North Carolina adds to the prospect of a brokered Dem convention

North Carolina primary voters don’t go to the polls until Super Tuesday on March 3rd, but it’s definitely one of the states worth watching. The state offers the third-highest haul of delegates available on that day and it’s seen as another stop where the minority vote will have a large influence. The big problem for the Democrats is that there is no frontrunner in South Carolina at this point. The latest poll from WRAL News shows the race in a three-way tie. And as we’ll discuss shortly, that’s not the only place this is happening.

Two weeks out from North Carolina’s March 3 primary, three Democrats are in essentially a dead heat for the state’s presidential nomination, according to a new WRAL News poll.

Former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders each garnered 22 percent support, while former Vice President Joe Biden was at 20 percent in the exclusive poll, conducted last Thursday through Sunday by SurveyUSA.

Former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg led the second tier of Democratic candidates in the poll, with 11 percent support, followed by U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren at 8 percent and Amy Klobuchar at 5 percent. Eleven percent of respondents remain undecided.

So it’s a statistical tie between Bloomberg, Sanders and Biden in North Carolina. We’ll get to some of the interesting tidbits from the crosstabs in a moment, but I wanted to start by addressing why a closely divided race in Tarheel country could present a real issue for the Democrats.

The conventional wisdom holds that Super Tuesday is generally the last gasp for marginal candidates and a lot of them will wind up dropping out if they fail to rack up a big score. That would generally leave only two or three in real contention and we would then get an idea of who the majority is consolidating behind. It’s still possible for someone to do poorly in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina and then come back with a big surge on March 3rd. In fact, that’s been Mike Bloomberg’s strategy since he got into the race.

But if the big Super Tuesday states wind up being very close fights between two or even three candidates, the delegates will be split up, putting some drag on all of the leading campaigns. At this point, unless these numbers change, North Carolina comes out as a wash. The last polling out of Texas (less than a week old) shows a statistical tie between Sanders and Biden, with Warren getting enough support to pull some delegates. Massachusetts has a clear leader all of a sudden, but it’s Warren, with Biden and Sanders splitting much of the remainder.Virginia is a tie between Bloomberg and Sanders, with Biden lurking in a relatively close third. Colorado is basically a Sanders/Biden tie with Warren within striking distance in third.

The one place where Bernie was really running away with a huge bag of delegates previously was California, but as of Monday, Bloomberg has pulled within four points of him and he’s flooding the state with ads 24/7. The only places where Bernie maintains a convincing (double-digit) lead are Main, Utah and Oklahoma, but they don’t have all that many delegates between them.

Reading the tea leaves here, it’s not hard to picture an outcome on the night of Super Tuesday where Sanders, Biden, Bloomberg and even Warren all have a big enough share of delegates that they will feel no compulsion to drop out. And none of them will be closing in on anything approaching a majority. That means that the primary winds up going very deep into the season with no clear frontrunner to push the rest of them off the stage. And while still not the most likely scenario, that edges us that much closer to nobody having 51% of the required number on the first round of voting. At that point, the Superdelegates step in and probably toss the nomination to either Biden or Bloomberg (!?) and the base goes ballistic on them in that scenario.

Before closing, there were just a couple of items from the North Carolina poll I wanted to touch on. Bloomberg is doing best there among women, while Sanders, as usual is cleaning up among younger voters. More surprisingly is the divide among Black voters. Biden is still doing very well there with 35%, but Bloomberg (!) is second among Black voters at 25%. That’s part of what’s eating away at Uncle Joe’s firewall. The other big story in the crosstabs is the seemingly complete collapse of Buttigieg. He even lost out to Sanders by ten points among self-identified LGBT voters. Yikes.