Southern voters are in the spotlight as 14 states head to the polls for the presidential primary.
Nearly half of the delegate count on Super Tuesday is coming from the South, including Texas, North Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee — each with more delegates than any of the states that have voted so far.
Of those four largest Southern states, Tennessee has the highest percentage of white, non-Latino residents and voted the most conservative in 2016.
Because the state has an open primary, some Democratic candidates who’ve campaigned here have targeted crossover voters, trying to appeal to Republicans or independents who might be dissatisfied with President Donald Trump.
But some voters say crossing the aisle in the primary is a waste of effort. Damaka Shabazz, a federal public defender who voted early, said he’s supporting Bernie Sanders because he believes the senator will bring new, younger voters into the process.
“Everybody says, ‘Well, he won’t be able to pull over the Republicans.’ Who is going to pull over the Republicans? Biden? No. Nobody is going to pull them over,” he said.
The Democratic interest in Tennessee overall is noticeably higher this year than in 2016, when Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton opened their Nashville field offices only when early voting in Tennessee began. And visits from the candidates were rare or nonexistent: A Bernie Sanders rally at Tennessee State University in January 2016 did not include the actual candidate, as some had thought it would.
This year, however, all of the leading candidates have visited the state, some multiple times, and set up active campaign offices in Tennessee. In the past week alone, Mike Bloomberg, Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg have all visited the state. (Of course, two of those campaign visits were rendered moot when Klobuchar and Buttigieg dropped out of the race.)
Meanwhile, Jill Biden and Jane Sanders were also here this week and last campaigning on behalf of their husbands.