Bernie Sanders won a solid victory in the Oregon Democratic primary election on Tuesday, while front-runner Hillary Clinton squeaked out an upset win over Sanders in Kentucky, which was thought to be prime Sanders territory. But the California and New Jersey primaries on June 7 will be Sanders’ final chance to make his case that he should be the Democratic presidential nominee.
A modest Sanders win in Oregon is pretty consistent with a comfortable Clinton win in California
— Nate Cohn (@Nate_Cohn) May 18, 2016
In a defiant victory speech in Carson, California, Tuesday night, the 74-year-old Sanders, after winning Oregon, continued to express certainty that he was headed for victory in California as well.
“I think we have a real shot to win primaries in a number of states coming up,” Sanders told a crowd estimated at 8,000 at the StubHub Center tennis stadium. “And don’t tell Secretary Clinton — she might get nervous — but I think we’re going to win here in California.”
— Daily Nexus (@dailynexus) May 17, 2016
But is Sanders right? Can he win the California primary on June 7? According to current polling, a Bernie Sanders victory would mean that he has pulled off a stunning and massive upset in the Golden State.
Watch Bernie Sanders deliver his controversial victory speech in Carson, California, in the video below.
Even before looking at poll numbers, the demographics of California pose a formidable barrier that Bernie Sanders must hurdle simply to win the state at all — much less win it by the 34-point margin required to claim enough pledged delegates to make a difference.
Election forecaster Anthony Reed, the founder of Benchmark Politics, which has shown a high degree of accuracy this election season by using demographic data to make election predictions, sets his early benchmark projections for California at 56-44 in favor of Hillary Clinton.
— Benchmark Politics (@benchmarkpol) May 18, 2016
If the Benchmark Politics early projection is even roughly correct, it would deal a death blow to hopes for a Bernie Sanders nomination victory.
Polling data appears to back up the demographics, as well. In the 10 major polls taken in California this year, the 68-year-old Hillary Clinton has topped Bernie Sanders in every one and leads Sanders in the FiveThirtyEight polling average by 14.2 percentage points, 52.6 to 38.4.
The New Jersey primary, as well as primaries in New Mexico, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota, will also take place on the same day — the final day of voting in the Democratic primary campaign except for the vote in Washington, D.C., a week later.
New Jersey, the second-most delegate-rich state to vote on June 7, looks even more favorable to Clinton. According to Benchmark Politics, the demographics of the east coast state signal a “blowout” in favor of Clinton.
New Jersey – We haven’t seem demographics like this since Maryland. Blowout. Clinton 64% – Sanders 36%. pic.twitter.com/3Yrdsd8lHE
— Benchmark Politics (@benchmarkpol) May 18, 2016
As in California, polling data is equally definitive about a Clinton triumph in New Jersey, with Clinton winning the 10 most recent New Jersey polls — all of them but one by at least 23 percentage points. She leads the FiveThirtyEight polling average by 26.8 points.
According to another major polling aggregator, Real Clear Politics, the California and New Jersey races are somewhat closer but still weighted heavily in Clinton’s favor and offering scant hope for Bernie Sanders.
In California, the Real Clear Politics average sees Hillary Clinton with a 9.7 point lead, 51-41.3. In New Jersey, the site’s polling average gives Bernie Sanders an 18.5 point hill to climb between now and June 7.
— Men4Hillary (@HillarysMen) May 16, 2016
In the delegate race, the race that actually decides who becomes the nominee, Sanders would need large, landslide victories in all of the remaining states to even come close to Clinton — and even then he would need to convince a large number of superdelegates to switch allegiance from Clinton to him.
To make his case to the superdelegates, Sanders would presumably need to show a majority of pledged delegates, who are earned mainly by winning votes. A majority of pledged delegates is 2,026.
There are only 787 delegates remaining to be claimed across all the primary election contests left of the schedule. With 1,496 delegates to his name after his Tuesday split of Oregon and Kentucky, Sanders must win 67 percent — two out of every three — delegates remaining. In other words, he must not only defeat Clinton in every state but defeat her by overwhelming margins.
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Even though the polls and demographics paint a clear picture of who will win the California and New Jersey primary elections, Bernie Sanders nonetheless issued a warning to Hillary Clinton in his Tuesday night speech, telling his followers, “They say Bernie Sanders should drop out, the people of California should not have the right to determine who the next president will be. Well, let me be as clear as I can be — we are in till the last ballot is cast!”
[Photos by John Sommers II/David McNew/Getty Images]