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Amy Walter on 2020 Democratic voter turnout and delegate math

It’s another important Tuesday in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary race, as former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders go head-to-head for the first time during this campaign. Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report joins Judy Woodruff to discuss the political landscapes in the six states voting and how the coronavirus outbreak is beginning to affect the campaign.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And now to look at what all of it means for the big 2020 picture, joining us here in the studio, Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and host of public radio's "Politics With Amy Walter."

    So, Amy, put it all in perspective. We have heard a little bit from the far West, from the West, from Washington state, from Michigan. What do you think?

  • Amy Walter:

    Well, Judy, up until this point — well, really, actually, let's go back for a second.

    Up until March, it was a race for momentum. Which candidate was going to be able to get a head of steam and use that to move ahead? And, obviously, Bernie Sanders was very successful there.

    In March, it's all about the delegates. And that's what Super Tuesday was about, and, tonight, no different, a big pile of delegates. And the challenge for any candidate in a democratic system is, once you're behind, because of the way the delegates are apportioned proportionately, it's very hard to catch up.

    This is the situation that Bernie Sanders finds himself in. This is why we're talking about the margins that he — it's not just winning. It's the margins he needs to win by in order to be able to catch up with Joe Biden, who right now has something like a 96-delegate lead.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And it is — as we have been saying all night, it's down to two people, two men.

  • Amy Walter:

    Right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    It's Sanders. It's Biden.

  • Amy Walter:

    There's no more splitting of the vote.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Voters don't have the options to look at different candidates. They have got to choose.

  • Amy Walter:

    That's right. That's right. That's right.

    And it was a little bit like that on Super Tuesday as well, where the consolidation happened, and it happened so quickly and so consistently for Joe Biden. And that's what we're going to be watching for tonight as well, because the one person — actually, the two people who aren't on the ballot tonight that were on the ballot at Super Tuesday, Michael Bloomberg and Elizabeth Warren.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Right.

  • Amy Walter:

    Where do those voters go?

    The consensus has been that Michael Bloomberg voters are Biden voters, but that may not be true, and that Elizabeth Warren voters are a little more complicated, too. She's ideologically more aligned with Bernie Sanders, but there were a lot of voters that I talked to who liked Elizabeth Warren, much less about ideology, and much more because she was the only woman left in the race.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    She was a woman, and the last one, other than — mention Tulsi Gabbard, who is way, way back.

  • Amy Walter:

    That's right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Just quickly, Amy, coronavirus.

    We have had, for the first time, both Sanders and Biden canceled rallies tonight. Is it — do you see it beginning to have an effect on this campaign, not just from a scheduling standpoint, but from…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Amy Walter:

    I think what we're going to watch for tonight is to see turnout.

    Is this impacting voters' desire, or do they get nervous about actually showing up at polling places? It may not be tonight. But, of course, we have a number of other states still on the map, before we get to June and these primaries.

    And so I think that's going to be sort of the next issue for the states to tackle, is making voters feel comfortable, giving them all the information they need to know about what it means to show up at a polling place, potentially with a whole lot of other people.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But it's — I mean, I was thinking — trying to think, late this afternoon, if we have ever seen anything quite like this intersecting with an election.

  • Amy Walter:

    Absolutely not, not a health crisis like this.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yes.

  • Amy Walter:

    I mean, we have had tragedies happen where — especially right after 9/11, remember that candidates were taking down ads. People were not sending up fund-raising e-mails, right? There was sort of a pause in politics after big tragedies or after the terrorist attacks.

    This is very different, because what we're talking about, voting, in and of itself, is a very public experience, unless, of course, you have a mail-in state. But for the most part, you're going to show up, and there are going to be potentially a whole lot of people who are there.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, just quickly, I know one thing we're going to be talking about tonight is turnout.

    We're starting to hear turnout has been up.

  • Amy Walter:

    That's right. That's right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We will see if that continues.

  • Amy Walter:

    If it continues.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We will get some read on that tonight from these six states.

  • Amy Walter:

    Tonight, yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Any Walter, thank you very much.

  • Amy Walter:

    You're very welcome.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We will be hanging out all evening.

  • Amy Walter:

    We will.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Thank you.

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