Expert Outlooks: Super Tuesday

Tomorrow is Super Tuesday and, in addition to the presidential contest, we'll see the first congressional and statewide primaries of the 2020 election cycle. CAWP wanted to get some insights on the Super Tuesday contests, so we called on a group of expert scholars and practitioners to tell us what they're watching for tomorrow, as part of our series of expert outlook compilation posts that we'll be sharing throughout the 2020 elections. Our group of experts were provided this prompt:

Super Tuesday marks not only a key moment in the presidential primary, but also the first congressional and statewide primary elections of the 2020 cycle (with congressional primaries held in AL, AR, CA, NC, and TX). What gender and intersectional dynamics or stories will you be watching on Super Tuesday?

Here's what we heard back.

The race gap in the gender gap.

I’ll be looking for how the candidates signal to Black women voters.

Black women’s candidate calculus.

Watching Latinas in California and Texas.

I’ll be interested in the youth vote on Super Tuesday. 

The age gap in the gender gap.

How will the presidential line affect strategic voting for women in down-ballot races?

Women’s increased political participation, especially in fundraising, and Super Tuesday delegates.

Virginia state legislators vs. women in the congressional delegation and presidential campaigning.

How will presidential results impact down-ballot races?

What about up-ballot effects of candidates at the state and congressional levels?

How will Super Tuesday results impact media narratives about electability and viability?

I’ll be watching Warren...but also the diverse women vying for the Senate in North Carolina and Texas.

Will Democratic candidates disrupt Trump’s deployment of gender?

Increasing diversity, and ideological diversity, of the women in Congress.

Women of Color and Statewide Executive Elective Office.

Notes from Colorado.


The race gap in the gender gap. - Cate Gormley, Vice President of Lake Research Partners

I can’t underscore how important women voters are in 2020. But I’m not interested in “women” as a whole, I’m keeping my eye on how women across races compare to their male counterparts.

With a crowded field and only 4% of delegates pledged to candidates so far, Super Tuesday is going to matter a lot. Using polling data from the past four weeks from YouGov, the Economist is tracking candidate support by demographic groups. There are clear patterns of support among men and women for Senator Bernie Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden, and Senator Elizabeth Warren; there is less of a race-by-gender gap for other candidates.

Sanders has more support from men than women, and he’s doing better among white and Black men than white and Black women. He is also doing better with men than women who are neither white, Black, nor Latinx. It looks like Latinx voters are a core constituency for Sanders, but there is little difference between Latinx men and women. I’m keeping my eye on Texas and California, states with sizable Latinx populations.

Biden has more support from women than men and more support among Black voters than white or Latinx voters. Black women are more likely than Black men to support Biden. Will Black women deliver delegates to Biden across the South?

Warren’s support tends to come from white voters more than Black or Latinx voters, and from women more than men. Indeed, white women are more likely than white men to support Elizabeth Warren. After her strong debate performances over the past few weeks, are more white women shifting to Warren?

Democratic primary voters are doing all sorts of calculations to figure out which candidate both aligns with their values and can beat Trump in November. Across races, men and women are coming up with different solutions.


I’ll be looking for how the candidates signal to Black women voters. - Nadia E. Brown, Associate Professor of Political Science at Purdue University

Democrats are rightfully paying attention to Black women as key voters this election cycle. Indeed, Black women are the most active voting bloc within the American electorate. Black women overwhelmingly support Democratic candidates. For example, the 2018 midterm elections saw Black women support Democrats at a rate of 94% compared to 84% of Black men. Indeed, it is Black women who led efforts to mobilize family and friends which lead to increased voter turnout in 2018. Black women are expected to cast nearly 11 million votes in 2020. Attention to the “Black vote” is incomplete if one does not include a gendered analysis.

Elizabeth Warren, more than any other candidate, seems to understand the need to engage with Black women on the issues and policies that impact them the most. Black Women for Warren and #BWFWarren on twitter explicate why transactional politics always leave Black women behind. Julian Castro, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and Mayor of San Antonio, was another Democratic presidential candidate who sought to woo Black voters by paying special attention to how the lived experiences of Black women influenced their policy preferences. Castro’s campaign manager was Maya Rupert, an African American woman, who stressed that Democratic Black women vote for progressive policies that not only impact them but other marginalized populations.

My published research with collaborators Christina E. Bejarano, Sarah Allen Gershon and Celeste Montoya find that Blck women have the highest level of intersectional linked fate but are least likely to prefer out-group candidates. However, Black women did not readily support Kamala Harris or Cory Booker as they sought the Democratic nomination. How are candidates talking about Black women, not just an appeal to a monolithic Black voter, through an intersectional articulation of policy stances? I'm watching the nuanced returns of the Super Tuesday contests to learn if Black women voters - a key demographic group for Democrats - are supporting candidates who directly speak to the issues that they prioritize.


Black women’s candidate calculus. - Glynda Carr, President and CEO of Higher Heights for America

Black women account for a decisive percentage of the electorate in several of the fourteen states and the U.S territory up for grabs on Super Tuesday. Their historically high turnout at the polls means everyone is watching to see what effect their votes have on creating a path for the Democratic presidential nominee.

To be sure, Black women’s votes will be decisive. We expect to see consistent, committed voter turnout. But we’re watching to see whether they show up en masse for a single candidate the way most campaigns and analysts gamble they will – no matter how much they’re reminded Black women voters are not a monolith. Many Black women feel uninspired and unrepresented by the current crop of candidates, so they’re engaged in a complex game of math to choose the one who offers the best possibility for elevating and protecting their families, communities, and them. How that equation functions may well depend on age, geography, and economic experience. The common thread, however, is Black women voters want to select a candidate who can win: someone who can offer more responsive, less volatile leadership at home and abroad.

In addition to the presidential primaries, we’re keeping an eye on how Black women candidates perform in states with down-ballot races this Super Tuesday. Alabama, Arkansas, California, North Carolina and Texas will each have local, state, and federal candidates on their primary ballots. Twenty-two Black women are on the ballot running for federal and statewide offices in North Carolina and Texas, so we’ll be watching to see how they do.


Watching Latinas in California and Texas. - Anna Sampaio, Associate Professor and Chair of Department of Ethnic Studies at Santa Clara University

How will Latina support for the Democratic candidates shape outcome of elections on Super Tuesday, especially in delegate rich states of California and Texas? Latina/o/x voting behavior indicates that Latinas, more than Latinos, drive increases in registration and turnout across all national origin groups within the Latina/o/x electorate. With over 32 million eligible voters in 2020, Latinas/os/xs are projected to become the largest minority voting population this year, making their voting preferences even more significant in states like California and Texas, where they comprise approximately 40% of the population and are likely to account for around 20% of the electorate.

In addition, Latinas historically favor more liberal candidates and policies than Latino males, leading to an increasing gender gap in the population and favoring more liberal Democrats in the past presidential elections. Recognizing the potential power Latinas hold, candidates such as Elizabeth Warren launched a targeted campaign entitled “Latinas Fight, Latinas Win,” while the Sanders campaign invested heavily in Latina/o/x outreach and mobilization this election season. The impact of these investments will be measured most strongly on Tuesday in California and Texas and are likely to either cement or re-direct momentum in the remaining primaries.


I’ll be interested in the youth vote on Super Tuesday.  Will they turnout, how will they vote, and will there be any significant gender and racial differences among Gen Z voters? – Melissa Deckman, Professor and Chair of the Political Science Department at Washington College

Much attention has been paid to the age gap among Democratic primary voters this presidential primary season, with Senator Bernie Sanders enjoying a much greater lead among young voters. I’m anxious to see, however, whether any particular gender gaps emerge among the newest generation of voters, Gen Z Americans, born after 1996. Will the presence of Elizabeth Warren on the ballot potentially siphon any young female voters? Will the youth vote differ in the South and Midwest from other states? Will the Gen Z vote also be marked by racial differences, given it is the most ethnically and racially diverse cohort of voters? And will the youth vote actually materialize in any great number? For instance, in the 2018 midterms, turnout among college women more than doubled from 2014 to 43 percent. I’m anxious to see to what extent Gen Z, and relatedly, Millennial voters, will impact the voting results compared with older Americans on Tuesday.


The age gap in the gender gap. - Mary-Kate Lizotte, Associate Professor in the Master of Public Administration program at Augusta University

If the only voters were women, we would consistently have Democratic presidents. This conceals the fact that not all women, even all Democratic women, share the same preferences. The Democratic presidential primary is an opportunity to see how subgroups of women differ in their vote choice. One prominent difference likely to be evident on Super Tuesday is that younger and older women will likely vote for different Democratic candidates. Similarly to the 2008 Democratic primary when younger women voted for Obama and older women voted for Clinton, we will likely see a similar split with younger women voting for Sanders and older women voting for Warren. Perhaps this divide between younger and older women is due to candidate messaging with younger women drawn to Sanders’ “revolution.” Identity politics assuredly contributes to this divide as well with older women in the Democratic Party yearning to see a woman elected to the White House. Ideology may also be a factor with younger women tending to be more liberal than older women in their policy positions. Ultimately, it will be vital for the Democratic presidential nominee to shore up support among all subgroups of women in the Democratic Party.


How will the presidential line affect strategic voting for women in down-ballot races? - Melissa Michelson, Professor of Political Science at Menlo College

Super Tuesday poses the last chance for someone other than a straight White man to generate enough momentum to take the Democratic presidential nomination. The one gay candidate, Pete Buttigieg, has dropped out, and the women candidates failed in most previous contests to reach viability to win delegates. I’ll be watching to see just how many votes Warren gets outside of her home state of Massachusetts. Overall, however, I expect to see an ongoing mismatch between how many voters say they would be comfortable voting for a woman for president and how much support these specific women get at the polls. I'm also keeping a close eye on Texas, where it seems very likely that a woman will take the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate race, although perhaps only after a May runoff. There’s a huge amount of voter uncertainty in that race and I think many voters will go to the polls only thinking about the presidential race. This might help the women in the race, if voters choosing a male candidate for president think that voting for a woman for Senate helps balance out their choices.

Similarly, and more locally, I'm watching the California State Senate race in the 13th district, where there’s a large pool of candidates running for termed out Democrat Jerry Hill’s seat. One candidate – Josh Becker – is endorsed by Hill, Governor Gavin Newsom, and other prominent Democrats. But in a crowded race with multiple strong candidates and plenty of outside money – and again with the thought that voters might try to balance out their desire to support women while voting for a male candidate for the Democratic nominee, it’s possible that his opponent in November (thanks to California’s unique top-two-vote-getter primary system) will be a woman. There are two strong women in the primary: Sally Lieber and Shelly Masur. Overall, in both races I'm expecting the women candidates to outperform their polling numbers as voters make strategic choices in the presidential primary.


Will there be a correlation between women’s increased political participation, especially in fundraising, and who secures delegates on Super Tuesday? - Grace Haley, Gender and Race Researcher at the Center for Responsive Politics

Bernie Sanders, the candidate with the most money coming from women, is leading the race going into Super Tuesday. However, only one-third of his itemized contributions come from women donors. What are the implications for a candidate to have both the most contributions from women and a notable gender gap in the percent of dollars coming from women?

The growth of political organizing by women since the 2016 elections, as evidenced by their increased political giving, is important to watch. Over 2 million women have already donated to the 2020 election, which is a record breaking feat. But for every dollar we've tracked that goes to a presidential candidate, about 56 cents comes from a man and 44 cents from a woman.

Most of the candidates left in the race are the candidates who’ve consistently had most of their money coming from men, and the two top candidates (Biden, Sanders) get the majority of their funds from men. Elizabeth Warren is the only candidate left in the race who has raised even funds from both women and men. Men are in sum giving more, and giving more to the candidates who are men.

Women, and men, are not a monolithic fundraising bloc. And women, especially women of color, have historically been politically active in a myriad of ways outside of the money-in-politics realm. Like all voting blocs, they have policy perspectives and priorities that extend beyond representation. So when looking at fundraising patterns, I’m thinking: at what cost does fundraising prowess translate to political power, and to whose advantage and whose detriment?


Many Virginia female state legislators are campaigning for their preferred Democratic presidential nominee, but not the three women in Virginia’s congressional delegation – Reps. Luria, Spanberger, and Wexton - who face tough re-election contests in 2020 - Rosalyn Cooperman, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Mary Washington

In recent visits to Virginia ahead of Tuesday’s Super Tuesday primary, Democratic presidential candidates have relied on female state legislators to fire up crowds and secure votes. At a rally in Northern Virginia on February 13, State Delegate Kathy Tran (VA-42) and State Senator Ghazala Hashmi (VA-10) each spoke on behalf of Senator Elizabeth Warren and Hashmi introduced Warren as a “fighter for social justice.”

When Mayor Mike Bloomberg appeared in Richmond a few days later at the Democratic Party of Virginia’s Blue Commonwealth Gala, Virginia House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (VA-41) praised Bloomberg’s “years of commitment” to state Democrats. Bloomberg has also been endorsed by Virginia State Delegates Laschrecse Aird (VA-63) and Nancy Guy (VA-83) as well as Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser.

Senator Bernie Sanders is scheduled to visit Virginia this weekend; State Delegate Elizabeth Guzman (VA-31) has endorsed Sanders.

Although many Virginia female Democratic state legislators are happy to serve as surrogates for their preferred presidential contender, the three women Democratic Members of Congress from Virginia, Representatives Elaine Luria (VA-2), Abigail Spanberger (VA-7), and Jennifer Wexton (VA-10), each of whom defeated Republican incumbents in the 2018 congressional midterms and face competitive re-election bids in 2020, have been less visible in their support for a Democratic presidential nominee.

Representative Luria, who defeated Rep. Scott Taylor with 51.1% of the vote, endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden in January 2020. Representatives Spanberger, who defeated Rep. Dave Brat with 50.3% of the vote, and Wexton, who defeated Rep. Barbara Comstock with 56% of the vote, have not endorsed any of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, though Wexton has indicated she would not be voting for Sanders in the 2020 Virginia primary. For these three freshman representatives, whose races have all been identified as competitive by Cook Political Report, a win for Bernie Sanders in Virginia and a strong performance by Sanders in other Super Tuesday states would certainly complicate their re-election bids and their work thus far to establish themselves as moderate Democrats.


How will presidential results impact down-ballot races? - Dianne Bystrom, Director Emerita of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics at Iowa State University

I will be looking for any interesting correlations between the Democratic women who win their congressional primaries and the Democratic presidential candidates who win in their states on Super Tuesday. In states that Bernie Sanders wins, will self-identified progressive Democratic women do well? Or can a self-proclaimed Democratic socialist win at the top of the ticket, while Democratic candidates who better fit the profile of the congressional district win their down-ballot primaries? Will a strong turnout of women voters to support Elizabeth Warren affect Democratic women running for other offices? Warren has said she is relying on women voters on Super Tuesday. Her campaign and its supporters seem to be appealing directly to college-educated women who are angry about gendered treatment by the media, especially about her electability, different standards to which she is held on providing policy details, and/or their perception that she is being erased from coverage. If these women turn out for Warren in certain states, will that impact women running congressional and statewide races? Finally, I'll be looking at how the 93 women – 49 Democrats and 44 Republicans –running against other women in contested primaries for the U.S. House in Alabama, California, North Carolina, and Texas fare.


We talk about down-ballot effects of the candidates for president, but what about up-ballot effects of candidates at the state and congressional levels? - Erin Cassese, Associate Professor of Political Science and International Relations

There’s been some discussion that selection of the “wrong” presidential nominee could hurt Democratic candidates across the board in down ballot races, ostensibly by depressing interest and enthusiasm around the 2020 elections or by reducing confidence in the party. 

In the recent South Carolina debate, former Mayor Mike Bloomberg gave voice to these fears in an attack on front-runner Sen. Bernie Sanders: 

We just cannot afford some of this stuff people talk about. If you keep on going, we will elect Bernie. Bernie will lose to Donald Trump. And Donald Trump and the House and the Senate and some of the statehouses will all go red. And then, between gerrymandering and appointing judges, for the next 20 or 30 years, we're going to live with this catastrophe.”

This top-down perspective on voter behavior is perhaps a bit hyperbolic, and it overlooks the potential for countervailing campaign dynamics at lower levels of office. Voter turnout in the 2018 midterm elections was at its highest rate in the past 100 years. The elections were record breaking in terms of candidate diversity in terms of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and religion, with many of these candidates earning national attention and drawing out-of-district fundraising support. For instance, in 2018, Democratic women outperformed male competitors to make up almost half of all Democratic nominees for Congress. For open seats, women’s win rate was much higher than men’s, which many interpreted as a sign that women’s candidacies were resonating with Democratic voters. But with the media focused on a crowded primary field, it’s been hard for rising stars at the state level to break through. And selection of the presidential nominee is, of course, critical. Still, voter mobilization will also turn on engagement with down-ballot races, and Super Tuesday should provide us with some fresh insights about the talent pool for both parties, in these congressional primaries.


How will Super Tuesday results impact media narratives about electability and viability? - Kathleen Dolan, Distinguished Professor of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin

As Super Tuesday plays out, I’ll be looking to see how the women and men running for president are evaluated as the dust settles. At the end of the day on March 3rd, voters in 15 states will have made their choices, giving us (potentially) a clearer picture of who remains viable for the Democratic nomination. The pressure for candidates to drop out has begun to build and Super Tuesday results will heighten the call for consolidation in the field. If there is no single candidate who sweeps multiple states, if there are mixed results across the 14 states, what will these calls for consolidation look like and how will candidates be treated? If Mike Bloomberg and Elizabeth Warren have similar net results, will the calls for them to drop out be equally focused? Will the media continue to ignore Elizabeth Warren unless she wins multiple states on Super Tuesday? Will Michael Bloomberg’s spending power give him “viability” that his recent debate performances don’t necessarily support? If Bernie Sanders runs the table, will these considerations be irrelevant? In a cycle when the women candidates have faced a more challenging media environment and greater questions about their viability, it will be important to take stock of whose candidacies are still seen to have a feasible chance of continuing and who will be pressured to pack it in.


I’ll be watching Warren...but also the diverse women vying for the Senate in North Carolina and Texas. - Jennifer M. Piscopo, Associate Professor of Politics at Occidental College

All eyes are on the presidential primary, as Elizabeth Warren fights from behind to win delegates in key states like California, Texas, and North Carolina. Voters appear unconvinced by Warren’s policy wonkishness, warming instead to Sanders’ firebrand style and, while he was still in the race, Buttigieg’s inspirational words. Yet such strategies might never have worked for Warren, given gender stereotypes that view yelling women as aggressive and reassuring women as patronizing.

Warren is not the only woman underdog. Democrats have a chance to flip a Senate seat in North Carolina, given incumbent senator Thom Tillis’s rock-bottom favorability ratings. The primary race is between former state senator Cal Cunningham and current state senator Erica Smith. Cunningham is the establishment favorite. A veteran Democrat, he’s dramatically out fundraised Smith. But polls show the more progressive Smith beating Tillis by a ten point margin – and she would be the first Black woman elected statewide in North Carolina.

In Texas, a dozen Democratic candidates are vying to challenge Republican Senator John Cornyn in the general election. Women fill the crowded field: MJ Hegar, an air force veteran who narrowly lost her 2018 house race; Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez, a Latina labor organizer; Annie Garcia, a self-described “one fed-up Mama”; and Amanda Edwards, a Black city councilwoman from Houston. Hegar’s name recognition has given her the edge. Her website features her raising her kids – but also flying choppers, riding motorbikes, and suing the Pentagon over women’s combat exclusion. At least at the state level, there’s many more ways to be a woman candidate.


Will Democratic candidates disrupt Trump’s deployment of gender? - Dan Cassino, Associate Professor of Political Science at Farleigh Dickinson University

While we’re waiting for the Super Tuesday returns, I’m going to be paying attention to the gendered narratives being used to describe the candidates vying for the Democratic nomination, as it’s likely to tell us a lot about how November’s election is shaping up. In past elections, Democratic nominees – both male and female – have been characterized as having overly feminine traits. For instance, 2004 nominee John Kerry, a decorated veteran, was shown wind-surfing, rather than engaging in traditionally masculine sports, and was decried as too soft to protect the country. Wariness about such attacks seems to have led 2016 nominee Hillary Clinton to stress traits that are generally perceived as masculine, such as toughness, rather than policies and traits that could be perceived as feminine. With an incumbent President who’s made a political career out of claiming a monopoly on masculinity, will the Democratic candidates be presented as masculine rivals, as when Joe Biden has talked about beating the hell out of the President, or the way in which Michael Bloomberg has belittled Trump’s wealth acumen? Or will we see the race framed as a fight between masculine and feminine traits, with a Democratic nominee who’s looking to bring compromise and moderation? Whether the November election is a race between a man and a woman or not, it’s likely to be a race about gender, and the framing of that race starts now.


Increasing diversity, and ideological diversity, of the women in Congress. - Michele Swers, Professor Department of Government, Georgetown University

The Super Tuesday congressional primaries will provide the first indication of whether Democrats will continue to add more women of color to their ranks, as they did in 2018. The Tuesday contests will also determine whether Republicans will take steps to build up their ranks of female members after the 2018 losses left them with only 13 female House incumbents. Texas and California will be particularly important states to watch.  In 2018, Texas elected its first two Latina women to Congress. This cycle, Asian American Gina Ortiz Jones has a good chance of winning an open seat vacated by Will Hurd, the incumbent who narrowly defeated her in 2018. Two Latina candidates with EMILY’s List endorsements are engaged in competitive primaries. Candace Valenzuela is competing for an open seat, while Jessica Cisneros is challenging Democratic incumbent Henry Cuellar from the left with an endorsement from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who won a similar primary race against an incumbent in 2018. 

For Republicans to elect more women they need female nominees to emerge in safe seats such as Alabama’s 2nd congressional district where Jessica Taylor, a pro-life small businesswoman endorsed by Susan B Anthony List is one of 7 Republicans competing to replace retiring representative Martha Roby. However, there are few Republican women contesting the safe seats being vacated by retiring Republicans in Texas. Instead, most of the Republican women running in primaries in California and Texas are in swing districts and will face competitive races against Democrats if they advance to the general election. These types of seats are harder to keep, when wave elections sweep against the member’s party, making it harder for these Republican women to build the seniority that leads to power in Congress.


Women of Color and Statewide Executive Elective Office - Kira Sanbonmatsu, Professor of Political Science and Senior Scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University

I will be watching to see if any women of color move forward as major party nominees for statewide executive offices such as governor, lieutenant governor, or secretary of state. Looking back to 2018, CAWP found that 10 new women of color won statewide executive positions. Fewer of these statewide positions are elected during presidential election years compared with midterm election years, meaning that there are fewer opportunities this cycle. Unfortunately, statewide executive offices remain elusive for women of color: fewer than 5% of all statewide executives are women of color


Notes from Colorado - Celeste Montoya, Associate Professor of Women & Gender Studies at the University of Colorado Boulder

In 2018, almost two-thirds of the ballots cast by registered Democrats in Colorado were from women. This led to the Democrats sweeping not only the Governor’s mansion, but both of the statehouses. In 2020, I will be watching to see to what extent that pattern may be repeated and how that may play out in the primary results. Some interesting facets of the Colorado election include that this is the first election where there is a presidential primary open to unaffiliated voters. This reform was initiated by independent Bernie voters who couldn’t caucus for him in the 2016 primary. It is not certain this will work in his favor in 2020. Colorado is a state with a strong tradition of independent voters, but many who tend to lean more conservative than progressive. Also relevant is how the presidential primary may impact turnout of the caucuses still being held (this coming Saturday) for other down ballot races, including the Senate race in which caucus goers will be able to support candidates looking to challenge Cory Gardner, a vulnerable Republican who has tied himself closely to Trump. There are five candidates going through the caucus and assembly process to make it on the ballot (there are an additional five attempting to so through the petition process). Of the five caucus candidates, two are women, including Stephanie Rose Spaulding, a professor of Women’s and Ethnic Studies, who would make history as the first African American woman to represent Colorado. While former governor John Hickenlooper has a significant incumbent advantage, Colorado voters using a #genderlens may be looking for something different.


CAWP Staff