2016 Democrats, Nevada, State of the Race, Uncategorized

Nevada Recap (D): The Empire Strikes Back

February 20, 2016

I was wrong. Not only did Hillary win, but it was by enough of a margin that you can’t call this a tie. Nor is it a moral victory for the Sanders campaign. At the time of writing, we don’t know how the national convention delegates are being allocated.

There’s a chance Bernie winds up about even on those, but he didn’t rack up large enough margins in the rural counties to do a lose the vote, win the delegates thing like Barack Obama in 2008.

The gap was large enough that you can’t explain it by arguing Bernie had more voters, but the delegate equivalent calculation process gave Hillary a win like in Iowa. There were a few interesting registration decisions at least one of the Las Vegas casino locations. Not close enough to matter.What Happened?

Hillary Clinton has a good campaign staff. They do an excellent job reading and managing data. I spent the past couple of days wondering about their decision to focus the majority of attention on African American voters while virtually ignoring Latino voters until the last minute.

Entrance polls indicate Bernie won among Latinos. Maybe not by a lot, but at a minimum, he was roughly even. This matters quite a bit down the road, but for now it wasn’t enough to put Sanders over the top.

Hillary did well enough with African Americans and seniors to make up for Bernie’s advantage with younger voters. It was a risk, but she won and is now very well positioned for the SEC primary part of the March 1 contests.

The Sanders campaign is open source. Over time, this gives them (to use a dated term) immense scalability. They’ve experienced a huge surge of volunteer interest in the past couple/few weeks. The money is pouring in too.

But Hillary’s campaign was putting down roots in Nevada last spring. If he had two more weeks, Bernie may well have won. It doesn’t work that way. The Clinton campaign has learned from 2008. They will not lose close contests because they fail to turn their vote out.

Clinton is not a great speaker. She is not a great candidate. Hillary is making zero progress with voters under 30. Nobody will ever say she isn’t a grinder. Over the final 48 to 72 hours, while Hillary campaigned tirelessly across Clark County, Sanders did 3 larger events and not much else.

Her campaign knew it was close, lowered expectations, and ground out a win.

What Does it Mean?

Hillary is ahead in the race. She likely had about 4,000 extra supporters today in Nevada. Give those to Bernie, and he’d have a momentum advantage as well as an indicator he was actually the front runner.

It wouldn’t have clinched the nomination or anything, but at worst, he’d have headed to South Carolina with a legit 50/50 shot. Clinton still has plenty of institutional advantages, but that was a fair fight in the making.

Instead, Nevada proved he isn’t quite there yet. The poll data, limited as it was, fairly accurately projected the result. If you use the FiveThirtyEight calculation, a 4 point Hillary victory is equivalent to a 1 point national edge.

Very respectable, but the next couple of weeks favors Hillary, meaning absent further progress, she will have a decent earned delegate lead in addition to the super delegates. If you figure he needs to outperform by a little to make up for those insiders, there isn’t any margin for error.

With the proportional delegate rules, it’s literally impossible to catch up once a candidate has a decent lead. Hillary had the same issue trying to catch Obama in 2008. When the lead candidate has more super delegates….

Bill Clinton is headed to Colorado and Oklahoma in preparation for March 1. Those are virtually must-win states for Bernie. He’s guaranteed to win Vermont and looking well situated for Massachusetts. Minnesota is a possibility too, though polls don’t agree yet.

There are a couple levels here. The loss takes away his chance at playing front runner anytime soon. That’s literally at least two months away, best case scenario. If he can keep South Carolina under 20 points, and win the above mentioned states on March 1, Bernie can keep the pressure on.

If he only wins in New England on March 1, it’s another story. Bernie can stay in as long as he wants, but the math doesn’t work. Sanders made actual progress between Iowa/New Hampshire and Nevada.

A similar result on the FiveThirtyEight scale equals a 9 point Nevada loss, about 5 points worse than actual, so Bernie is on the right track. It’s just a matter of timing. By April, Bernie’s open source architecture will have him ahead going forward if his believers still believe he can win. But he needs to catch up sooner to avoid digging too large a hole.

Clinton held on. Bernie is on the clock. He can’t expect her to stumble. Team Sanders needs to ramp up even quicker now, and do this while fighting back against a pro-Hillary narrative. No margin for error in the next couple/few weeks.

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