Arkansas Benefited By Being Part Of Super Tuesday Through Presidential Candidate Visits

Mar 4, 2020

A Little Rock polling location on Tuesday.
Credit Michael HIbblen / KUAR News

Arkansas Democrats coalesced behind Joe Biden in his bid for president on Tuesday. Final results from the Secretary of State’s office show he won by a nearly two-to-one margin over second place finisher Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Arkansas Democratic Primary Results (100% of precincts reporting):

Joe Biden: 40.5
Bernie Sanders: 22.4
Michael Bloomberg: 16.7
Elizabeth Warren: 10.0

Because Arkansas is not a winner take all state in the allocation of delegates, Biden will not receive all of the state’s 31 delegates. Those will be split among the top three finishers. With an explanation of that, and how being part of Super Tuesday has benefited the state through attention from the presidential candidates, KUAR News spoke with Dr. Heather Yates, a political scientist at the University of Central Arkansas.

MICHAEL HIBBLEN: Obviously [Biden’s] comeback was part of a national trend, but Biden, even a month ago when he had been written off by others, maintained some key supporters, namely African-American leaders in the legislature…

YATES: That’s right Michael, the state Legislative Black Caucus supported Biden and several key supporters that we will also see emerge in Congressional races. And so Biden over performed nationally, and he over performed with a strong showing in Arkansas last night for sure.

HIBBLEN: Arkansas moving its primary up and being part of Super Tuesday brought presidential candidates to the state. In particular, Michael Bloomberg came here to register [paperwork to run as a candidate] in-person in November, and led Little Rock’s Martin Luther King Jr. parade in January, but he still didn’t get enough support that he needed here.

YATES: He certainly did not get enough support for a top two finish, which is what he was aiming at. He does come in third – barely squeaked by the 15 percent threshold – which, what that means is that he does get a few delegate allocations, but for the money that he spent here in Arkansas and the time he spent here, a third place finish for him, I’m sure, is going to be very disappointing for him this morning.

HIBBLEN: What did that do for the state [Democratic] party, getting this kind of attention, having several presidential candidates come to Arkansas?

YATES: Moving the primary election up was a good move on Arkansas’s part for a couple of reasons. It gives Arkansas a high visibility, it gave voters visibility to the candidates. It attracted four presidential here in 2020 and it attracted three Republican presidential candidates in 2016. It offered voters on the ground an opportunity to engage candidates directly in a way they had never been able to before, and it also helped energize the respective party committees in each election cycle. So it has done good things for Arkansas. It has put Arkansas on the primary map being part of this Super Tuesday tradition now.

HIBBLEN: And finally, the Democratic Party allocates 31 delegate, and Arkansas is not a winner take all state. Explain how these delegates are allocated.

YATES: Sure. So the threshold is 15%, and that was established universally in 1988. So candidates in the primaries need to win at least 15% across the voter turnout in order to be deemed viable. And to be deemed viable, that means that the party committee will then award delegates. Now, they are awarded proportionately based on the vote capture, or the voter turnout that each candidate captures. So in Arkansas, Biden wins with roughly 40 percent, Bernie Sanders in second place, and Michael Bloomberg in third place, all above that 15% threshold. So the party will have calculated out how many of those 31 delegates each candidate gets. Biden, of course, will have the most, Bloomberg will have the least.