Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Key Counties to Watch on the March 15th Primaries

The  Super Tuesday 2.0 is here and there are 691 delegates at stake. As  my friend calls it, “Significant Tuesday.” This is a chance for Hillary to secure her 200+ pledged delegate lead or for Sanders to prolong the race. Pundits expect Clinton to win Florida and North Carolina easily while Ohio, Illinois and Missouri should be close (although a few pundits say Sanders will win Missouri). Here are the key counties and regions to watch while the results unfold (on the Democratic side only).

Florida is expected to go strongly for Hillary Clinton. The RCP polling average shows Hillary with a  29 point lead. The three main regions are: Gold Coast, I-4 Corridor and outstate Florida.  Hillary should perform well in outstate, mainly because of the high African American population in northern Florida, the elderly voters in the Villages and the wealthy voters on the southwest coast of Florida. She is also expected to do well in  the Gold Coast (Miami) with the high Hispanic, African American and elderly populations. Counties Sanders can try to score an upset:

Alachua County: the University of Florida is here but a  high African American population is here as well. This county will be close.

Counties north of Tampa: counties such as Pasco, Hernando and Citrus are heavily white and not as wealthy as the southwest coast of Florida. These have similar demographics to counties Bernie won in Michigan (and Midwestern transplants). At the same time, the percentage of elderly voters here is almost the highest in the nation so it is likely Bernie cannot even win here.

North Carolina:
This is another state where Hillary is expected to perform well, this time with a 24 point lead in the RCP average. Hillary should perform well in the eastern part of the state due to the high African American population. She should do well in the urban areas of  Raleigh/Greensboro/Charlotte as well. If Bernie wins a few counties, he needs to perform well in:

Western North Carolina: this is Appalachia with a low African American population but as shown in Tennessee, Georgia and Virginia, Hillary wins southern rural white voters.

Durham and Orange Counties: Duke and UNC are here but so are high African American populations.

Charlotte suburbs: Gaston and Union Counties  voted for Hillary by narrow margins in 08. These are heavily white and upscale suburban counties. If Bernie wants to make inroads among the upscale voters he needs to win these.

Here we go to our first  swing state of the evening. The RCP average has Hillary with an 8 point lead but after Michigan, it is highly unlikely that the Clinton folks are taking any chances. Ohio though will probably not be a Michigan repeat because Independents are represented in these polls. Also, Michigan has only one large urban area, Ohio however has:

Cuyahoga County (Cleveland): this county is the center of Ohio’s Democratic base. Obama won here by 260,000 votes in 2008, Kerry won here by 227,000  votes in 2004. It is about 30% African American. Hillary will need those votes and if she wins Cuyahoga County with a margin of 57% or higher, she will probably win statewide. Obama won 54% here with his 8 point loss in 2008.

Franklin County: (Columbus) Franklin County used to be a swing county (Gore won by a few point) but as shown in 2012 (Obama won it by 20) it has become strongly Democratic. It is the 2nd most populous county in Ohio (after Cuyahoga). Obama won 56% here but expect Hillary to do worse because while there is a large African American population (20% of the county), there is a large population of college students as well. There are upscale Democrats  too so Hillary should win (although narrowly). If she loses, expect a good night for Bernie.

Hamilton County (Cincinnati): Hamilton is the 3rd most populated county in Ohio and it was also Obama’s best. With a low number of white Democrats and a 23% African American population, Hillary  should aim to at least match Obama’s percentages in the low 60s.

Lucas County (Toledo): Toledo is a smaller city (Lucas County has roughly 480k people) and Obama lost it by 5 points in 2008 but Hillary should win here. The reason is that she lost Monroe County, Michigan (which borders Toledo) by only one point and Monroe County has a lower African American population than Lucas County does. It depends how big the Hillary win is here though.

Summit County (Akron): this is a county to watch. It has a 13% African American population and a large number of working class union voters who may lean Sanders. Hillary can probably win Ohio without Summit county but if she wins it, Bernie cannot win.

Sanders should do well in the rural part of the state, but Hillary can make a play for:

Southeast Ohio: this is a heavily white and rural area. Hillary though showed that she can win Appalachian voters on March 1st so if she can win northern Appalachian voters and score some surprise wins in rural areas, this is the area to watch. It  voted heavily for her in 08.

This is another close state. Despite a high African American population (15%), a large number of upscale voters and high Obama popularity, Illinois could be a tough state for Hillary. The RCP average has her winning by 2.3 points and the trusty PPP poll has her leading by 3. Here are the key counties to watch:

Cook County (Chicago): nearly half of the state’s Democratic votes live here. Hillary wants a large margin from the south side with its high African American population. She also wants to do well in northern Cook County with upscale Democrats near Evanston similar to the upscale Dems in Massachusetts that helped her win there. Sanders though is making a play for Hispanics, young African Americans and working class voters. He also is tying Hillary to the unpopular mayor Rahm Emanuel.  If Hillary wins Cook County by 5 points or less, she should be worried.

Lake County: is Hillary winning upscale voters? Look no further than Lake County which is north of Cook County, is upscale and suburban. I was phone banking for Hillary here and found mostly Hillary supporters but I do not know how they targeted the voters. Hillary will also look to do well in other upscale areas such as McHenry and DuPage. If she loses Lake County though and gets a five point or lower win in Cook, she will lose Illinois.

Downstate: this is rural Illinois and Sanders needs large margins in the rural areas to win. Hillary though could try to score some upsets in:
-St. Clair/Madison Counties: these are St. Louis suburbs with some heavily African American areas.
-Sangamon County: this is Springfield which also has some heavily African American neighborhoods.
-Pulaski County: this county is 30% African American and at the southern tip of Illinois. This was the only part of Illinois Hillary won in 08 so watch her try to repeat her win there.

This is the state Sanders has the best chance to win. With the state being only 11% African American and having a large white working class population, this is tough terrain for Hillary. PP has  Sanders winning by one point. Nate Silver says Hillary has a 54% chance of winning here.

St. Louis City: African Americans are about half the population here but there are many younger white Democrats as well. Hillary should win here but if her  margin is under 60% she should be concerned.

St. Louis County: with upscale voters, a 20% African American population and Ferguson, Hillary should win here. She also needs to keep her percentage above 60%. Obama won 63% here in his narrow Missouri win.

Jackson County (Kansas City): although there is an African American population in the 20s here, it is more working class and borders Kansas where Bernie performed well. If Hillary loses this county, she is in trouble.

Rural Missouri: although Hillary won rural Iowa on the Missouri border, that may have been more due to her ground game. Sanders should perform well in this part of the state. Hillary though can score some wins in rural counties in southeastern Missouri which border her husband’s home state Arkansas and a few counties in southeast Missouri such as New Madrid have  significant African American populations as well.

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