Much attention has been paid to the role of black voters in
Joe Biden’s Super Tuesday victory. Black voters make up a large share of the
Democratic electorate and Biden won them decisively, but there may be another group
that contributed to Bernie Sanders’s disappointing performance: anti-Trump
Republicans canceled their presidential primaries in a
number of states, but, even in those states where Republican voters are being
asked to weigh in on the presidential nomination, the president is essentially
running unopposed. With no serious opposition, many Trump critics likely felt
free to cross party lines and register a vote against Bernie Sanders.
Many of the Super Tuesday states were open
primary states. These include Alabama, Arkansas, Minnesota, Tennessee,
Texas, Utah, Vermont, and Virginia. Of these eight states, Joe
Biden won six.
Post exit polls show that Biden was the top choice of moderate and
conservative Democratic voters, winning a median of 46 percent of that demographic
across the Super Tuesday states. He also won 43 percent of self-described
Republicans who voted in the Democratic primary. Across the Super Tuesday states,
an average of about 40 percent of electorate self-identified as moderate or
conservative. What the exit poll data does not say is how many of these voters
were refugees from Donald Trump’s GOP.
Biden also performed well with voters who had an unfavorable view of socialism and those who opposed a government single-payer health plan, winning almost half of those groups. These are policy positions that crossover conservatives would be expected to take.
In contrast, Bernie Sanders won independents, voters under 44, and those who viewed socialism favorably. Interestingly, Sanders won those who preferred a candidate who agreed with them on the issues by 18 points. He also won Hispanic voters by nine points.
Not all of the moderate and conservative Democrats are not
necessarily former Republicans, however. There is considerable overlap between
moderates/conservatives and black voters. A Pew
survey found that a quarter of black Democrats identify as conservative
while 43 percent call themselves moderate. Biden won black voters by a whopping
In most states, the margin of victory was large enough that the relatively small share of ex-Republican voters would not have made a difference. There was at least one exception, however. In Texas, Joe Biden’s margin of victory was less than five points and three percent of the Democratic voters identified as Republicans while another 43 percent of Texas Democrats considered themselves to be moderate or conservative.
In the end, ex-Republican voters did not fuel Joe Biden’s Super Tuesday victories but many of them did contribute to it. Despite the president urging Republicans to turn out for Bernie Sanders, it seems that most Republicans and conservatives who voted Democrat on Super Tuesday voted against the (democratic) socialist. In doing so, they helped to moderate the Democratic Party as it rejected its extreme left-wing. That is a good thing both for Democrats and for America.