March 17, 2016
We interrupt the Clinton coronation to bring you a preview for the three Democratic elections being held on Tuesday. The results aren’t likely to change who the nominee is. At this point, Bernie Sanders needs to practically win out to get chosen.
Even then, Hillary would have a math edge, but if Bernie somehow won 25 of 28 contests it would cause some re-evaluation. At the moment, he has more immediate issues to attend to. Like winning Arizona.
We do care if this happens. Bernie has the ability to contest every primary or caucus from now until California on June 7. He can win enough delegates that Hillary can’t technically clinch the nomination until the super delegates weigh in, even if it’s a completely foregone conclusion.
That’s not enough to keep her from pivoting completely to the general election, or to ensure Bernie gets at least somewhat adequate coverage. Committed Berners will donate, volunteer, and turn out regardless, but his ability to keep Hillary looking left at all times depends on his performance over the next several weeks.
He’s yet to win an entire night with multiple contests. New Hampshire was the last election night where he won a majority of delegates. If he wants to get treated like a contender, he needs to win a night outright. Sweeping three contests would do it.
In order of ease for Sanders, here they are:
It’s an open caucus. Bernie hasn’t lost one of these yet. His only two caucus defeats were Iowa (a virtual tie, where he likely won the popular vote) and Nevada. We’ve seen zero momentum issues on the Democratic side.
When Bernie was supposedly left for dead, he still won Michigan. When Hillary was supposedly reeling, she won Nevada, and then swept March 15 when she was feeling post-Michigan pressure.
Neither candidate has experienced any trouble in a state they were supposed to do well in because of something that recently did or didn’t happen.
We only have one poll, from mid-February that shows Sanders with a slight edge. In very white, red state caucuses, that’s translated to a solid winning margin so far. There’s no way Berners are sleeping on this opportunity to post a win.
If Clinton wins, it means Bernie has many fewer wins left on the schedule than he figured. It means momentum is becoming an issue for him in a supposedly safe state for the first time.
It also means she likely wins all three contests on the 22nd, sweeping another night, and posting 8 straight victories overall. Bernie would then expect slippage in Washington, Alaska and Hawaii on March 26, and he would largely cease receiving mainstream media coverage of any kind before April Fools Day.
This should set up well for Bernie. It’s a caucus. It’s open to Independents. There are few voters of color. Yet he trailed in the two surveys we have, one from January, one from February by 10 and 7 points respectively.
This makes me curious what an updated March poll would show. It’s still hard to imagine Hillary winning, but since we won’t have any other contests to prove the Ides of March didn’t extinguish at least some of the Bern, given her previous edge, it’s a little closer to a toss-up.
We know Hillary’s supporters are not as fired up. That’s a huge deal in a caucus, and it’s not like Utah has Iowa’s history of participation. If Bernie loses here, he has absolutely no chance in Arizona. He also can’t assume he’ll add Wyoming and Montana to his tally later on.
This is going to sound stupid, but the other reason he needs Utah is because it takes up space on the map. We watch those states fill in on election nights, and Hillary has that solid block across the South.
With those recent victories, she’s crowding the entire Eastern side of the map. At this point, she only has Iowa and Nevada west of the Mississippi. A big day for Bernie and a big part of the map is his shade.
If you want to claim viability, at least as a conversation topic if not a plausible nominee, square footage is a visual that begins to subtly impact observers.
Now we come to the real test. It’s a closed primary. That means no Independents, no Republicans, no salvation from Hillary’s dominance among registered Democrats. Guess how many completely closed primaries Bernie has won so far?
Arizona also has a high percentage of Latino voters. This isn’t necessarily a problem. Bernie did at least decently with Nevada Hispanics, and apparently did well in Illinois too. Location matters. Florida and Texas didn’t go as well.
His organizers and volunteers have targeted this contest for some time now. The same people still learning their trade in Nevada can visit a neighboring state with some useful experience to rely on. His California squad will assist too.
It looks like an ad campaign based on the impact of the foreclosure crisis on the Latino community made an impact in Nevada. I’d expect similar framing here. Harry Reid, big Vegas unions, and the Nevada Democratic establishment helped Hillary squeak out a win there.
Here, Bernie has Raul Grijalva, one of his few endorsers from the House. Hillary has endorsements on such a lockdown, it’s hard to find adequate sample size, but Bernie did do well in Minnesota, where he had help from Grijalva peer Keith Ellison.
For truly committed members of the House Progressive Caucus, of which Grijalva is one, a Sanders victory here, along with making as credible an overall run as possible is an important foundation for moving the party leftward over the next several years.
They have some work to do. No polling in the past five months, but Hillary had two large leads and one solid one in the three ancient surveys. Every state Bernie has won so far sets up better for him than this one.
Everyone on the progressive side is very aware of what happens if Sanders does not perform well here. They want the race to continue to California, they want Hillary to stay on guard. They want her to need them in November and after a potential Inauguration.
If Bernie wins here, he will almost definitely win all three for the evening. He’d then find himself favored to win the remaining contests leading up to New York on April 19.
It wouldn’t change who the front runner is, but 8 straight wins is 8 straight wins. With some other good targets later on, Bernie would ensure fairly decent coverage of the contest until California, and would guarantee Hillary couldn’t pivot back towards the center.
So yes. Arizona still matters.