How the 2020 Election Will Go, Part Two

On January 18th, I wrote this this article:

The summary of that article was:

  • The African-American vote is very influential
  • Biden still has strong support from African-Americans
  • Super Tuesday has a lot of African-Americans
  • There’s evidence Biden will pull ahead on Super Tuesday as a result

Oh my, how things have changed.

Biden is losing African-Americans

He’s still pretty strong with them, but so is Bernie. And that’s bad news in proportional voting. If Biden can win a state 75% to 25%, that can create a mathmatical advantage. But if he wins 51% to 49%, it’s a wash. Right now Biden might be leading, but not by enough to save him.

Bernie is gaining more Latino vote

His numbers in Nevada were stunning. If he continues doing well with this demographic, that could make a big difference. For example, running up a big margin in diverse California would help him a lot.

Bernie will win

And the numbers aren’t even close. Looking at 538’s current model, you end up with a graph that looks like this after the dust settles.

[Update: I realised a few weeks after writing this that I didn’t account for the 15% threshold rule. If someone gets less than 15% of the vote, they don’t get any delegates. This means that everyone Sanders, Biden, and maybe Bloomberg would have much higher numbers, and no one else would get much. This changes all my estimates. But the final story is still the same: it’s going to be Biden versus Bernie.]

And there aren’t enough delegates remaining to make a difference. (Note: I forgot to include South Carolina in these numbers. I suspect Biden will win it, but that doesn’t change the overall story below) See that giant spike in the front? That’s Super Tuesday.

The size of Super Tuesday means you’d need to rack up huge margins in every single contest to catch up. How huge? Let’s dive into the numbers.

What the math tells us about Biden

After Super Tuesday, approximately 1500 delegates will have been allocated, and there would still be 2242 up for grabs. So far, Bernie has 44% of the votes cast, and if that continues to the end of the process, he’ll end up with 1618. (He needs 1991 to clinch the nomination, more on that below.)

Biden, on the other hand, is around 22%. That means he’d end up with 813. To make up that advantage, he has to suddenly start doing much, much better. For example, what if Biden starts winning 50% of the proportional vote and Bernie only wins 25%? It’d look like this.

What if Biden starts winning 50% and Bernie drops to 25%?

It takes a lot of wishful thinking to look at this graph and think it’s good news for Biden. He’d have to suddenly start winning 50% of every contest while Bernie drops all the way down to 25%, and even then it’d be a close contest.

The chances of this happening are basically zero. Biden may well end up in second place, but it will be a distant second. And that’s the ballgame.

Wait, what about Bloomberg?

Bloomberg is tricky. He’ll end up in third place if he’s lucky, but it just won’t matter. He’ll take some votes from Bernie, some other votes from Biden, and in the end he’s just angling for a brokered convention.

So Bernie won’t get a majority of votes?

Nope. That’s not what the numbers are showing us. Maybe if everyone dropped out and it became a two person race, but that’s not going to happen.

Will the “super-delegates” screw Bernie?

Not a chance. There’s a very widespread belief that the powers that be are going to spring into action and award the contest to someone who didn’t get the most votes. That simply won’t happen, and I’m not basing that on blind faith or naiveté.

Superdelegates were orginally put in place in 1968 to prevent the nominee being someone who didn’t win any contests. Superdelegates have never picked a nominee that didn’t win the most votes, nor do they have any motivation or incentive to.

Well, they screwed him in 2016!

In 2016, Hillary Clinton won 2220 to 1831, or around 54% to 46%. There were 11 days when Sanders held a lead, from his New Hampshire win to his Nevada loss. Then he got swamped on Super Tuesday, and never recovered. It was never particuarly close, and the superdelegates did their job at the end and aligned with the frontrunner.

It’s true that superdelegates announcing their love of Hillary Clinton early in the process was a bad idea, so that was reformed this year. But other than that, superdelegates are not nearly as powerful in practice and precedent as the boogeyman they’re made into.

What happens at the convention?

It’ll be very dramatic because Bernie won’t have a majority. (Get ready to hear the world plurality a lot!) But in the end the answer will be obvious: Bernie will have the most delegates (by a landslide), meaning he’ll get the superdelegates, and that will be that.

The general election against Donald Trump

As I said last time, this is how you predict the November election.

  1. Ignore every state except Florida, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Arizona.
  2. See how Bernie and Trump are doing in those states.
  3. If Bernie wins Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, he wins the presidency.
  4. If he doesn’t win those states, he loses.
  5. That’s it. It’s just that simple.

The House and Senate

The Democrats will keep the House and fail to capture the Senate. The Senate has always been a stretch, and the House has always been in reach, and that hasn’t changed much.

How a Bernie presidency looks in split government

The White House doesn’t pass laws, congress does. So the entire legislative agenda that Democrats are excited to see inacted will be blocked by the Republican Senate. Perhaps even Supreme Court picks. Some things will change, but laws won’t. That’s split government for you!

So will Bernie win against Trump?

Bernie is not my first choice, but I’m all-in for him now. If Democrats have that attitude, he can and will win. If Democrats fracture, they’ll lose. And they’ll deserve it. The person who gets the most votes should always win.

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