Super Tuesday was not so super for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. He lost most of the states up for grabs, and it’s quite possible that he’ll end up with fewer delegates on the evening than chief rival former Vice President Joe Biden.
Sanders’ struggles reflect an inability to connect with older voters, while at the same time failing to generate large youth turnout.
We saw a very familiar age gap across the Super Tuesday states. Sanders crushed it with younger voters. Looking across all the contests with an exit poll, Sanders won an astounding 61% to Biden’s 17% among voters under 30 years old. He even beat Biden by 20 points (43% to 23%) among those between 30 years old and 44 years old.
Sanders, however, struggled mightily with older voters. Biden won by 22 points (42% to 20%) with voters 45 years old to 64 years old. With senior citizens (those 65 years and older), Sanders managed to come in third with 15% (behind Biden’s 48% and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s 19%).
Now you might be tempted to look at those numbers and see that Sanders won those under 45 years old by more than he lost those 45 years and older.
The problem for Sanders is the under 45 group make up a smaller piece of the pie. In no Super Tuesday state with an exit poll did those under 45 years old make up more than 42% of voters. Those under 45 years old were just 35% of the electorate in the median state.
The lack of younger voters in the electorate is, of course, usually the case. Those under 45 years old make up the minority of Democratic primary voters in 2016 as well. Sanders’ theory of the case, though, is his that candidacy can generate youth turnout.
A look at the results on Tuesday night suggests that he failed to do so.
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The lack of strong youth turnout didn’t stop Sanders from his big win Nevada earlier this month. Unfortunately for Sanders, he did 4 points, 6 points and 7 points worse on Super Tuesday compared to Nevada among those 18-29 years old, 30-44 years old and 45-64 years old respectively. He actually did 3 points better among seniors on Super Tuesday than in Nevada, but Biden more than compensated for that by doing 19 points better with those 65 years and older.
Indeed, Biden did better in every age category on Tuesday compared to Nevada as he became the clear alternative to Sanders.
Going forward, the math is simple enough for Sanders. He’s either gotta win more votes from those voters who regularly turn out, or he’ll need to bring more young people to the polls. Failure to do so will result in a Biden nomination.