And one thing the polls will almost certainly struggle to measure: any bounce Joe Biden will get out of his runaway victory in South Carolina on Saturday.
Here are five takeaways from the weekend’s Super Tuesday polls:
Sanders leads in California, but others could hit the delegate threshold.
A CBS News Battleground Tracker/YouGov poll out Sunday morning shows Sanders with a significant advantage in the largest delegate prize on Super Tuesday. The Vermont independent senator is at 31 percent in the survey — ahead of Joe Biden at 19 percent, Elizabeth Warren at 18 percent and Mike Bloomberg at 12 percent.
That’s not quite as large a lead as a CNN/SSRS poll on Friday that showed Sanders at 34 percent, with Warren in second place at 14 percent.
The distinctions here are important: Only candidates who break 15 percent will win a proportional share of statewide delegates. If Sanders were the only candidate over 15 percent, he would win all the statewide delegates, even if he captured only about a third of the vote.
But with two or three other candidates potentially joining Sanders above the 15 percent threshold, it would split the delegate haul. CBS News estimates that under the scenario portrayed by its poll — with Biden and Warren also meeting the threshold — Sanders would win a little less than half the delegates available.
Is Bernie going to win Texas, too?
According to four polls released over the past 48 hours, Sanders enters as the favorite in Texas, the second-largest state voting on Tuesday. But the race appears closer than in California, and Sanders’ lead is far from assured.
Sanders has a wide lead in an NBC News/Marist poll: 15 points over Biden, 34 percent to 19 percent. Bloomberg is third, at an all-important 15 percent.
But a CBS News Battleground Tracker/YouGov poll shows a much closer contest: Sanders leads Biden by just 4 points, 30 percent to 26 percent. Bloomberg is within striking distance of the statewide delegate threshold, at 13 percent.
And a Dallas Morning News/University of Texas-Tyler poll shows Bloomberg in a stronger position: Sanders leads Bloomberg by 8 points, 29 percent to 21 percent, with Biden close behind at 19 percent.
Southern states look like the Super Tuesday battlegrounds.
Which states are truly up for grabs on Tuesday? The ones that look — at least a little — like South Carolina.
Alabama has a large share of African-American voters, and Biden, who won roughly 60 percent of the black vote in South Carolina on Saturday, will be the favorite there.
But in other Southern states that have significant — but smaller — black populations, the race looks like a jump ball. An NBC News/Marist poll in North Carolina shows Sanders (26 percent) and Biden (24 percent) essentially tied there, with Bloomberg in third at 15 percent.
Then there’s Virginia, where a Christopher Newport University poll released on Friday shows Biden (22 percent) slightly ahead of Sanders (17 percent) and Bloomberg (13 percent).
There isn’t as much recent polling in states like Arkansas, Oklahoma and Tennessee — but the demographic profiles of those states suggest that similarly close contests are likely.
Can Warren hold off Sanders in Massachusetts?
A Boston Globe/WBZ-TV/Suffolk University poll released Saturday shows the two liberals running neck-and-neck in Warren’s home state. Sanders (24 percent) and Warren (22 percent) are well ahead of the second-tier candidates in Massachusetts: Bloomberg (13 percent), Pete Buttigieg (12 percent) and Biden (11 percent).
The situation is similar for Amy Klobuchar, who is trying to win her home state of Minnesota but isn’t registering in polls elsewhere. The most recent poll in Minnesota, from the Minneapolis Star Tribune and Mason-Dixon, is a week old, but it showed Klobuchar holding off Sanders, 29 percent to 23 percent.
Don’t look for signs of a Biden bounce in the polls.
We’ll probably need to wait until Tuesday night to see whether Biden’s strong performance in South Carolina gives him momentum. All of the polls cited in this article were conducted before Saturday’s first-in-the-South primary.
Biden is trying to capitalize on South Carolina, and his campaign has a plan to propel his underfunded campaign in places where they are outflanked by Sanders and Bloomberg, in particular.
There are limits to what a Biden surge can look like in some of these states, however — especially those with robust early voting before the South Carolina primary. In California, the majority of voters mail in their ballots ahead of Election Day. In Texas, 1 million people had already voted early in person through Saturday. In North Carolina, 792,000 voters have already cast their ballots.
Still, there are some signs Democrats have been holding back their ballots to see how the race would play out. In California, political consultant Paul Mitchell told POLITICO he’d seen a significant drop-off in ballots returned among regular primary voters, suggesting they are waiting until the last minute. And in Texas, the early turnout in the GOP primary (1.1 million) is thus far outpacing the Democratic contest, despite no competitive race at the top of the Republican ticket.