After his decisive loss in Nevada, Bernie Sanders and his insurgent campaign, polls show, face a steep uphill battle in his effort to catch and surpass frontrunner Hillary Clinton in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. In fact, heading into the 11 Super Tuesday contests on March 1, Sanders has just 10 days after his Nevada loss to erase double-digit Clinton leads in eight of those states.
After a near-tie in the Iowa caucuses, and a landslide Sanders victory in the February 9, New Hampshire primary, Hillary Clinton came back with a 53 percent to 47 percent victory in the Nevada caucuses on Saturday. But it is the road ahead where Clinton appears to hold an insurmountable advantage.
Next up is the South Carolina Democratic primary on February 27 — a state where Clinton holds a 28 point lead in an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released Friday. Perhaps more tellingly, in the statistically weighted average of major polls in South Carolina by the election-predicting site FiveThirtyEight.com, Clinton is firmly in control there with a 25.5 percentage point lead.
With 865 delegates up for grabs on Super Tuesday, more than 25 percent of the total, available Democratic delegates will have been allocated by the end of that day. If indeed Sanders loses those eight states by significant margins — and he also trails in a ninth, Oklahoma — he could find himself with a deficit simply too steep to overcome without winning several large states by big scores.
There is very little, if anything, in current poll numbers to give Sanders and his supporters any indication that he will be able to do that.
Sanders, of course, is not yet ready to give up. Watch his feisty concession speech in Nevada on Saturday in the video below.
In Super Tuesday states, Clinton holds a 33.4 point lead in Georgia, in the FiveThirtyEight average, a 20.1 point lead in Virginia and a 24.4 point lead in Arkansas. In the state that represents the biggest Super Tuesday prize, Texas with its 252 delegates, Hillary Clinton is running away with a 21.9 point lead.
Bernie Sanders, by his own declarations, needs to inspire a large voter turnout to beat the more established an better-known Clinton — but in the first three contests of the 2016 Democratic race, that turnout has not materialized.
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Democratic turnout was down in Iowa, New Hampshire and in Nevada this year compared to 2008, the last contested primary campaign for the party. Perhaps even more alarming for Sanders, despite continuing large and raucous crowds at his campaign rallies and a powerful, even controversial online presence by his supporters, the Vermont Senator, who is campaigning on a platform of political “revolution,” trails Clinton badly in the enthusiasm of his supporters, according to data from polls taken by Public Policy Polling.
The following graph, courtesy of The Washington Post, illustrates Clinton’s support and enthusiasm advantage in most of the Super Tuesday states, as reflected in the PPP polls. The only exceptions are Sanders’ home state of Vermont and its New England neighbor, Massachusetts.
Super Tuesday is followed two weeks later, on March 15, by what could be called “Son of Super Tuesday,” when 691 delegates go up for grabs in five large states — Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina and Ohio.
Hillary Clinton holds double digit leads in three of those states where enough polling data has been compiled to allow a statistically significant sample in the FiveThirtyEight averages. Polling data from Missouri and Illinois, with their 266 combined delegates, remains too scant to reveal a clear picture, but the overwhelming majority of the other 425 appear headed for Clinton’s column.
Whether Bernie Sanders can recover from his Nevada loss and revitalize his campaign, creating a dramatic upswing in voter turnout and closing his gap in the polls, will likely be the focus of political experts over the next few weeks.
[Featured Photo By Jae C. Hong/Associated Press]