On Tuesday, March 3, we gained shocking new insights into the power of a political endorsement. Just days before, candidates Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar each made a somewhat surprising decision to drop out of the race and endorse former Vice President Joe Biden.
Following this turn of events, no one knew quite what to expect from the 15 Super Tuesday contests. Some voters had already cast their votes through early or absentee ballots. Some who had previously supported Buttigieg or Klobuchar were now left with a mere suggestion from their candidate that they should vote for Biden.
Some analysts predicted that Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders could pull through amidst the chaos, walk away from Super Tuesday with a win and gain a key boost in momentum. This put the power of endorsements to the test. In the span of one or two days, would enough voters make the decision to switch and vote for Joe Biden in the stead of their previous favorite candidate?
The answer was a shocking and resounding yes.
Biden exceeded expectations by a longshot. The race was supposed to be neck-and-neck, but Biden won 10 of the 15 contests, including every state that was considered to be a toss-up between him and Sanders: Maine, Massachusetts, Texas and Minnesota.
Minnesota produced some of the most surprising results of the evening. When Minnesota Senator Klobuchar dropped out the day before the election, many questioned whether this would open the door for Sanders to win the state. Instead, her endorsement of Biden proved to be extraordinarily effective; Biden carried 38.6 percent of the vote compared to Sanders’ 29.9 percent. Even more shockingly, Biden managed to win the plurality of the vote in both Hennepin and Ramsey counties, which represent the progressive heart of the state in the Twin Cities, and the surrounding suburbs.
Exit polls in Texas found that three quarters of voters made up their minds within a few days of the election and the majority of those voters cast their vote for Biden.
Even in Alabama – where Biden was projected to win easily – he still exceeded expectations. FiveThirtyEight projected him at about 44 percent in Alabama, but he walked away with an electrifying 63 percent of the vote, fueled in large part by support from black voters.
Biden emerged remarkably strong among black voters with 58 percent compared to Sanders’ 17 percent. However, there was also a surprising split between black and Latino voters. Typically, one candidate performs best with groups but in this case, they split as Sanders led among Latino voters with 35 percent compared to Biden’s 26 percent. Exit polls also showed that voters who care most about race relations were significantly more likely to cast a vote for Biden than for Sanders.
Certainly these statistics do not speak to the issues the candidates stand for. Taking a look back on the results and exit polls, however, we can identify these key areas where Biden defied expectations and get a sense of where his strengths lie as a candidate.
Evan Faas ’22 is from Apple Valley, Minn. He majors in political science.