It’s the delegates, stupid

by | Jun 18, 2019 | Politics, Polling

We’re back with an update on where the polling for the Democratic nomination stands, and this week’s update is a doozy. In addition to the Democratic debate stage being set by the release of national and early state polls last week, we’ve got fresh numbers on Texas, which as we know is the center of the universe. The Democratic primary numbers in that poll are fascinating, but the general election is where the action is as this is yet another poll showing troubling waters ahead for Donald Trump’s re-election bid.

First, let’s dive in on the Democratic debate stage. At the end of last week, the Democratic National Committee released the rosters for the first two Democratic debates, and 20 out of 23 candidates managed to qualify.

Polling at the national level has been remarkably stable, and even after Joe Biden’s two-step on the Hyde Amendment and continued criticism from the left, he maintains his standing as the unquestioned front-runner heading into next week’s debates. Biden even picked up one point in this week’s Morning Consult poll, taking himself to 38% nationally, and a whopping 40% in the early states.

The Sanders Slide similarly remains intact, though the Vermont Senator still ranks second both nationally and in the early states for Morning Consult. His RealClearPolitics average tells the story: Sanders has slid to just over 15%, with many of his supporters embracing their previous second choice: Elizabeth Warren.

The Senator from Massachusetts seemingly has a plan for everything, and her luck in the polls is beginning to head in the right direction. She vaulted into second place in the crucial early states of Nevada and South Carolina, and the gains she’s made in those states could portend well for her nationally. The electorate in Nevada and South Carolina are much more diverse than Iowa and New Hampshire, and Warren’s growth in these states could be an indicator that she’s able to appeal to voters of color, a segment of the electorate Bernie still struggles with.

At home in Texas, this week saw the release of the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll, and if the Trump campaign was looking for good news they better close that tab on their browsers. The Tribune poll found that Texas is as swingy as a swing state gets, with just 39 percent of respondents saying they’ll definitely vote for Trump and 43 percent saying they definitely won’t.

That’s right folks, Texas is a 50/50 proposition for Donald Trump in the general election, and as we’ve been saying repeatedly here at The Texas Signal, Texas is the biggest swing state in play on the 2020 map. If Democrats can flip the state, Trump’s hopes for re-election are surely doomed.

Trump’s own internal polling has him losing everywhere, from double-digit deficits in states like Pennsylvania and Minnesota that he either won or made unexpectedly competitive to just a two-point margin here in Texas.

This can’t be overstated enough. If Trump loses Texas, he faces a near impossible mathematical path to re-election, and all signs are pointing to Texas being the bellwether for his campaign.

But if Trump’s in deep in the heart of Texas trouble, who is best positioned to face him in the fall? According to the UT/Tribune poll, Joe Biden is still out front with 23% of the vote, followed by hometown candidate Beto O’Rourke with 15%. Bernie has slipped to 12% (down 3 points from Quinnipiac’s poll two weeks ago) and Elizabeth Warren has overtaken him for third place with 14%, up 3 points from the Q poll.

The race for a top three finish in Texas will continue to take on increased importance as we get closer to the March primary. There are 228 delegates at stake in Texas, which is more than in the first four nominating contests combined. In order to earn any delegates at all, a candidate has to finish with 15% in an individual state.

Under these rules, Elizabeth Warren would be on the outside looking in, but let’s say for the sake of argument that the primary was held today and the only change was Elizabeth Warren gaining 1% of the vote.

That would translate to Warren and Beto picking up roughly 63 delegates each, more than they could win in any of the first four states if they were running unopposed.

Why does it matter? We’re talking about delegate math in this polling update because it is the delegate count that decides the nomination and with a field of over 20 candidates laboring towards the Iowa caucuses, campaigns with the financial resources to compete in Texas could vault into contention on the delegate count.

As the race tightens, Texas will become even more important to winning the Democratic nomination, and the positive impacts of a competitive Presidential primary will have a ripple effect throughout Texas politics, with new voters coming out in droves. Will Presidential candidates recognize the opportunity in Texas and increase their engagement and investment in the state? Stay tuned to The Texas Signal to find out.

Senior Advisor | + posts

Joe brings over a decade of experience as a political operative and creative strategist to Texas Signal, where he serves as our Senior Advisor and does everything from writing a regular column, Musings, to mentoring our staff and freelancers. Joe was campaign manager for Lina Hidalgo's historic 2018 victory for Harris County Judge and is a passionate sneakerhead.

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