Primary expert weighs in on the importance of Virginia’s vote

By  | 

BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ7)— Super Tuesday is exactly two weeks away, which means Virginians will be heading to the polls to cast their votes for a presidential candidate.

As decision day draws near, selecting a Democratic candidate continues to be more convoluted.

“The more candidates that there are in the race, the more the delegates are split between the candidates and the longer that lasts,” said Caitlin Jewitt, a Virginia Tech professor of political science who has been studying primaries for years. “Even though our system has stayed fairly similar since 1972, it looks a little bit different each time around.”

Something that’s even more unusual is Mayor Mike Bloomberg will appear on ballots for the first time when people vote. That’s after skipping the first four state elections.

“We’ve never seen a candidate do that before, and we’ve certainly never seen a candidate be successful in doing that,” Jewitt said.

According to Jewitt, the Democratic nomination will likely come down to two candidates. The progressive choice, likely to be Senator Bernie Sanders and the person voters decide is the more moderate choice.

“It’s likely that Super Tuesday voters, Virginians included, will help decide who is the moderate frontrunner and whether we can get this race down to a two candidate race or not,” she said.

Tuesday’s Monmouth University Poll
shows Sanders, Bloomberg and Biden in the lead in Virginia, with candidates like Buttigieg, Klobuchar and Warren polling below 15 percent. If those numbers stick, they’re not eligible for delegates.

“I think that Democrats more this year than any other are saying that electability matters most,” Jewitt said.

Jewitt said we should be cautious about the results of any one poll, especially when it is of a single state and primary voters. She said we might expect to see shifts among voters once we know the results of Nevada and South Carolina, especially given the high proportion of voters saying they would be open to voting for another candidate. This could better solidify the more “electable” candidate.

But if the Democratic pool continues to be divided after Super Tuesday’s big delegate prize of about 38 percent is handed out, we could also witness history in the making.

“In every nomination since the reforms, we have seen a candidate capture enough delegates,” she said. “But that is an open question if we head into the national convention with a candidate not having a majority of delegates.”

Be sure to research your options before you hit the polls in two weeks. Virginia could narrow down the playing field.

Jewitt recently published a book on the topic: “The Primary Rules: Parties, Voters and Presidential Nominations,” illuminating the balance of power that the parties, state and voters have in the primary process.

Copyright 2020 WDBJ7. All rights reserved.