Bernie Sanders, even after his surprise win in Tuesday’s Michigan primary, remains well behind in the race to win the Democratic presidential nomination, according to what political commentators call the “delegate math.” Despite the morale-boosting Michigan victory, Sanders actually lost ground to frontrunner — and landslide winner of the Mississippi primary also on March 5 — Hillary Clinton.
But Sanders has said that he still intends “to win this election,” though in a recent interview with Katie Couric of Yahoo! News — which can be viewed in full in the video below on this page — Sanders conceded, “I’m going to be honest with you, it may be too late. The billionaires may be too powerful.”
However, according to a study by Andrew Prokop of the news analysis site Vox.com, despite Sanders complaints of “the billionaires” aligned against him, he still has a road open to catch up with Hillary Clinton — but it won’t be an easy ride.
“If Sanders hopes to catch up to Clinton, he’ll need not just several more upsets like Michigan, but several more upsets bigger than Michigan,” wrote Prokop in an article published Thursday.
“It’s a tall order — he’ll likely need to beat Clinton in most of the biggest states remaining, win landslides in heavily white states, and improve his performance among black and Hispanic voters substantially. But it’s not impossible to imagine.”
In Democratic primaries, delegates are awarded in each state on a proportional basis, and while the system of allocation differs from state to state and can often be complex, basically a candidate must win a state by a significant percentage to grab a lion’s share of delegates.
After Tuesday’s primaries — not counting so-called “superdelegates” — Hillary Clinton has won 772 delegates to 549 for Sanders. To win the nomination requires 2,026 delegates. In the next “Super Tuesday” primaries, on March 15, Democrats will have 691 delegates up for grabs.
According to Prokop, Sanders must win 54 percent of all remaining delegates to grab the nomination. And while that looks at first glance like a reasonable goal, the reality is that in the six states remaining with the highest delegate counts — Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, New York, California and Illinois — Sanders must win every single one of them.
And he must do so definitively.
“If he ends up splitting the delegates from these six states with Clinton evenly, he’d then need to win 58 percent of the delegates in all the other contests for that pledged delegate majority,” according to Prokop.
In other words, without big wins in all six big states, Sanders would have to win every other remaining, smaller state by an average margin of 58 percent to 42 for Clinton, a prospect Prokop describes as “completely implausible.”
March 15, then, becomes a do-or-die date on the calendar for Bernie Sanders. Three of those six largest remaining states vote on that day — Florida, Illinois, and Ohio. By Prokop’s calculations, Sanders must win all three to maintain a mathematically realistic chance at the nomination.
But no polls have been taken since the eighth Democratic debate, held in Miami on Wednesday, a debate widely perceived as a winner for Sanders.
Polling failed to detect a sizable bounce for Sanders after a debate in Flint, Michigan, two days before the primary there. Bernie Sanders, of course, defied the pre-election polls, which showed him trailing by as much as 20 points and won the Michigan Democratic primary, albeit by a razor-thin 1.5 point margin.
Bernie Sanders must also win landslide victories in states where white voters make up at least 70 percent of voters — because despite some inroads with African-American voters in Michigan, support for Sanders remains dominated by white voters, particularly white men. In states with less-white electorates, Sanders must run neck and neck with Clinton, at least.
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There are still 600 delegates left to grab from states with large Latino or African-American populations. Sanders probably won’t win a majority of those delegates, but he can’t afford to let them slip away, either.
Finally, the superdelegates will come into play. To win the Democratic nomination outright, Bernie Sanders will need a large share of those superdelegates, who are free to vote as they choose, to drop their support for Clinton and vote for him at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, starting July 25. If he can accomplish those goals, Bernie Sanders will indeed become the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee.
[Photo by Gary McCullough/Associated Press]