Presidential candidate Joe Biden’s surprise sweep of the Super Tuesday was motivated by voters who chose their favorite candidate in the US Democratic race only the week before, suggests an FT analysis of the March 3 vote polls .
Although supporters of his main rival, Bernie Sanders, are firm – many decided to vote for him long before the February primaries – there is little evidence that he is attracting large numbers of new voters. This lack of momentum can prove decisive in scuttling its campaign.
While other moderate candidates dropped out of the race, 19% of moderate voters were on the line in the final days before Super Tuesday. Mr. Biden succeeded in getting many people to vote for him.
The late increase in votes for Mr. Biden was apparent in the 14 states that voted in the primaries last week, including the home state of Bernie Sanders, Vermont. Although Mr. Sanders won the state, Mr. Biden beat his rival to attract votes from those who only picked their favorite candidate last week.
The analysis suggests that the South Carolina primary on February 29, which the former vice president won, played a central role in the new appeal to voters across the country, relaunching its previous stuttering campaign.
The resurgence of Mr. Biden’s Super Tuesday is reminiscent of the boost that propelled former President Barack Obama to victory before Hillary Clinton in 2008. Mr. Obama received an initial nine-point boost in his poll after won the Iowa opening caucuses. Like Mr. Biden, he then won South Carolina before a solid performance at Super Tuesday, allowing him to overtake the first favorite.
Polls after the Super Tuesday primaries also showed that Sanders remained the most popular with young voters and those who had not voted before, while Biden appealed to older voters.
Mr. Sanders continued to support Hispanic and Asian voters, while Mr. Biden’s support among black voters was also apparent. However, the impact of Sanders’s electoral base has been reduced by the low turnout of young people.
The age group of 65 and over who strongly favored Mr. Biden over Mr. Sanders represents only 19% of the electorate of Super Tuesday, but represented 44% of the votes cast.
Biden also took advantage of the withdrawal of other candidates, freeing up moderate votes.
Before South Carolina primary, supporters of Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar said they were more likely to vote for Mr. Sanders than Mr. Biden if their candidate gave up. However, after Mr. Biden’s brilliant victory on February 29, the two candidates left the race and approved Mr. Biden.
Among Super Tuesday voters who decided who to vote for in February, 15% opted for Mr. Buttigieg or Ms. Klobuchar, but among those who decided in the last days before the vote, only 4% stayed with the pair.
Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg was the joker in the Democratic race. After the billionaire’s poor performance on the debating stage on February 19, however, his share of the Super Tuesday vote has gone from 20% among prime makers to 12% among late movers.
Sanders must now find a way to quickly reverse the swing to his rival in what has now become a two-horse race – and endorsements may not help pave the way for him. A post-Super Tuesday Reuters / Ipsos poll suggests that voters who previously supported progressive candidate Elizabeth Warren are no more likely to turn to their progressive colleague, Mr. Sanders, than to Mr. Biden.
Instead, Mr. Sanders will need more participation from younger, Hispanic and Asian voters than there was on Super Tuesday. But state demographics in the next round of democratic primaries – Mississippi, North Dakota, Michigan, Idaho, Missouri and Washington – suggest that opportunities will likely be limited.
Hispanic voters make up no more than 8% of the voting age population of citizens in the major states this week.
There is still a long way to go to cross the threshold of 1 991 promised delegates necessary to obtain the nomination to the Democratic Convention in July. But Mr. Sanders has a long battle ahead of him if he hopes to beat Mr. Biden’s surge.