If Hillary Clinton Wins Florida & North Carolina & Sweeps The South, The Ramifications Could Be Big
There's no doubt that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is a Southern favorite. Since primary voting began, Clinton has swept steadily across the Bible Belt, racking up wins in Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas. Will Clinton win in Florida and North Carolina on Tuesday to sweep the South completely? And, perhaps more importantly, will she be able to carry her Southern victories out of the region and into the Pacific and "Mountain" states, which go to the polls in the later half of the primary race?
The most recent polls out of Florida show that Clinton still holds a sizable double-digit lead over her rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. A CBS News poll released Friday reported that Clinton had 62 percent of Florida Democrats, and while Sanders had 34 percent, giving Clinton a 28-point lead. Separate polls from Quinnipiac University and American Research Group released Sunday showed Clinton with leads of 26 points and 21 points, respectively. FiveThirtyEight has claimed that "Florida could be Clinton's best state on Tuesday," citing the state's diverse demographics and Clinton's support among minority voters.
Clinton also has a substantial lead over Sanders in North Carolina. A Real Clear Politics average of the three polls to come out of the Tar Heel State this month shows the former secretary of state with a 24-point lead over the senator. Clinton has so far won primaries in all of North Carolina's neighbors, and is expected to easily take the state in Tuesday's vote.
Sanders upset victory in Michigan last week prevented Clinton from obtaining the Democratic nomination in all but name, and has kept the Democratic primary race a contest. But it's unclear if Sanders will manage to prove pollsters wrong with another surprise victory, especially in a region Clinton has exhibited such dominance over. One quick glance at the electoral map shows that the Bible Belt states stand firmly behind Clinton; meaning that while North Carolina and Florida might be surefire bets, the real test of Sanders' upset ability will play out in Ohio and Illinois on Tuesday.
What will be interesting to see, however, is how the Democratic presidential race will look after voting wraps up Tuesday. Since the surprise upset in Michigan, Sanders' campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, has begun referring to Clinton as a "regional candidate," implying that the former secretary of state won't be able to continue her sweep of delegates outside of the South.
Certainly, it's factually inaccurate to say that Clinton hasn't won outside of the South; she has. But her victories there have been fewer, and have come by smaller margins — she won in Nevada and Massachusetts, and was "virtually tied" with Sanders in Iowa. Which means that with a total of 2,033 pledged delegates up for grabs in primaries held after Tuesday's mega vote, the Democratic race could look very different when it moves outside the Southern states.