January 11, 2016
Continuing with our multi-day project to figure out how Bernie Sanders could actually win the 2016 Democratic nomination….
The goal is to finish this exercise before Iowa votes and potentially invalidates the entire project. Also, I’m guessing there’s some patience limit among the readership, though in already suspending disbelief in Hillary’s inevitability in order to do this, overlooking modern attention spans is easy enough.
Remember, projecting precise delegate counts is beyond my capacity. I’m adding the states I think Bernie will win, subtracting those I’m giving to Hillary and assuming he needs a decent edge in order to pull this off, both due to proportional allocation and super delegates strongly favoring her, at least for now.
This also assumes Bernie wins Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, before Hillary recovers to win South Carolina. You can try to argue he could lose Nevada and still win the nomination, but I can’t. If Hillary wins Iowa, forget I ever wasted your time with this.
We made it through March 1 in Part Two, so let’s continue with the primaries and caucuses on March 5 and 6. Based on this scenario, Hillary has recovered a good amount of momentum, but Bernie has made it clear he’s not going away anytime soon.
Hillary wins Louisiana (54)
Closed primary in the South in a heavily African-American state. Unless Bernie is running ahead among non-white voters by this point, the math doesn’t work. I do think he will really narrow the gap in any scenario where he’s still competitive at this point, but not enough, soon enough to get Louisiana.
Bernie wins Maine (25), Kansas (33), Nebraska (26)
Three closed caucuses. One is in New England in a state that likes quirky candidates. The other two are in plains states where Democrats live in university towns and liberal enclaves and everyone else votes Republican.
The Berners will do their thing on the ground. Neither candidate will spend much (if any) time here themselves. It’s right between Super Tuesday and some real interesting big states just over the horizon.
Speaking of which, on March 8:
Hillary wins Mississippi (36), but Bernie wins Michigan (133)
The logic for Mississippi fits neatly between Louisiana and Alabama, as the state does geographically. I’m not sure Hillary’s southern firewall will hold much longer than this, but fortunately for her, they vote relatively early in the process.
That brings us to Michigan, the first of two northern states that begin to decisively tip the contest equilibrium as Bernie breaks through with black voters. This is the evening where Joe Biden goes to bed cursing his decision to pass.
I figured Sanders would win previous states despite African-American voters. In this case, I believe they will help him. As we know, Bernie likes to talk about the economy. Nowhere have African-Americans suffered more economically than in Michigan, Metro Detroit in particular.
Elsewhere, it may sound like he’s rattling off statistics about youth unemployment and incarceration. In Detroit, it’s a reality. There are little seedlings of promise, but overall, the past five decades are an unbroken path of wreckage.
A populist, anti-Big Business message in a state that’s seen manufacturing jobs flee by the hundreds of thousands isn’t a bad fit either.
It’s an open primary, and Donald Trump threatening to prevent Ford from building a plant in Mexico will keep Sanders from pulling in all the Independent voters, while also grabbing a few Reagan Democrats, so don’t figure Bernie would win by much.
Winning Michigan with non-white votes would shake up the perception of the race heading toward some crucial big states the Democrats want to keep in their column.
Standings after March 8: Bernie (688), Hillary (733)
He still has ground to make up, but the momentum is back. On to March 15, arguably the single most important date on the calendar for both Democrats (if there’s a contest) and Republicans. Who needs to beware the Ides of March?
Hillary wins Florida (207)
Closed primary, home state of Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Hillary-favoring DNC chief. Disproportionate number of seniors compared to young, unmarried voters. A state normally won by blanketing major media markets with ads instead of rolling out the ground troops.
It’s a must win for Hillary. Especially because….
Bernie wins Illinois (160)
Oops. Clinton loses her original home state, done in by Rahm Emanuel, who got his start in the Clinton administration. In case you haven’t followed the story, a Chicago P.D. officer gunned down an un-armed African-American teenager, shooting him repeatedly.
Already bad. Very bad. There’s video. Rahm buried it for a solid year, giving him time to win a runoff election for a second term against Chuy Garcia. It’s been a rough few years in the Windy City and Emanuel was vulnerable.
He’s now about as popular as Al Capone was with Eliot Ness. Chuy’s angry. Chuy endorsed Bernie. A majority of Illinois Democrats live in Greater Chicagoland. They’re looking to make a statement. Bernie does a good job on social justice. He’ll win if he’s at all viable (which we are already assuming he is).
Almost too close to call: Hillary wins Missouri (75), North Carolina (107), Bernie wins Ohio (148)
Missouri was incredibly close in 2008. I’m not sure that Bernie couldn’t win, but this feels like more of a Hillary state.
Senator Claire McCaskill is popular among her fellow Democrats and has endorsed Hillary. In 2008 she endorsed Obama.
Both times she was the first senator to announce an endorsement. In what looks like a close contest, that’s enough to make the difference.
Bernie hasn’t yet shown he’s connecting with upscale suburban voters with moderate views who lean Democrat. This was part of the Bill Clinton core electorate, the Soccer Moms and their husbands who moved purple states blue and red states purple in the 90s.
It’s one of the places where he will likely underperform Obama’s ’08 results. I’ve also come to the mostly unfounded conclusion that Bernie will do better with northern, urban African-Americans than their southern and Border State peers.
More on that in a few days. I’m convinced analysts and pundits are making a mistake in assuming most African-Americans are viewing the candidates the same way. No demographic group is a monolith.
Anyway, North Carolina seems to work against Bernie’s strengths. Virginia seemed like a narrow win, but the Tar Heel State (which Hillary lost by 14 instead of 34 points last time) seems like a semi-close loss.
I chose Ohio as the victory because it seems most plausible of the three and I would expect him to grab one, but this one would be very, very close.
Hillary won it in 2008 with heavy focus on rural and exurban white voters. They like guns. Shot and a Beer Annie Oakley Clinton running against the suave Ivy League educated Obama was different from what we’ll see this year.
Though Ohio has made economic progress over the past few years (just ask John Kasich), Rust Belt voters are still wary. The Sanders economic populist message should resonate.
If we assume Bernie does better outside the South, only a portion of Ohio (south of Columbus) feels southern, compared to North Carolina outside of Charlotte and Raleigh/Durham. This is a better bet.
Standings after March 15: Bernie (996), Hillary (1122)
While Hillary would still have a lead, winning Illinois and Ohio would be enough of a statement. As long as the delegates wind up fairly evenly distributed, any two will do.
Swap one of those for one I gave to Hillary and he’s fine. If he were to win 4 out of 5, it would be a cataclysmic shock to the political system, but I don’t see it happening.
Technically possible, but would require some very good fortune. The delegate count wouldn’t wind up very different, but all of a sudden her campaign would start having 2008 flashbacks.
The Long March
This is Bernie’s chance to go on a streak. A whole run of western caucus states won by Obama without the help of African-American voters in states where Hillary isn’t always well thought of.
Bernie wins Arizona (63), Idaho (20), Utah (24), Alaska (14), Hawaii (22), Washington (86), North Dakota (6), Wisconsin (79), Wyoming (13)
Clinton won Arizona in 2008. It’s a closed primary with a heavily Latino Democratic electorate. Why do I think Bernie would win?
Did I mention Bill Clinton is the only Democrat to win Arizona in the past 16 elections?
You know those Berners who will find themselves in Nevada in February? Well, they can work themselves over to neighboring Arizona in March. There’s a full month between the votes.
That still leaves 10 weeks back in California before that primary. Like Nevada, Arizona is full of Golden State expats, so the invading force will feel at home.
Yes, Arizona usually votes Republican, but the Democrats aren’t necessarily that centrist, just outnumbered. It’s like how California Republicans are plenty conservative, just not numerous enough to win elections.
Bernie doesn’t have many congressional endorsements, but one of the few is Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva. This isn’t a stretch. Last time Arizona was part of Super Tuesday, so Obama couldn’t give it the same focus Bernie will.
Idaho, Utah and Wyoming are the type of GOP majority states where you need to really not care what your neighbors think to be a Democrat.
All three are caucuses and between populists and progressives, Bernie should have no trouble finding enough participants to win.
Washington is an open caucus in a state where Independents lean Democrat. Obama did very well. Pot is legal. Subarus are popular. There’s no Sanders victory scenario that doesn’t include a win here.
Alaska is a caucus. People can toke while voting. Alaskans love unconventional candidates. After a long, cold, dark winter, they’ll be ready to Feel the Bern.
Hawaii is tricky. Obama ran as a native son, so the caucus wasn’t really contested last time. It’s a heavily blue state, the only one with an Asian plurality. This is mostly a guess result.
Tulsi Gabbard, DNC Vice Chair, rising star and thorn in the establishment’s side hasn’t endorsed yet. If she picks Bernie, it would make a difference. Otherwise, absent any other evidence, I’m favoring Sanders in any caucus.
In case you haven’t been watching Fargo on FX (it’s great, highly recommend it), North Dakota sometimes acts as an extension of Minnesota. It’s more Republican for sure, but their Democrats are sometimes partial to a Sanders-like candidate.
Obama finished well ahead of Hillary, but it was a caucus. This time it’s a closed primary. Could go either way, but momentum at this stage should favor Bernie. The 6 delegates at stake don’t change the calculations much, but the narrative is better for him if he sweeps this whole batch of states.
Wisconsin is an open primary in a Democratic leaning state Obama won by 17 points over Hillary. It’s one of the 5 or 6 states you would think of as most Bernie-friendly. I can’t imagine how he could win Iowa and lose Wisconsin.
Standings after April 9: Bernie (1323), Hillary (1122)
Now Bernie finally finds himself ahead. Several of the remaining states are up for grabs in this scenario. If the numbers look like the above on this date, he’s got a real chance. If Hillary is still ahead, she’s going to wind up winning.
Next up is New York on April 19. Can Bernie defeat Hillary in the state that elected her twice as their senator?
Check back for Part Four tomorrow to get the answer.