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It appears that the Democratic race for the presidential nomination has mostly boiled down to a contest between two candidates – U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and former Vice President Joe Biden. 

Biden was in the driver’s seat earlier, I believe, when U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont was closer to the top. Now, it appears, momentum has switched, and Warren is in a strong position heading into the fall. I think this is due to several factors. First, Warren has outshined Biden in recent Democratic debates and forums. Biden is playing catch-up as the base of the party has swung further to the left.

Second, the Ukraine investigation shines an unwelcome spotlight on his activity as Vice President dealing with the Eastern European nation. I think President Trump’s complaints constitute more smoke than fire, but the fact remains, there was an apparent conflict of interest with his son, Hunter Biden’s business interests in Ukraine, something that concerned even the Obama administration.

Third, Sanders’ heart attack causing the 78-year-old to pause his campaign did not help with voters concerned about his age and health. Warren is the likely beneficiary of voters peeling away from him. (Not that Warren or Biden are young either at age 70 and age 76 respectfully.)

I don’t believe that national polling gives us a good picture of the race, so I want to look at the early states. In the first two states of the Democratic calendar, Warren is in good shape. Nevada looks like it is up for grabs, and Biden dominates in South Carolina.

In each state, I want to look at polling conducted within the last 30 days, poll averages, and the rough delegate estimates for each candidate based on statewide polling and assuming (in states where it matters) each district vote is equal to the statewide vote. 

To win the nomination, a candidate will need to win a majority, an estimated 1,885 pledged delegates on the first ballot of the party’s national convention to win. If the convention goes to a second ballot, then all bets are off as the “superdelegates” (party leadership, members of Congress, governors, former presidents, and vice presidents) can then vote.

Iowa Caucus – February 3

Iowa has 41 pledged delegates up for grabs given proportionately based on the caucus results. Iowa is, however, a caucus to convention process, so Democrats choose delegates during the district and state conventions. 

Warren has surged in the Hawkeye State. Here are the five most recent polls:

Firehouse Strategies/Optimus 10/8-10/10 (548 likely voters, +/- 3.6%)

  • Warren – 25 percent
  • Biden – 22 percent
  • Pete Buttigieg – 17 percent
  • Sanders – 5 percent

This poll is an outlier showing South Bend’s mayor in third place, but he has gained support in the state.

CBS/YouGov 10/3-10/11 (729 LV, +/-4.6%)

  • Biden – 22 percent (-7 drop since August)
  • Warren – 22 percent (+5)
  • Sanders – 21 percent (-5)
  • Buttigieg – 14 percent (+7)

This poll confirms the Firehouse poll that shows a significant gain by Buttigieg in October. 

Des Moines Register/CNN 9/14-9/18 (602 LV, +/- 4%)

  • Warren – 22 percent (+7 since June)
  • Biden – 20 percent (-4)
  • Sanders – 11 percent (-5)
  • Buttigieg – 9 percent (-5)

Buttigieg’s bump appears to have come in late September and early October as it is not reflected in this September poll.

Iowa State University/Civiqs 9/13-9/17 (572 LV, +/- 5.2%)

  • Warren – 24 percent
  • Biden – 16 percent
  • Sanders 16 percent
  • Buttigieg – 13 percent

David Binder Research 9/14-9/17 (500 LV, +/-4.4%)

  • Biden – 25 percent (+8 since June)
  • Warren – 23 percent (+3)
  • Buttigieg – 12 percent (+2)
  • Sanders – 9 percent (-3)

Out of the latest five polls, this is the only one to show a Biden lead.

An average of the last five polls shows:

  • Warren – 23.2 percent
  • Biden – 21.0 percent
  • Buttigieg – 13.0 percent
  • Sanders – 12.4 percent

Rough delegate estimate:

  • Warren – 23
  • Biden – 18

New Hampshire Primary – February 11

There are 24 pledged delegates up for grabs that the New Hampshire Democratic Party awards on a proportional basis.

Here are the five most recent polls in the Granite State that show Warren in the lead.

Firehouse Strategies/Optimus 10/8-10/10 (610 LV, +/-3.7%)

  • Warren – 25 percent
  • Biden – 18 percent
  • Sanders – 9 percent
  • Buttigieg – 7 percent

Boston Herald/Franklin Pierce U 10/9-10/13 (422 LV)

  • Warren – 25 percent (+8 since September)
  • Biden – 24 percent (+3)
  • Sanders – 22 percent (-7)
  • Buttigieg – 9 percent (+4)

This poll shows a significant drop for Sanders since September.

CBS/YouGov 10/3-10/11 (506 RV, +/-5.4%)

  • Warren – 32 percent (+5 since August)
  • Biden – 24 percent (-2)
  • Sanders – 17 percent (-8)
  • Buttigieg – 7 percent (-1)

The CBS poll confirms that Sanders has seen support peel away. 

St. Anslem College 9/25-9/29 (423 RV, +/-4.8%)

  • Warren – 25 percent (+8 since July)
  • Biden – 24 percent (+3)
  • Sanders – 11 percent (+1)
  • Buttigieg – 10 percent (-2)

Monmouth University 9/17 – 9/21 (401 LV, +/-4.9%)

  • Warren – 27 percent (+19 since May)
  • Biden – 25 percent (-11)
  • Sanders – 12 percent (-6)
  • Buttigieg – 10 percent (+1)

While all of the polls don’t agree on the margin, they all agree on the order of the top four. Something also important to note is that New Hampshire has an open primary, which means independent and Republican voters can vote in the Democratic primary. 

Here’s the average of the last five polls:

  • Warren – 26.8 percent
  • Biden – 23.0 percent
  • Sanders – 14.2 percent
  • Buttigieg – 8.6 percent

Rough delegate estimate:

  • Warren – 13
  • Biden – 11

Nevada Caucus – February 22

Thirty-six pledged delegates are awarded proportionately based on the caucus results. 

No October polls were released, and there were only two polls conducted within the last 30 days. Biden currently leads, but we don’t have a clear picture of the state without October polling since Warren started to surge. Biden, Sanders, and Warren are the only candidates breaking double digits. 

CNN/SSRS 9/22-9/26 (324 LV, +/-7.1%)

  • Biden – 22 percent
  • Sanders – 22 percent
  • Warren – 18 percent

USA Today/Suffolk University 9/19-9/23 (500 LV, +/-4.4%)

  • Biden – 23 percent
  • Warren – 19 percent
  • Sanders – 14 percent 

The two-poll average shows:

  • Biden – 22.5 percent
  • Warren – 18.5 percent
  • Sanders – 18.0 percent

Delegate rough estimate:

  • Biden – 13
  • Warren – 13
  • Sanders – 10

South Carolina Primary – February 29

There are 54 pledged delegates up for grabs for Democrats in the Palmetto States, as with the three earlier contests, these are awarded proportionately. 

The five recent polls show Biden has a healthy lead in the state. If the polling numbers resemble the real results will win with a large enough margin to pick up all of the state’s delegates.

Firehouse Strategies/Optimus 10/8-10/10 (607 LV, +/- 3.7%)

  • Biden – 32 percent
  • Warren – 16 percent
  • Sanders – 8 percent

CBS/YouGov 10/3 – 10/11 (915 RV, +/-3.9%)

  • Biden – 43 percent (no change since August)
  • Warren – 18 percent (+4)
  • Sanders – 16 percent (-2)

Gravis Marketing 10/3 – 10/7 (516 LV, +/-4.3%)

  • Biden – 34 percent
  • Sanders – 10 percent
  • Warren – 9 percent

Fox News -9/29 – 10/2 (803 LV, +/-3.5%)

  • Biden – 41 percent (+6 since July)
  • Warren – 12 percent (+7)
  • Sanders – 10 percent (-4)

Winthrop 9/21 – 9/30 (462 RV, +/-4.6%)

  • Biden – 37 percent
  • Warren – 17 percent
  • Sanders – 8 percent

Polling Average 

  • Biden – 37.4 percent
  • Warren 14.4 percent
  • Sanders – 10.4 percent

Rough Delegate Estimate:

  • Biden – 54

Super Tuesday – March 3

We will see lower-tier candidates peel away with each contest, but likely not enough to make a difference in the early states. Super Tuesday will winnow the field considerably. On March 3, Democrats in 14 states will go to the polls. American Samoa will hold a caucus on that day.

The biggest prize of the day is California. Here are the pledged delegates up for grabs for each state and territory:

  • Alabama – 54 
  • American Samoa – 6
  • Arkansas – 31
  • California – 416
  • Colorado – 67
  • Maine – 24
  • Massachusetts – 91
  • Minnesota – 75
  • North Carolina – 110
  • Oklahoma – 37
  • Tennesee – 67
  • Texas – 228
  • Utah – 29
  • Vermont – 16
  • Virginia – 99

On this day, the rubber meets the road, and it’s hard to say who will come out in the lead. 

Warren could win the first two contests, and perhaps even the first three contests – Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada, and still trail Biden in delegates.

The rough estimated delegate count after the first four states are:

  • Biden – 105
  • Warren – 58
  • Sanders – 10

I think it is likely that Biden will sweep the southern states, and do so with enough of a margin that he wins most of the delegates in those states. 

The big prize is California, and the polling averages of the last five polls within the last 30 days have Warren and Biden tied. Warren has a one-point lead in the latest poll. That said, no survey was conducted in October.

California’s poll average:

  • Biden – 22.6 percent
  • Warren – 22.6 percent
  • Sanders – 21.4 percent

The estimated delegate count for the state would be Biden with 149, Warren with 149, and Sanders with 118.

California voters don’t exist in a bubble, however, and a winnowed field will shake things up some. Also, whoever has momentum coming out of February will have an advantage. 

The next biggest prize is Texas, and based on the most recent polling (nothing conducted within the last 30 days), it’s doubtful that Warren wins any delegates in that state unless former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke drops out before March 3rd. Since it’s the only state he’s polling decently in (running 2nd to Biden), I’m doubtful he will drop out before then.

North Carolina, with 110 delegates, is the third-largest prize on Super Tuesday. Biden leads the last two polls in that state, and if he wins by the same margin, he’s on track to pick up 71 delegates to Warren’s 39.

Virginia offers 99 delegates, but there has not been polling since June. While I think Biden will have an advantage there, I can’t say for sure.

Massachusetts offers the fifth most delegates on Super Tuesday with 91. One would think Warren would have an advantage in her home state. Remarkedly, in the last poll conducted in early September, Biden had a two-point lead.

Conclusion

Warren may have momentum in Iowa and New Hampshire, Biden still appears to have an advantage through Super Tuesday unless Warren can convincingly win California.

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