March 27, 2016
Bernie crushed it yesterday. Yeah, he was favored, they were caucuses. Sure, Hillary is still effectively a billion delegates ahead. No, he doesn’t have more than a trapeze line of a path yet.
But he also won 82/18, 72/28, and 70/30. That’s a lot. It also was the first time since New Hampshire that Sanders did better than Barack Obama in the same grouping of states. Prior to yesterday, even in these type of favorable caucus locations, they either had similar results if open to Independents, or Bernie trailed when they were closed.
Yesterday, Bernie wound up several points better in Alaska, even though it was Democrats only. He wound up several points better in open Washington. He got within a few points in Hawaii, even though it’s Dems only and Obama was a native son.
If Sanders had done this well (relative to expectations) from the beginning, he’d find himself in a very close race right now, very possibly leading.
A almost three months ago, we set up the conditions necessary for Bernie to create a serious challenge to Hillary. The first step was winning Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada.
Tying in Iowa was close enough, and his margin in New Hampshire was strong, but the fairly narrow loss in Nevada was a big problem. That left Bernie behind his target. He wasn’t supposed to win the Southern states, but he also wasn’t supposed to struggle to reach 20% of the vote.
No set of projections, no matter how favorable to Bernie, would have shown him leading in earned delegates after the March 15 contests. The goal was to stay close enough to pull even or ahead between March 22 and New York on April 19.
That’s completely off the table due to the combination of Southern blowouts and more narrow Midwestern losses. The delegate difference between his actual result in Illinois and Missouri and having won is minimal. But Sanders no longer has the ability to rack up enough earned delegates to make up for a super delegate deficit.
The easiest way to convince a super delegate to switch sides, or commit to you if they haven’t picked yet is to win their state, win their region. Had he triumphed in Illinois and Missouri, had he won in Ohio instead of losing by double digits, Hillary would feel extreme pressure right now.
That’s in the past. So is Arizona, which was another state he needed in order to make this a real battle. In order to turn the tables, he needs to virtually win our for the rest of the primary season.
We’ll have a much better idea after Wisconsin. Like yesterday’s contests, it’s not a question if he’ll win. It’s a matter of by how much. It’s a traditionally liberal state on the Democratic side. Overall, it’s actually more purple/very light blue, due to plenty of Republican-friendly parts of the state.
The only thing that could make this more Bernie-friendly is being a caucus. It’s an open primary in a pale state on the Canadian border with plenty of leftish voters. It was a hotbed during the original Progressive movement a century ago.
Teddy Roosevelt won Wisconsin in 1912 running on the third party Progressive ticket. Twelve years later, another Progressive, Senator Robert La Follette Sr., won his home state, the last time any third party candidate has won a single state outside the South.
Slightly more recently, in 2008, Barack Obama fell just short of 60%. From here out, Bernie needs to best the current president almost everywhere, by a decent margin where he won, and by a lot where Hillary triumphed last time.
The minimum acceptable result is 65/35. Ideally, Bernie would get closer to 70%. If he reaches that level, a guaranteed dominating win in the Wyoming caucus on April 9 would give Bernie 7 straight 70% results heading into New York.
The Empire State is an absolute must. It was always on the list of states Bernie would need to get nominated, but any margin for error long since evaporated. Getting 65% in Wisconsin would indicate Bernie has a good chance of making it close. Getting 70% means it’s real.
Based on how things stood a week ago, the April 26 states favor Hillary. They’re all primaries. She won some of them in 2008. African Americans are an important part of the electorate in most.
If Bernie were on track now, he’d only need a couple of wins between Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. Now that won’t work. He needs Pennsylvania to counteract the Ohio loss. Beyond that, he needs at least three of the other four.
Sanders isn’t there yet. He hasn’t proven he can get enough African American votes to win Maryland, enough upper-income Democrats to take Connecticut. It will require the type of momentum that has eluded him so far.
Because he didn’t win Nevada, we don’t know how much the momentum would have helped keep things closer in places like South Carolina. Because he didn’t win anywhere on March 15, we don’t know how much the momentum would have helped keep things closer in Arizona.
Given the early voting percentage in Arizona, you can argue the Nevada loss was actually the more important one there. This is part of why a New York win is so important. While we don’t know for sure than momentum will help Bernie enough, we’re positive the lack of it leaves him short outside of his core states.
The April 26 states aren’t Southern, but they aren’t part of his core either. If he’d won Massachusetts, I’d be more confident on Rhode Island and Connecticut. If he hadn’t lost by 30 in Virginia, I’d feel better about neighboring Maryland.
Delaware is the only one that does not border a state Hillary has already won. It’s just between states that are next to states she’s won. He does best in open caucuses, these are closed primaries (except for Rhode Island which is just mostly closed.)
If Bernie can survive the 26th, winning the majority of states, a majority of delegates, it starts getting much easier.
Indiana votes on May 3rd, in an open primary. It’s a state Hillary can win, but she won’t in a world where she’s lost 12 of 13 contests or 13 in a row if Bernie does particularly well on April 26.
West Virginia is up on May 10. That’s an easy Bernie state, even if he’s not in contention.
Oregon votes on May 17. It’s a closed primary, which won’t help Bernie’s margin, but he’s going to win. Again, even if he’s not in contention, it’s one of his. Kentucky votes on the same day. It’s a Missouri-like border state, where Bernie has a populist edge, and Hillary has a Southern Proximity Benefit.
If they’d voted March 15, we would have expected a close result, possibly favoring Hillary due to being a closed primary. With Hillary spiraling out of control, Bernie would likely win.
At this point, we’re looking at 16 or 17 out of 17 for Bernie. Hillary would STILL lead in delegates. That’s how big an edge she picked up down South. It doesn’t matter. She would need to win California in order to retain the nomination.
With a full three weeks between Oregon and California, we’d see a slugfest. Perhaps Democrats would decide they’d had their fun keeping Bernie around and would decide Hillary is the safest bet.
Perhaps Bernie would still find himself doing better against all Republicans in pseudo-matchups. We don’t know if voters would project their candidate was going up against Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, or a Nominee TBD.
Figure Bernie needs to mostly run the table between now and June 7 (if Clinton wins the Virgin Islands on June 4 and/or Puerto Rico on June 5 it would help her delegate cause but wouldn’t have much momentum impact) in order to bring the race back to an effective tie.
He’d then need the majority of the delegates and victories from the final contests (California, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, D.C.) in order to swing enough super delegates to his side in order to close the deal.
Making this happen requires:
Big Wisconsin win, something over 65%
New York victory
Pennsylvania plus at least 3 of the other 4 states on April 26
I’d say Wisconsin is 50/50. If you ask me today, I’d give you 65% as the over/under for the result on election day. He needs to beat that number.
If that happens, he’s got about a 1 in 3 chance of winning New York. This improves to 50/50 if he gets near 70%. Should Bernie somehow (and this would shock me) get near 75%, you’d need to consider him the favorite.
If he wins New York by at least a couple points, he’s got a 40% shot of getting the necessary results on 4/26.
This means Bernie still has a chance. It’s not a great one. Figure about 10% plus or minus, but it’s there. Get to 70% or so in Wisconsin, and we’re looking at 20%. These are still better odds than any non-Trump GOP candidate has of winning 1237 delegates before their convention.
Pacific Saturday did matter. Had Sanders wound up where I figured, closer to 70% in Alaska, under 70% in Washington, his odds for having the nomination up for grabs heading into California would be a couple percent, not ten.
There’s a hard few weeks ahead, but the Bern received some fresh kindling yesterday.