How to Watch Tuesday’s Returns Like a Data Geek

By David Byler
February 29, 2016

Watching primary and caucus results roll in on Tuesday night is going to feel like drinking from a firehose. Nearly a dozen states ranging from Vermont to Alaska (with the greatest concentration in the South) will hold contests for both parties. If you’re not a veteran political journalist or a data geek, it might be tough to digest that cascade of information.

That’s why RealClearPolitics has put together these tips to help you understand the results on Super Tuesday – think of it as the data geek’s guide to watching the returns.

On the Republican Side:

Watch the thresholds. In order to win the GOP nomination, a candidate has to win a majority (1,237) of the delegates to the Republican convention in Cleveland. Each state basically sets its own rules on how primary results translate into delegate counts, and on Tuesday those rules generally point towards two key numbers – 15 percent and 20 percent.

Most Super Tuesday states allocate their delegates proportionally with a threshold of either 15 percent (Arkansas, Oklahoma) or 20 percent (Texas, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Vermont) of the vote. In other words, the state divides up its delegates proportionally between the candidates who surpass the threshold.

For Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Ben Carson, these rules are bad news. Neither of them is consistently polling above the threshold in those states – meaning they may get zero delegates despite winning a modest number of votes.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz appear to be close to or above the threshold in a number of these states. Obviously, neither one wants to fall below those numbers and miss the opportunity to win delegates.

Donald Trump leads in almost all of the Super Tuesday states, and it would benefit him significantly if Cruz and/or Rubio fall under the thresholds. Not only would that limit his chief competitors’ gains, it would also mean that Trump gets to split up the delegates with one rather than two opponents. Put differently, if Trump wins 35 percent, Cruz gets 25 percent and the others fall below the threshold in a state, the real estate mogul would get about 58 percent of the delegates. But if Trump, Cruz and Rubio get 35 percent, 25 percent and 20 percent, respectively, in a state with a 20 percent threshold, Trump earns roughly 44 percent of those delegates. Both are wins, but in the second scenario Trump gets about 14 percent fewer delegates even though his vote total remains the same.

Margins matter. Tuesday’s contests are proportional, so obviously the more votes the winner gets the more delegates he gets (unlike the winner-take-all primaries later in the calendar). But the margins also matter because a big win by any candidate could net him a large number of delegates from the congressional districts.

According to RNC rules, each congressional district gets three delegates to the national convention. And in many states (including Texas, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, among those voting Tuesday) those delegates are allocated based on the results in each district. If a candidate wins a state by a large margin, he’s more likely to rack up delegates in more of that state’s congressional districts. We saw this in South Carolina – Trump beat Rubio 32.5 percent-22.5 percent, but that was enough to carry every congressional district and net him all 50 of the delegates.

In many states, congressional district delegates make up a large portion of the state’s overall total. In Georgia they’re 42 of the 76 delegates and in Texas they’re 108 out of 155. So if a candidate wins by a large margin, he might get a substantial delegate haul.

Keep an eye on Texas. Texas is probably the most important Super Tuesday state for two reasons – it’s Cruz’s home base and it allocates more delegates than any other that day.

If Cruz loses Texas, it might be the end of his campaign. It’s hard for any candidate to rebound from losing despite having a home-field advantage, and mainstream Republicans are anxious to coalesce around a consensus candidate in time to stop Trump from getting the nomination. On the other hand, if Cruz wins Texas by a convincing margin he could gain momentum along with a large number of delegates.

Additionally, a Texas win for Cruz could blunt the front-runner’s delegate advantage in other states. Texas’ delegate total is more than Oklahoma’s, Arkansas’ and Tennessee’s combined. In other words, if Cruz has a good showing in the Lone Star State, it could help offset disappointing showings elsewhere. And if Trump wins convincingly there, it’ll be much harder for Rubio or Cruz to catch him.

On the Democratic Side:

Geography might help Sanders. If you’ve been keeping up with the wonky world of political data journalism, you probably know that Super Tuesday looks like a firewall for Hillary Clinton. A plurality of the states are Southern and many have large African-American populations – a group that Clinton polls very well with. She is expected to rack up some big wins over Bernie Sanders in these states, but the rules might let the Vermont senator blunt her delegate lead a bit.

In the Democratic primary, delegates are also awarded to the winner of each congressional district (or sometimes smaller political subdivisions). And due to a combination of the Voting Rights Act, African-Americans being clustered in cities and some creative district drawing by Republicans, Southern African-Americans are often concentrated in a few congressional districts. This gives Sanders an advantage. If Clinton wins a state by driving up her margins in a few heavily or significantly African-American congressional districts, Sanders could still pick up a modest haul from the more numerous districts that are whiter and more rural.

Clinton will almost assuredly win a substantial majority of the votes cast on Super Tuesday, but the data nerds will be watching how much those pad her delegate lead.

The cross-tabs: white voters and young voters. If Sanders wins the Democratic nomination, he would likely have done so by keeping the race close with Hispanics, losing African-Americans by a large margin and driving up his margins with whites enough to offset those losses with blacks. So if you’re interested in whether Sanders has a path to the nomination, you should probably take a look at how well he does with those groups in the exit polls.

On Both Sides:

Pay attention to for exit polls and election returns, not entrance polls. Here at RCP, we love polls – they’re one of the most important tools for understanding politics and public opinion. But not every survey is done for the same reasons, and if you’re not careful you can misinterpret the results.

Entrance polls are conducted as voters arrive at their polling places or caucus sites. They’re usually done in waves, and they often help news networks and websites get an early idea of which candidate will win the race.

But they’re not always right and they’re not always precise. Less than a month ago, early entrance polls showed Trump ahead in Iowa, but Cruz wound up winning. Additionally, these polls often don’t include enough people to get precise reads on how different demographic groups voted – thus the recent nerd fight over whether Sanders actually won Hispanics in last weekend’s Nevada Democratic caucuses.

So, if an entrance poll shows your favorite candidate losing (or winning), take it with a grain of salt and wait for real results or exit polls to come in. Data from those sources will emerge later in the night, but it’ll likely be more informative than the entrance polling.

What websites to watch: Some of the best elections-related content is exclusively on the Web, so I would recommend having multiple tabs of your favorite browser open on election night. Specifically, the RCP team – Tom Bevan, Carl Cannon, Sean Trende, Alexis Simendinger, Caitlin Huey-Burns, Rebecca Berg, James Arkin and I– will all be tweeting throughout the night and RCP will constantly update results. If you’re looking for good maps updated in real time, check out the Upshot.FiveThirtyEight also runs a great liveblog. And if you want high-quality content from a partisan outfit, check out Daily Kos Elections (on the left) and Ace of Spades Decision Desk (on the right). These are just a few of the sources I would recommend, but if you keep these tips in mind and check out even half of these sites, you’ll be watching the results like a true data nerd.

David Byler is an elections analyst for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached Follow him on Twitter @davidbylerRCP.

2nd Annual Mother’s Day Run to Benefit Central Oregon Coast NOW Foundation

Mother' Day Run

Come together on Saturday, May 7th to celebrate the women (and girls) in your life! The Mother’s Day Run will benefit The Central Oregon Coast Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) Foundation.


This course is flat and fast! Won’t find a flatter course. Many get a PR in this course. This picturesque course offers beautiful views of the iconic Yaquina Bay Bridge, South Jetty and Yaquina Bay. All races start and finish at the Rogue Brewery.


  • Race Entry
  • Official Race t-shirt (If registered by 4/15/2016)
  • Post-Run Food
  • Personalized Race Bib (if registered by 4/15/2016)
  • Post-race fun

ENTRY FEES (Register early and save)

On or before 2/29/2016 (Includes shirt)
$25.00 – 5K Student (14 and under) Registration
$30.00 – 5K Adult Registration
$15.00 – Kids Fun Run

3/1/2016 to 4/15/16 (Includes shirt)
$30.00 – 5K Student (14 and under) Registration
$35.00 – 5K Adult Registration
$20.00 – Kids Fun Run

4/16/16 to 5/5/16 (NO SHIRT)
$30.00 – 5K Student (14 and under) Registration
$35.00 – 5K Adult Registration
$20.00 – Kids Fun Run

Race Day – 5/7/2015 (NO SHIRT)
$35.00 – 5K Student (14 and under) Registration
$40.00 – 5K Adult Registration
$20.00 – Kids Fun Run

*Online registation will close at 6:00 pm on May 5, 2016.

PERSONALIZED YOUR RACE BIB (at no additional cost)

You can submit 12 characters (including spaces) to be printed on your bib when you register online before April 16, 2016. Simply type your message into the Personalize Your Bib field during registration.


Awards will be presented to the top overall men and women in the 5k

Age Groups
5K – 8 & Under, 9- 11,12-14, 15-19, 20-24, 25-29, 30-34, 35-39, 40-44, 45-49, 50-54, 55-59, 60-64, 65-70, 70 and over
10K – 14 and under, 15-19, 20-24, 25-29, 30-34, 35-39, 40-44, 45-49, 50-54, 55-59, 60-64, 65-70, 70 and over
There’s no age group for the Kids Fun Run.

Visit our website for more information

Saturday, May 7, 2016 from 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM (PDT) Add to Calendar
Newport Performing Arts Center – 777 West Olive Street Newport, OR 97365 – View Map

MORE INFORMATION:  Newport Mother’s Day Run

The Governing Cancer of Our Time

An excellent commentary by conservative David Brooks that helps explain the phenomenon that is Donald Trump, and also the negative effects the “antipolitics” Tea Party type people have had on our democracy.

The New York Times Opinion Pages / Op-Ed Columnist February 26, 2016

By David Brooks

We live in a big, diverse society. There are essentially two ways to maintain order and get things done in such a society — politics or some form of dictatorship. Either through compromise or brute force. Our founding fathers chose politics.

Politics is an activity in which you recognize the simultaneous existence of different groups, interests and opinions. You try to find some way to balance or reconcile or compromise those interests, or at least a majority of them. You follow a set of rules, enshrined in a constitution or in custom, to help you reach these compromises in a way everybody considers legitimate.

The downside of politics is that people never really get everything they want. It’s messy, limited and no issue is ever really settled. Politics is a muddled activity in which people have to recognize restraints and settle for less than they want. Disappointment is normal.

But that’s sort of the beauty of politics, too. It involves an endless conversation in which we learn about other people and see things from their vantage point and try to balance their needs against our own. Plus, it’s better than the alternative: rule by some authoritarian tyrant who tries to govern by clobbering everyone in his way.

As Bernard Crick wrote in his book, “In Defence of Politics,” “Politics is a way of ruling divided societies without undue violence.”

Over the past generation we have seen the rise of a group of people who are against politics. These groups — best exemplified by the Tea Party but not exclusive to the right — want to elect people who have no political experience. They want “outsiders.” They delegitimize compromise and deal-making. They’re willing to trample the customs and rules that give legitimacy to legislative decision-making if it helps them gain power.

Ultimately, they don’t recognize other people. They suffer from a form of political narcissism, in which they don’t accept the legitimacy of other interests and opinions. They don’t recognize restraints. They want total victories for themselves and their doctrine.

This antipolitics tendency has had a wretched effect on our democracy. It has led to a series of overlapping downward spirals:

The antipolitics people elect legislators who have no political skills or experience. That incompetence leads to dysfunctional government, which leads to more disgust with government, which leads to a demand for even more outsiders.

The antipolitics people don’t accept that politics is a limited activity. They make soaring promises and raise ridiculous expectations. When those expectations are not met, voters grow cynical and, disgusted, turn even further in the direction of antipolitics.

The antipolitics people refuse compromise and so block the legislative process. The absence of accomplishment destroys public trust. The decline in trust makes deal-making harder.

We’re now at a point where the Senate says it won’t even hold hearings on a presidential Supreme Court nominee, in clear defiance of custom and the Constitution. We’re now at a point in which politicians live in fear if they try to compromise and legislate. We’re now at a point in which normal political conversation has broken down. People feel unheard, which makes them shout even louder, which further destroys conversation.

And in walks Donald Trump. People say that Trump is an unconventional candidate and that he represents a break from politics as usual. That’s not true. Trump is the culmination of the trends we have been seeing for the last 30 years: the desire for outsiders; the bashing style of rhetoric that makes conversation impossible; the decline of coherent political parties; the declining importance of policy; the tendency to fight cultural battles and identity wars through political means.

Trump represents the path the founders rejected. There is a hint of violence undergirding his campaign. There is always a whiff, and sometimes more than a whiff, of “I’d like to punch him in the face.”

I printed out a Times list of the insults Trump has hurled on Twitter. The list took up 33 pages. Trump’s style is bashing and pummeling. Everyone who opposes or disagrees with him is an idiot, a moron or a loser. The implied promise of his campaign is that he will come to Washington and bully his way through.

Trump’s supporters aren’t looking for a political process to address their needs. They are looking for a superhero. As the political scientist Matthew MacWilliams found, the one trait that best predicts whether you’re a Trump supporter is how high you score on tests that measure authoritarianism.

This isn’t just an American phenomenon. Politics is in retreat and authoritarianism is on the rise worldwide. The answer to Trump is politics. It’s acknowledging other people exist. It’s taking pleasure in that difference and hammering out workable arrangements. As Harold Laski put it, “We shall make the basis of our state consent to disagreement. Therein shall we ensure its deepest harmony.”