Democratic primaries in deep red and deep blue states

From a realpolitik standpoint, does it really even matter anymore how Democrats in deep red - and deep blue - states vote in the primaries?

Isn’t the all-important thing which candidate does best among the Democrats in the swing states (broadly defined)? Wouldn’t this be the candidate with the best chance in the general election?
(Disclaimer: Any resemblance to actual persons or actual events is purely coincidental. OK, maybe not. But I’m not asking with partisan intentions.)

I think it’s fine having states with a low number of Democratic voters having a number of primary delegates proportional to their Democratic vote in the last election, which is similar to what happens now. After all, they’re getting less of a say than the bluer states relative to their population: even if it is not as low as their actual influence, it is a simple system and something is to be said for simplicity.

However, states like California are another story: since, if I understand correctly and I might be wrong, bluer states still have primary influence proportional to their Democratic vote, I think all that extra influence is indeed harmful to electing electable candidates. For states that already voted Democratic, I’d cap their delegates as proportional to half the votes in the general election. So for a 100% democratic-voting state, each primary voter would only have half the influence that they do in purple states since the number of delegates would be based on 50% of the population.

I think this is as complicated as I think I’d want to go as far as how many delegates each state gets. But to further enhance the power of purple states, you could have the states with the lowest absolute margin of victory get the first primaries: that way the small states and the purple states would get a chance to winnow out the field before the states that aren’t in play chime in.

The way this year’s primary is going, that might yet be how things turn out. If the trend continues, Bernie will win states out west like Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Idaho, and Montana. Biden will get the southern states yet to vote including Florida and Georgia. That would leave the upper Midwest as the deciding area. Michigan is next week, Ohio and Illinois the week after. Pennsylvania and Wisconsin won’t vote until April. If Sanders mounts a comeback those might end up being key states.

That’s a point I heard made on the radio this morning. Biden won over Bernie in southern states that aren’t going to go Democrat in November. Of course the flip is true - Trump probably won’t win California where Sanders won.


voter turnout in primary states is much much lower than turnout in the general election.

To pick one state at random, in Michigan Sanders and Clinton got a combined 1.2 million votes in the primary as each got about 600k votes, while Clinton got 2.2 million votes in the general. Clinton lost the state by 11,000 votes.

So it probably doesn’t matter much.

I agree, primary results in states whose alignment in November is a foregone conclusion do little directly to predict the general election outcome. For that matter primaries in swing states have limited predictive power about the general either, since after all it’s just one party’s voters, plus in open primary states a small self selected % of true independents bothering to vote in a party primary, and a typically minuscule % of the other party’s voters mucking around in the opposing party’s primary, for all the hype the last category gets.

But primaries can have indirect predictive value about the general I think whether or not ‘true’ swing states. For example Sanders has not made a lot more young voters turn out, generally so far in primaries. That tends to undercut the theory that he could afford to scare away some moderate older voters as Democratic nominee because he’d make it up by increasing turn out among younger voters. It’s probably more useful to observe whether Sanders can do that in primaries in a bunch of different states than just concentrating 100% on how he did in true swing state primaries. Because for one thing hardly any really close states from 2016 have had primaries yet. NH is the only true squeaker in 2016 (<0.4% Clinton margin) so far, but tends to get written off as ‘small and unrepresentative’. NV and MN were under 2% margin but not super close. I think it’s useful to look at info from all different kinds of states to judge a theory like ‘Sanders will bring out legions of new voters’. Although obviously it’s limited information, not strictly apples to apples to the situation in the true key states in an actual general election.

Anyway obviously the states whose November outcome is a foregone conclusion are still equally important delegate for delegate in terms of securing the nomination.