Primary Prediction

Sanders will lead after Super Tuesday

Primary Prediction

At the risk of being egregiously wrong, here are my predictions for how the first round of primaries/caucuses will go in the Democratic contests through March 3.

February 3: Iowa (41 delegates): Sanders wins Iowa with a little over one-third, perhaps 35 percent. Biden and Warren battle it out, both in the mid 20s. Buttigieg gets somewhere in the teens. Amy Klobuchar may pick up some delegates in northern half of Iowa, especially counties that border Iowa; she has had some solid momentum in the last week.

Delegate projection for Iowa: Sanders 13, Warren 11, Biden 9, Buttigieg 4, Klobuchar 3

February 11: New Hampshire (24 delegates): This fight is between Sanders and Warren, both New England natives. Sanders will win New Hampshire, as most of his base from 2016 is still with him. Warren will get a solid 30 percent, with Biden picking up most of the rest. Buttigieg may edge out a few delegates, and Tulsi Gabbard may do better than expected given the amount of time she has spent in the state.

Delegate projection for New Hampshire: Sanders 10, Warren 8, Biden 6

February 22: Nevada (36 delegates) While Clinton won in 2016, Sanders did receive a solid 47 percent. His ground game is still solid in Nevada and he is likely to win the caucus. Biden finishes a solid second, and Warren a respectable third. Everybody else is pretty much an asterisk.

Delegate projection for Nevada: Sanders 16, Biden 12, Warren 8

February 29: South Carolina (54 delegates): The largest contest so far and the first in the South. Clinton used a huge margin in the African American vote to blow Sanders away in 2016. However, Biden and Sanders have a closer split of the African-American vote and Sanders will have momentum coming off three wins. Biden wins South Carolina (a must; if he loses, he is toast) but not by the huge margin that Clinton did. Sanders and Warren fight over the progressive vote, with Sanders finishing slightly ahead.

Delegate projection for South Carolina: Biden 28, Sanders 14, Warren 12

Dropouts: Michael Bennett and Deval Patrick drop out right after New Hampshire. Pete Buttigieg and Tulsi Gabbard drop out before the end of February. Andrew Yang and Tom Steyer have the resources to stick around, but I suspect neither wants to pour good money after bad, so they drop out either just before Super Tuesday, possibly just after.

Super Tuesday: March 3 (ordered by size)

California (416 delegates): The big enchilada of March 3. Sanders has been trending upwards and has had several massive rallies in California. Sanders will receive a solidly plurality, somewhere in the 40s. Biden finishes second with around a third and Warren gets most of the rest.

Delegate projection for California: Sanders 195, Biden 129, Warren 92

Texas (228 delegates): With a closed primary, Biden has the advantage. Biden wins Texas, but not by nearly the margin Clinton did. He may eke out a majority. Sanders and Warren split up the progressive vote in Texas (larger than you would imagine; think Jim Hightower). Sanders finishes second, Warren third. Warren may do better than expected in Texas, given her Oklahoma roots.

Delegate projection for Texas: Biden 115, Sanders 68. Warren 45

North Carolina (110 delegates): This will largely be a battle between Biden and Sanders, with Biden having a slight edge among African American voters. Sanders may benefit from the state’s growing Hispanic population and a strong labor/progressive movement.

Delegate projection for North Carolina: Biden 60, Sanders 50 (this one could be way off, especially if Warren gets delegates)

Virginia (99 delegates): With an open primary, Sanders and Biden should have a strong fight here. I give the edge to Biden, but narrowly. Biden 40, Sanders 35, with Warren getting most of the rest.

Delegate projection for Virginia: Biden 40, Sanders 35, Warren 24

Massachusetts (91 delegates): Warren takes it in a landslide, but Sanders probably gets over 15 percent so he picks up some delegates.

Delegate projection for Massachusetts: Warren 68, Sanders 23

Minnesota (75 delegates): Klobuchar is likely to stick around to give her home state the chance to vote for her, especially if she does BTE in Iowa. If Klobuchar is still around, she wins Minnesota handily, with around 65 percent. Sanders gets most of the rest, with Biden possibly getting some delegates.

Delegate projection for Minnesota: Klobuchar 48, Sanders 15, Biden 12

Tennessee (64 delegates): Same dynamic as North Carolina or Virginia. Biden wins the African American vote but probably not in a landslide. Biden wins with a slightly majority, Sanders with about a third, and Warren gets some delegates.

Delegate projection for Tennessee: Biden 36, Sanders 22, Warren 6

Colorado (67 delegates): If Michael Bennet sticks around, he would win his home state. But odds on he will be out of the race. With a semi open primary replacing the caucus, Sanders has an edge but less than he did in 2016. Sanders gets a plurality (somewhere in the 40s), Biden gets somewhere in the 30s and Warren picks up the rest.

Delegate projection for Colorado: Sanders 33, Biden 24, Warren 10

Alabama (52 delegates): Alabama should be similar to the other southern states, with Biden getting a solid plurality of the African American vote. Biden first, Sanders second, Warren third.

Delegate projection for Alabama: Biden 29, Sanders 22, Warren 11

Oklahoma (37 delegates): Oklahoma could be a surprise, as it is the home state of Warren. Since there hasn’t been an Oklahoma with a remote possibility of winning the White House since Fred Harris in 1976, Oklahomans may vote for Warren out of nostalgia. Biden finishes second among the relatively conservative Oklahoman electoral, and Sanders finishes third.

Delegate projection for Oklahoma: Warren 19, Biden 10, Sanders 8

Arkansas (31 delegates): The smallest of the Southern states, Warren may get some votes being from Oklahoma. But more likely a fight between Biden and Sanders, with Biden winning by a plurality.

Delegate projection for Arkansas: Biden 18, Sanders 9, Warren 5

Utah (29 delegates): Sanders won the Utah caucus huge in 2016. Democrats in Utah tend to be leftists in reaction to the ultra-conservatism in the Mormon state. So Sanders should still do well, but probably not as well because the state party switched to a primary. Sanders fights Biden and wins by a respectable margin. Warren may pick up some delegates.

Delegate projection for Utah: Sanders 14, Biden 10, Warren 5

Maine (24 delegates): Maine has gone from a Caucus to a closed primary. Sanders is still popular, so he should win, but fellow New Englander Warren could also do well. Biden captures the moderate vote and finishes a close third.

Delegate projection for Maine: Sanders 12, Warren 7, Biden 5

Vermont (16 delegates): Sanders will win his home state by a landslide, although Warren may capture enough votes to win a few delegates. But the fight is between the two New England candidates.

Delegate projection for Vermont: Sanders 13, Warren 3

Democrats Abroad (13 delegates): Democrats Abroad went for Sanders about 2 to 1 back in 2016, and the procedure is more or less the same.

Delegate projection for Democrats Abroad: Sanders 8, Biden 3, Warren 2

American Samoa (6 delegates): They are once again having a caucus. Clinton won by a fairly decent margin in 2016, so Biden will probably win, with Sanders picking up much of the rest,

Delegate projection for American Samoa: Biden 4, Sanders 2

Delegate Count Post Super Tuesday

Sanders: 556

Biden: 540

Warren: 330

Klobuchar: 51

Buttigieg: 4

Bottom Line: As noted, these projections could be way off. I will post an update in March, just to see how close (or far off) I was. Plenty of things could happen in the next few weeks. Biden could have a major gaffe than knocks him off; he’s done it before. Bloomberg’s commercials may be more compelling than we think, but I doubt it. If Biden does flame out, who picks up the moderate mantle? Probably Klobuchar, although Mayor Pete might pick up some Biden supporters. Stay turned, things could get very interesting over the next month.

John Heckenlively
John Heckenlively
Read next: New Mexico—It's like a State, like All the Others!
John Heckenlively
See all posts by John Heckenlively