party support on this – Democrats in the US are far more concerned than Republicans – but no such luck.

Six states’ Democratic primaries: live commentary

Joe Biden is very likely to win the Democratic nomination, with Sanders needing big breaks in today’s primaries. Guest post by Adrian Beaumont

11:50am Nate Silver on Washington’s count

11:40am In Mississippi, Sanders has 14.8% with all precincts in.  Mississippi has a large provisional vote, so Sanders may exceed the 15% threshold for statewide delegates once those votes are tallied.  Biden won every single county in the three M states.

11:32am However, there’s bad news for Sanders in Washington State.  The latest votes put Biden ahead by 34.8% to 33.5%, reversing a 0.2% Sanders lead in yesterday’s counting.  Dave Wasserman has called Washington for Biden.  Washington appeared demographically friendly to Sanders, and he may not be able to win another state-run primary.  There are few delegates to be decided by party-run primaries and caucuses.

11:24am Thursday In good news for Sanders, he’s the winner in North Dakota by a 53-40 margin.  ND was a party-run primary, not state-run.  There were only 14 polling places for the whole state, and just 14,400 votes total.  Left-wing activists are more likely to make up a greater share of turnout in such low-turnout affairs.

4:00pm Idaho CALLED for Biden.  He currently leads by 48-42 with 74% in.

3:53pm If Sanders stays in, next Tuesday is likely to be brutal for him.  Four big states vote: Florida, Ohio, Illinois and Arizona.  Given Biden’s dominance everywhere in Michigan, he is likely to crush Sanders.  14.5% of delegates will be awarded next Tuesday, taking us to 61.5% of all pledged delegates.

3:49pm In the delegate count at The Green Papers, Biden now leads Sanders by 845 to 706.  Overall popular votes are 37.6% Biden, 30.1% Sanders.

3:44pm With 68% reporting in Idaho, Biden leads by 47-42.  The bottom line, no matter what happens in Washington’s late counting, Idaho or North Dakota, is that Biden is dominating with black voters and both higher-educated and lower-educated whites.  Biden will clearly be the Democratic nominee to face Trump in November.

3:30pm With 22% reporting in North Dakota, Sanders leads Biden by 45-34.  But there are only 14 delegates in this small, strongly Republican state.

3:18pm With 50% reporting in Idaho, Biden leads Sanders by 47-41.

2:57pm Biden has won every county in Mississippi and Missouri, and is barely losing two counties in Michigan.  In the 2016 contest against Hillary Clinton, Sanders dominated in rural areas where there were many lower-educated whites.  Not against Biden.

2:50pm In Mississippi, Sanders’ vote has dropped to 14.9% with 97% in.  If his vote stays at that level, he will miss the 15% delegate threshold for statewide delegates.

2:48pm With all counties reporting initial postal votes in Washington, Sanders leads by just 0.2%, 32.7-32.5.  Many of these votes were cast when other candidates were still in.  I don’t think we will get the remaining votes today; we’ll have to wait a week or two for them to come in.

2:16pm In the first results from Idaho, Biden leads by 43-33.

2:14pm Washington uses an all-postal ballot.  Votes that arrive before election day are tallied as soon as polls close.  With an estimated 64% reporting, Sanders and Biden are tied at 32.8% each.

1:52pm Meanwhile in California, Sanders’ lead has dropped to 6.7% today from 7.0% yesterday and 9% on election night last week.

1:38pm Some good news for Sanders: the North Dakota postal vote has him winning by 40-26 over Biden, but Biden is likely to gain when election day votes report.  Meanwhile, Biden leads by 53-39 in Michigan (55% in), 59-34 in Missouri (66% in) and 81-15 in Mississippi (77% in).  If Sanders does not reach 15% in Mississippi, he will not qualify for statewide delegates.

12:17pm Biden is leading by 54-28 in Missouri with 6% reporting.  There’s a large vote for candidates who have dropped out, which should drop as more election day votes are counted.

12:06pm With all polls now closed in Michigan, and Biden 12 points up without much from Detroit (Wayne county), Michigan has been CALLED for Biden.

11:50am With 3% reporting in Mississippi, Biden has an 83-13 lead.  Most of what’s been counted is likely postal votes, which skew to Biden, but that’s a massive margin.

11:46am CNN analyst Harry Enten

11:43am Biden still leading by ten points in Michigan with 10% reporting.  Twitter commentary suggests Sanders is losing white lower-educated precincts that he won against Clinton in 2016.

11:27am Biden leads by 54.4-41.4 in Michigan with 4% reporting.

11:20am Biden leads by 85-11 in the first Mississippi results.

11:13am Remember that Democratic delegates are awarded proportionally with a 15% threshold.  So margins of victory matter, not just winning a state.  A massive win for Biden in Mississippi will earn him many delegates.

11:07am Based on exit polls, Mississippi and Missouri have been CALLED for Biden.

10:42am Wednesday Polls close at 11am AEDT in Missouri, Mississippi and North Dakota.  Michigan has two time zones, with the majority closing at 11am, while the western bit closes at 12pm.  Idaho and Washington close at 2pm.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is an honorary associate at the University of Melbourne. His work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

Democratic primaries will be held today in Idaho, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota and Washington State. The result will determine 352 of the 3,979 total pledged delegates (9% of the total). Michigan (125 delegates) and Washington (89) are the two biggest states voting. Polls close Wednesday between 11am and 2pm AEDT.

Last Tuesday, Joe Biden won ten states to four for Bernie Sanders. In the next two days, the two remaining contenders, Mike Bloomberg and Elizabeth Warren, withdrew, leaving a two-candidate contest for the remaining delegates. Biden dominated the south, but also had surprise wins in Minnesota, Massachusetts and Maine.

The delegate count at The Green Papers gives Biden a 681 to 608 lead over Sanders, but this understates Biden’s advantage. Sanders has an advantage with left-wing Democrats and Latinos, but most of the southwestern states, where Latinos have a relatively high share of the population, have now voted.

In 2016, Sanders benefited from lower-educated white voters aversion to Hillary Clinton, something Donald Trump exploited in the general election. However, the Minnesota county results show that Biden performed well in rural regions, helping him to a nine-point statewide win. This implies that Biden has a greater appeal than Clinton to lower-educated whites.

Biden is winning black voters by massive margins, and he is winning both higher-educated and lower-educated whites. There are few states with a significant Latino population left. An exception is Florida, which votes with three other large states next Tuesday. However, Florida’s Latinos are far more conservative than Latinos in the southwest owing to the Cuban Americans. Florida is also demographically elderly. Florida polls have Biden crushing Sanders.

Biden leads Sanders by 51-35 in the RealClearPolitics national average in polls conducted since last Tuesday. Biden leads Sanders by 22 points in Michigan, and has a small lead in Washington, which should be Sanders’ strongest of the six states. In 2016, Sanders defeated Clinton in Michigan after a massive polling error, but he was performing much better then with lower-educated whites.

There’s also bad news for Sanders from California’s late counting, where his lead over Biden has been reduced from nine points on election night to seven. Late counting in California usually skews left, but many moderates did not vote early, withholding their vote until they knew Biden was the moderate candidate.

Three things

The major parties in Victoria get fiddling to nobble the Greens in local government; candidates confirmed for Queensland’s Bundamba by-election; and Barrie Cassidy’s moustache strikes back.

Three things:

• The Victorian parliament has passed contentious legislation to change the process by which boundaries are drawn for local government elections, the effect of which will be an end to proportional representation in many councils and a return to single-member wards. This was passed through the upper house with the support of both major parties, and fairly obviously targets the Greens, whose local government footprint expanded considerably in 2016. The legislation is covered in greater detail by Ben Raue at The Tally Room. Relatedly, The Age reports Labor plans to endorse candidates across metropolitan councils at the elections in October, after doing so in only three councils in 2016. The Liberals in Victoria have never endorsed candidates.

• The closure of nominations for Queensland’s March 28 by-election for Bundamba on Tuesday revealed a field of four candidates representing the Labor, the LNP, the Greens in One Nation, just as there will be in Currumbin on the same day. You can read all about it in my election guides for the two seats, which are linked to on the sidebar.

• For those who have forgotten what a Labor election win looks like, Malcolm Farnsworth has posted four hours of ABC election night coverage from 1983 in two parts, here and here. The broadcast predates results at polling booth level and indicative two-party preference counts, which would have to wait until the 1990s, and without which it was difficult for analysts to read the breeze from partial counts in any but the most homogenous seats.

Super Tuesday Democratic primaries: live commentary

Live commentary on the Super Tuesday primaries that occur tomorrow in Australia. Guest post by Adrian Beaumont.

2:35pm Friday Warren has dropped out, leaving a two-candidate race between Sanders and Biden.  The delegate count at The Green Papers currently gives Biden a 671-599 lead over Sanders, from popular votes of 35.1% Biden, 28.7% Sanders. In California, Sanders has an 8.4% lead over Biden with over 3 million votes remaining, but some of these will be Republican primary votes.  Late counting in California skews more left the longer it goes.

2:19pm Thursday Last night, Bloomberg withdrew from the contest and endorsed Biden.  No decision has yet been made by Warren.  In California, Sanders leads by 8.7% with all election day precincts reporting.  We should know approximately how many outstanding votes are left tomorrow.

9:53pm Conversation article up.  Biden is likely to win ten states to four for Sanders, and has a 102-delegate lead in The Green Papers count.  In 2016, Clinton had little appeal to lower-educated whites, and that’s likely why Sanders was competitive.  But Biden has more appeal to the lower-educated than Clinton.  Once moderate rivals withdrew, he consolidated the moderate vote.

8:37pm With 79% of election day precincts counted in California, Sanders leads Biden by 31.8% to 22.8%.  California takes FOUR weeks to count all its votes, so there’s lots of late counting to look forward to!

7:32pm With almost all votes counted in the Israeli election, the right bloc lost a seat, so Netanyahu will be three seats short of a majority.  It’s right 58 out of 120, left 55, Yisrael Beiteinu seven.

7:27pm The California Secretary of State now has 64% of precincts reporting, and Sanders is almost 10% ahead of Biden.

6:00pm Texas CALLED for Biden.

4:15pm Biden up to a 1.8% lead in Texas, and the Needle now gives him a 70% chance to win.

4:06pm Biden overtakes Sanders in Texas.  He’s 0.4% ahead with 60% of election day precincts in.  The Needle gives Biden a 56% chance to win Texas.

4:05pm The NY Times shows 23% of California’s Election Day precincts have already reported, but the California Secretary of State (the official results service) says only 4%.

3:47pm With 54% of election day votes reporting in Texas, Sanders leads by 1.2%.  The Needle still sees this as 50-50 between Sanders and Biden.

3:21pm Dave Wasserman has called Texas for Biden, but the NY Times Needle says it’s 50-50 with 34% reporting.  Sanders has a 3.6% lead.

3:18pm Massachusetts officially CALLED for Biden.  With 65% reporting, he has 33.4%, Sanders 26.7% and Warren 22.1%.

3:10pm With 93% of election day votes in in North Carolina, Biden’s lead is now almost 19 points, up from seven before election day votes.

3:03pm California not called for Sanders, but it looks good for hime in exit polls.  Biden likely the only other candidate who breaks the 15% delegate threshold statewide.

2:47pm Minnesota CALLED for Biden.  He leads by eight points with 57% reporting.  Sanders was supposed to win here.

2:45pm With 43% reporting in Alabama, Sanders is at 16.2%, close to the 15% delegate threshold.  Falling below 15% would be a disaster for Sanders.

2:34pm Sanders has won Utah, a stronghold for Republicans where the small Democratic electorate is progressive.

2:30pm In Texas, Sanders leads Biden by 5.6% with 23% of election day precincts in.  The NY Times needle has Biden very slightly ahead.

2:25pm Dave Wasserman projects Elizabeth Warren will finish third in her home state of Massachusetts, behind Biden (first) and Sanders (second).

2:15pm While I was out for lunch, Biden was CALLED the winner in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Tennessee, giving him six state wins.  Sanders won Colorado, mainly due a split early vote.  Early voting dominates in that state.  Biden currently leads in Minnesota and Massachusetts, which Sanders was supposed to win.

1:01pm The NY Times needle gives Biden a 68% chance of winning Texas although Sanders currently leads by 6.6%.

12:58pm As the Election Day vote comes through in North Carolina, Biden increases his lead.  He’s now leading in NC by 11% with 29% in.

12:45pm In Virginia, where the election day vote was virtually all voters, Biden leads Sanders by 54-23 with 96% reporting.

12:34pm Maybe early voting will stop Biden from routing Sanders.  Biden is only up by seven points over Sanders in North Carolina with 12% of Election Day precincts reporting.  Biden not doing so well in votes cast before South Carolina and the withdrawals.

12:18pm With 66% reporting in Virginia, Biden is crushing Sanders by 30 points.

12:15pm Polls in Arkansas close at 12:30pm, then it’s Colorado and Minnesota at 1pm, Utah at 2pm and finally California at 3pm.

12:10pm As regards Texas, a small part of the state is in the Mountain Time zone and doesn’t close til 1pm AEDT.  Exit polls will be released then.

12:06pm Alabama CALLED for Biden, while the other 12pm states are uncalled.  In Massachusetts, it’s a close three-way race between Biden, Sanders and Warren (it’s Warren’s home state).

11:57am Biden is over 20% in the first Vermont results.  If he stays above 15% there, he gets delegates, which Hillary Clinton was unable to do in 2016.

11:49am Biden has a 55-23 lead over Sanders in Virginia with 32% in.

11:40am Count in Virginia is already up to 22%, and it’s Biden by a crushing 54-24 over Sanders with nobody else close to clearing 15%.

11:34am CNN CALLS North Carolina for Biden based on a large exit poll lead.  This is looking better and better for Biden.

11:27am With 1% reporting in Virginia, Biden leads Sanders by 51-25.  Everyone else is well below the 15% delegate threshold.

11:24am The next polls to close are North Carolina at 11:30am AEDT, then Alabama, Maine, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas at 12pm.

11:08am Sanders CALLED the winner in his home state of Vermont, but the exit polls suggest Biden will beat the 15% threshold there, restricting Sanders’ delegate advantage.

11:01am Biden CALLED the winner in Virginia by CNN based on exit polls.  He has a 63-18 lead over Sanders with black voters (27% of the electorate) and a 43-26 lead with whites (63% of electorate).

10:20am Wednesday With 94% counted in the Israeli election, right-wing parties have 59 seats (up four since the September 2019 election) and left-wing parties 54 (down three).  Likud is the biggest party with a 36-32 lead over Blue & White, reversing the 33-32 deficit last September.  It appears that Netanyahu’s coalition will be two seats short of a majority.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is an honorary associate at the University of Melbourne. His work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

Fourteen states vote in the Super Tuesday Democratic primaries tomorrow, in which 1,357 of the 3,979 total pledged delegates are awarded (34% of all delegates). Delegates are awarded proportionally to vote share, but with a high 15% threshold that applies to both statewide delegates and Congressional District (CD) delegates. The more Democratic-leaning a CD is, the more delegates it receives. Polls close between 11am and 3pm AEDT.

A few days ago, it appeared likely that Bernie Sanders would come out of Super Tuesday with a large delegate lead over his nearest rival. Even if Sanders did not win a majority of Super Tuesday pledged delegates, such an outcome would have put him on course for a large plurality of all pledged delegates at the July Democratic convention. In those circumstances, Sanders would probably be the nominee.

However, Joe Biden had a crushing 28-point win over Sanders at Saturday’s South Carolina primary. In the next two days, moderate rivals Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar withdrew from the contest and endorsed Biden. There has not been enough time for polls to catch up with these developments, but they are very likely to assist Biden.

The FiveThirtyEight forecast has the chance nobody wins a pledged delegate majority surging to 63%. This does not necessarily mean a contested convention, as it includes cases where one candidate wins a strong plurality, and a deal is worked out before the convention. No delegate majority chances have surged because Mike Bloomberg and Elizabeth Warren are still in, and will be assisted in getting to 15% by the withdrawals.

Sanders now has just a 52% chance of winning more delegates than any other candidate, down from over 70% at his peak, while Biden’s chances have rocketed to 48%. The Democratic contest is now effectively a race between two men in their late 70s, and the winner will confront Donald Trump, who is a mere 73.

I recommend The Green Papers for delegate and popular vote counts. The next contests are next Tuesday, when six states vote that account for 9% of pledged delegates.

Netanyahu could win Israeli election outright

With 81% counted in Monday’s Israeli election, right-wing PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s bloc of parties had 60 of the 120 seats, to 53 for the opposition left bloc. If the right bloc wins one more seat, Netanyahu would have outright victory after April and September 2019 elections resulted in no government being formed. Yisrael Beiteinu, with seven seats, was unable to cooperate with either the Arab Joint List or the religious right parties before. This result comes despite Netanyahu’s November indictment on bribery and fraud charges.

Two things

Some rare insights into how preferences behave in unusual circumstances courtesy of the Johnston by-election, and yet more data on issue salience, this time from JWS Research.

Two things:

• At Antony Green’s prompting, the Northern Territory Electoral Commission has published breakdowns of the various candidates’ preferences flows at Saturday’s Johnston by-election, providing measures of the impact of highly unusual preferencing behaviour by the Greens and the Country Labor Party — remembering that the Northern Territory prohibits dissemination of how-to-vote cards is the immediate vicinity of polling booths. Having done the unthinkable and put Labor last, the Greens’ preferences split 56.9-43.1 between Labor and the Territory Alliance, compared with my own rule of thumb that Labor gets 80% of Greens preferences when they are so directed and 75% when no recommendation is made. Note that this is the Territory Alliance rather than the Country Liberal Party, and that Labor’s flow would presumably have been somewhat stronger had it been otherwise. The CLP no less unusually put Labor second, and their preferences went 52.9-47.1 in favour of the Territory Alliance.

• JWS Research has released its latest quarterly True Issues report, confirming the impression of other similar polling that the salience of the environment and climate chnage spiked over summer. Respondents were separately asked to name three issues off the tops of their heads and to pick the five most important issues out of a list of twenty, with confusingly different results – environment reigned supreme in the first case, but in the second it trailed cost of living (which ranked low when unprompted) and health (second in both cases). Perhaps the most revealing point is that environment increased in the prompted question from 33% a year ago to 42%, while immigration and border security fell from 36% to 25%. The federal government was reckoned to be performing well by 28% of respondents, down two since the November survey, and poorly by 35%, up two. The survey was conducted online from a sample of 1000 from February 20-24.

South Carolina Democratic primary: live commentary

Live commentary on today’s South Carolina primary, where Joe Biden has surged back to a big poll lead.  Guest post by Adrian Beaumont.   The main general discussion thread is here.

10:49am Tuesday Overnight, Amy Klobuchar also dropped out.  She and Buttigieg will endorse Biden at a rally today.  Biden has risen in California, and is likely to easily meet the 15% threshold for statewide delegates.  The FiveThirtyEight forecast now shows a tossup between Sanders and Biden as to who wins more delegates.

10:45am Monday Pete Buttigieg has quit the presidential race.  This is likely to help Biden, as Buttigieg was one of the moderates.  Without such a crowded field, non-Sanders candidates are more likely to get over the 15% threshold in California, hurting Sanders’ delegate haul.

4:30pm With all precincts reporting, Biden wins by 48.4-19.9.  There were almost 528,000 Democratic votes cast in South Carolina.

3:11pm In the FiveThirtyEight forecast, there is a 60% chance that nobody wins a pledged delegate majority, followed by Sanders at a 28% chance and Biden 11%.  The chance of a delegate plurality is Sanders 64%, Biden 32%.

3:03pm With 96% reporting, Sanders has hit 20%, but Biden has almost 49%.  Over 500,000 votes now in SC, which makes it the largest turnout increase of any state so far, according to Nate Cohn.

2:05pm With 87% reporting, Biden leads by 28.6% in the SC popular vote.  The Green Papers has Sanders gaining two delegates for a 38-16 Biden delegate split.  If only two candidates are viable, as in SC, then half-delegates are the crucial line.  A candidate who is just over half a delegate gets the full delegate, while if they’re just under, they get no delegate.  On the latest results, Biden’s remaining vote fell below a half-delegate in one Congressional District and statewide.

Sorry if the above explanation is confusing!

1:50pm It’s a dismal showing for Buttigieg, Warren and Klobuchar.  Buttigieg has 8%, Warren 7% and Klobuchar just 3%.

1:38pm I recommend The Green Papers for tracking delegate counts.  They currently have Biden winning SC’s 54 delegates by 40-14 over Sanders.  After four states, Sanders still leads the delegate count over Biden by 58-53 with 26 for Buttigieg.  But remember only 4% have been awarded so far!

1:32pm With 69% reporting, Biden has a 105,000 popular vote lead over Sanders in SC.  That’s enough to give him the overall popular vote lead after four states have reported.  Also, Tom Steyer has dropped out of the Democratic nomination contest.

1:17pm With 57% of E-day votes in, it’s Biden 50%, Sanders 19%, Steyer 12%.

12:43pm With 27% of Election Day precincts in, Biden leads Sanders by 52-18 with 12% for Tom Steyer.

12:20pm With 9% of Election Day precincts in, it’s Biden 53%, Sanders 17%, Steyer 12%.  Sanders’ numbers are creeping up as more Election Day vote is counted.

12:12pm NY Times analyst Nate Cohn tweets that Sanders is doing much better on Election Day than postal votes in the ten precincts that have reported both.

12:09pm With 5% of election day precincts reporting, Sanders is up to 15.5%, above the 15% threshold for statewide delegates.

12:07pm Sanders had a big win in last Saturday’s Nevada caucus, but it was Biden who surged before SC.  So the big SC Biden win won’t necessarily help him on Super Tuesday.

11:52am The vote we’ve got so far is mostly postal votes.  Only five election-day precincts are in.  Sanders will hope he does better when more of the election-day vote comes in.

11:45am So far just two counties in initial results – York and Greenfield – where Sanders is above 15%.

11:33am So far, Sanders is at less than 15% in all counties reporting.  If that persists, he would be shut out of delegates.

11:25am First actual results have Biden with 70%, Tom Steyer at 14% and Sanders just 10%.

11:05am Biden CALLED the winner by CNN based on exit polls.  He has a 60-17 lead over Sanders with black voters, who made up 56% of the electorate, slightly down from 61% in 2016.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is an honorary associate at the University of Melbourne. His work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

Polls in South Carolina close today at 11am AEDT.  It’s a primary, not a caucus, so it is handled by the state’s election authorities.  Shortly before the Nevada caucus, the RealClearPolitics poll average had Joe Biden’s lead over Bernie Sanders down to just three points.  But in the last week, Biden has pulled away again, and now leads Sanders by 12.5 points.  There is large variation in the Biden leads, from four points to 21 in individual polls.

Another favourable point for Biden is that in the last two contested Democratic primaries (2008 and 2016), polls in South Carolina greatly understated the victory margin for the candidate with more black support (Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton).

In national polls, Sanders has 29.5%, Biden 18.4%, Mike Bloomberg 15.5%, Elizabeth Warren 12.1%, Pete Buttigieg 10.5% and Amy Klobuchar 5.0%.  Bloomberg and Klobuchar are down on last week, while Biden is up a little.  If Biden has a big victory in South Carolina, will that boost him enough to be competitive with Sanders?

As of South Carolina, only 155 pledged delegates, or 4% of the total of 3,979, will be allocated.  The biggest day of the primaries is three days later.  On Wednesday AEDT, 14 states vote, and 1,357 delegates (34% of the total) are allocated.  The largest delegate prizes are California (415 pledged delegates) and Texas (229).  Polls close from 11am to 3pm AEDT.

Democratic delegates are awarded proportionally, but with a high 15% threshold applied at both the state and Congressional District (CD) level.  So if a candidate is just below the 15% threshold in a large state, that candidate is likely to win CD delegates from variation in their vote share.

In the RealClearPolitics Super Tuesday averages, Sanders has 32.5% in California, followed by Warren at 15.3%, Biden 12.5%, Bloomberg 10.8% and Buttigieg 9.5%.  If this occurs, it will be a BIG delegate haul for Sanders from California.  However, US polls include undecided voters, so it may not be that bad for the non-Sanders candidates. In Texas, Sanders has 26.0%, Biden 20.0%, Bloomberg 18.7% and Warren 13.3%.  Biden needs a major boost from South Carolina to stop Sanders getting a large delegate lead in three days.

One complication for Sanders is that California takes four weeks to fully count all its votes.  Votes counted after Election Day skew heavily left.  Based on Election Day counts, the media could say Sanders had a disappointing night, and this narrative could impact his chances in later March states.

The only reason that Donald Trump has a realistic chance of re-election is the good US economy.  The coronavirus-caused stock market rout last week is bad news for Trump.  If the economy falters on an issue that draws attention to the US healthcare system, Trump’s ratings are likely to fall, and his re-election chances will deteriorate.