Despite what is often described as Bernie Sanders’ “surge” in polls as he continues his surprising challenge to front-runner Hillary Clinton for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, an analysis of the latest data shows that unless the upstart self-described “democratic socialist” senator from Vermont can pull off a major victory in Saturday’s Nevada caucuses, his campaign may be effectively over by March 2, the day after Super Tuesday.
On March 1, Super Tuesday, Sanders and Clinton will contest 11 states, with a total of 865 delegates up for grabs. According to polls released on Wednesday by Public Policy Polling, Hillary Clinton holds commanding leads in eight of those states, and also maintains a narrow lead in a ninth state, Oklahoma.
Of the Super Tuesday states, only Sanders’ home state of Vermont and its New England neighbor Massachusetts appear to be firmly in the Bernie Sanders camp, according to the PPP polls.
Clinton herself is apparently so confident that she can deliver a knockout punch to Sanders on Super Tuesday, or not long after, that she is publicly declaring her plan to get the primary process over with in a hurry.
“I’m not going to waste a minute,” she said during the MSNBC Town Hall forum in Nevada Thursday night. “That’s why I want to get this nomination as quickly as possible so I can get to work on being your president.”
The following video shows one of Sanders’ highlights from the same Town Hall.
And to find out how Bernie Sanders fares in the Nevada caucus Saturday, February 20, go to this link, or simply stay here and watch live coverage in the video below.
Five of the Super Tuesday states — Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, Georgia and Virginia — are in the southeast, where Clinton is believed by most political experts to hold her “firewall” of invulnerability and polling results appear to bear out the conventional wisdom.
Not only does Clinton lead Sanders by no less than 22 percentage points in each of those five Southeastern states, in the PPP poll, she also has a stranglehold on the state of Texas, with its 222 delegates, leading Sanders 57 to 34 there. And, in Louisiana, which holds its primary just four days after Super Tuesday on March 5, Clinton holds a dominating 60-29 lead.
So, how does Bernie Sanders turn the primary election around? According to an analysis by Nate Silver, founder of the election-predicting site FiveThirtyEight.com, the first thing he must accomplish is a victory Saturday in the Nevada caucuses — and a decisive victory at that, one that could turn public perception in his favor and help him close the gap nationally on Clinton.
In the FiveThirtyEight average of all major polls, Clinton holds a nationwide lead of 13.6 points, 50.1 percent to 38.7 percent for Bernie Sanders, nationally, as of February 17. According to Silver, he must erase that lead and bring the race in the polls to a 50-50 tie to win the Democratic nomination.
“Since the Democrats’ delegate allocation is highly proportional to the vote in each state, that means Sanders will be on track to win the nomination if he consistently beats these 50-50 benchmarks,” Silver wrote this week. “Conversely, Clinton will very probably win the nomination if Sanders fails to do so.”
The following chart compiled by Silver and the FiveThirtyEight statisticians shows the projections for each upcoming (and previous) state, in either scenario. The column on the left shows expected results given a nationwide lead of about 12 points for Clinton. The right-side column shows projections given a 50-50 race.
It should be noted, however, that other national poll averages show a somewhat closer race. The Huffington Post Pollster.com average gives Clinton a 7.4 point lead at 48.9 to 41.5. Real Clear Politics has Clinton ahead by only 5.6 points as of February 17, 47.6 to 42.
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Each poll averaging site uses a different formula for assigning “weight,” or importance to each poll in the average, which probably accounts for the discrepancies.
Either way, polls appear to show Bernie Sanders requiring a decisive victory in Nevada on Saturday to keep his campaign alive. Will he get it? According to probabilities calculated by FiveThirtyEight, probably not. Clinton has shown an upward trend in that state over the past couple of days, giving her a 60 percent probability of victory over Bernie Sanders. At the same time, Nevada is a caucus state, not a primary, and polls are often less accurate when it comes to caucus results.
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