Updated Handicapping of Democratic Presidential Primary States

Today is March 1st, the long-awaited SEC primary.  This seemed like a good time to do a quick update on where things stand in the fight for the Democratic nomination.  Increases in polling and and the first four primary states provide a clearer picture on the next two weeks of voting.  I highly recommend you read my initial analysis, where I went in depth on each states ranking and the issue of non-white voter preference.

What has happened so Far

The first two primary states were good for Sanders.  He virtually tied Clinton in Iowa, though she walked away with the win, and dominated New Hampshire by over 20%.   However, the Sanders campaign hit a bump in Nevada and a brick wall in South Carolina.   Sanders lost Nevada by just over 5% after a week of speculation he would pull off an upset in the state.  Exit polls put Sanders and Clinton nearly even with whites, Clinton getting over 70% of African-Americans, and Sanders winning Hispanics by 8%.   The Sanders campaign touted the Hispanic numbers, but the data suggests Clinton won the Hispanic vote.   Clinton handily won major Hispanic neighborhoods in Clark County and her 10 point win in the biggest county in the state would be unlikely if she lose Hispanics.  Polling Hispanics is notoriously difficult in Nevada and the entrance poll was of around 200 people; providing a very high margin of error.  Heading into Texas and Florida, Sanders holds a double-digit deficit to Clinton with Hispanics according to major pollsters.

In South Carolina, Clinton won the state with 73% of the vote.   She dominated the state, winning every county, many with over 80%.

South Carolina Dem

The South Carolina exits put African-Americans at 61% of the vote, 5 points higher than 2008.  This is thanks to a growing defection of white southerners away from Democrats.  This trend is very likely to manifest itself in the rest of the south, aiding Clinton.   African-Americans backed Clinton 86%-14%.   Sanders managed to get 43% of African-Americans under 30, but lost black voters over 30 by getting only 6%!  Demographics cut into Sanders’ advantage with groups he normally does well with.  He lost liberals and and only got 54% of everyone under 30, a group he normally wins in high 70s or 80s.  This bodes poorly for Sanders in states with significant non-white populations.  Sanders’ best showing was in the heavily white upper counties of the state, which does confirm with polling of Sanders doing well with Appalachia voters.

These were my rankings a week before the Iowa caucuses


After the first four primary, and with the latest polling, my new rankings are below

Sanders Clinton 5

Below is a quick summary of any changes.  Fore more details on my logic for each state’s ranking, see my initial analysis.

Minnesota Caucuses

No change from last month, the state remains likely for Sanders and he is counting on winning it.

Virginia Primary

The growing African-American vote, Clinton’s margins with African-Americans, and Clinton leading most polls by around 20% move this from Lean Clinton to Likely Clinton.

Vermont Primary

Still nothing to see here, Sanders will dominate his home state.

Arkansas Primary

Polls put Clinton solidly ahead, likely Clinton rating holds.

Alabama/Georgia/Tennessee Primaries

All three of these Southern States could see new record African-American percentages thanks to defections of southern whites.  Clinton leads all these states by well over 20 to 30 points.  Clinton will win them easily.

Texas Primary

Sanders has made no major play for the biggest state of the night and the large non-white population continue to make it a major favorite for Clinton.  Clinton averages an over 20% lead.  Rating was Lean Clinton but I have moved it to Likely.

Oklahoma Primary

This state was initially a state I pegged for Clinton, but polling has shown otherwise, and Sanders could win the state by several percentage points.  The results reflect a trend of Sanders doing well with white working class and white voters with less education.  While I intitially had this as Likely Clinton, I now move it to Lean Sanders.

Massachusetts Primary

This is a state I believed was poised to vote for Sanders, but like Oklahoma, polling says otherwise.  Clinton has led the state in recent polls by mid single-digits.  How Clinton wins and where will be telling.  Sanders may do well in the working class western towns, while Clinton may do much better in the Boston region and with the states small African-American population.  I almost made this tossup, but the slew of polling showing a constant Clinton lead has resulted in a ranking of Lean Clinton.

Post SEC Primary

Kansas and Nebraska Caucuses

With no real polling (other than a Kansas poll with an unrealistic number of undecideds) I believe these two caucuses remain favored for Sanders.

Louisiana/Mississippi Primary

See my postings on the other deep south states, will be solid Clinton win thanks to African-American vote.

Maine Caucus

Same as Kansas/Nebraska, no reason not to think this low turnout, intensity-driven affair will favor Sanders.


With a large number of white, working-class voters, this state should be a better opportunity for Sanders.  However, almost all polls put Clinton in the lead by over 20%.  Clinton will dominate the African-American vote and she has made the Flint water crisis a major theme of her campaign; which will play well with African-Americans and white liberals.  I had Michigan at tossup but am moving it to Lean Clinton.  If polling doesn’t improve for Sanders, Likely Clinton is not far behind.

Big State Super Tuesday

North Carolina

Like the rest of the deep south, a growing African-American primary share, Clinton’s dominance with black voters, and strong polling keep this in the Likely Clinton column.


With no new polling and a large white population, I must keep this state at tossup.  How many white conservatives defect to the GOP could shift the demographic dynamics, but right now there is to little info to move behind tossup projection.


The states large non-white voting pool and polls putting Clinton up around 20% have resulted in me moving this from Lean Clinton to Likely Clinton.


Polls put Clinton’s lead at over 20% and the states growing diversity make this state unlikely to go to Sanders, and I am moving the ranking form Lean to Likely Clinton.  I will have more on Florida in an upcoming article.


Ohio stays at a tossup despite Clinton holding solid polling leads due to the large white share of the vote and that Sanders will have to make a play to do well in the state.  Ohio is a state Sanders needs to keep his campaign going with serious viability.  I expect him to make a big play for it.  However, if those events do not pan out and polling doesn’t improve for him, then this state could also fall out of his grasp.


The next few weeks definitely favor Clinton and the media story right now is Clinton is in the drivers seat.  Sanders will need to beat expectations or make some surprise wins to turn things around.   The non-white vote has not improved for him and may have gotten worse with African-Americans.  This proves to be a major road block for Sanders in the next few weeks.  While Sanders could continue past this point, a series of losses will blunt his momentum and hurt future gains.  Running out the calendar is not a viable option.  Sanders has two weeks to turn things around to keep himself in the game.

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