April 9, 2016
Hillary Clinton just had her best caucus result since Nevada. It was her best result of any kind since Arizona. Fortunately for my predictive record, I forgot to make one before the vote this morning.
Had I done so, you would have seen Bernie Sanders winning 80/20 or 75/25, depending on if I’d realized this is a state that reports state delegate equivalents instead of raw votes.
With the delegate equivalent formula, there’s less value in Sanders blowing the doors off in a college precinct. There’s a maximum value regardless of his turnout. It winds up costing him a couple/few points.
The final result was a surprise. Sanders 56%, Clinton 44%. Even accounting for the format, it was more competitive than expected. The recent Republican vote in Wyoming was mostly for show, but Ted Cruz managed to hit 66%.
Cruz is as dominant in Republican caucuses as Sanders is on the Democratic side. They’re both undefeated in the solidly red Intermountain West and Plains states. They’ve each seen increasing margins in recent contests.
This is the first time Bernie has fallen short of Ted’s number. Between his ability to get Berners to caucus and the larger number of choices on the GOP side, the math always favors Bernie.
Not this time. It’s a problem in a few ways. First, Sanders misses out on another story about clobbering Clinton in a caucus. Her team would minimize the importance regardless, but no front runner wants to lose that badly that often.
If anyone even discusses this over the next couple days, they’ll note the smaller than figured gap rather than being able to emphasize continued weakness for Hillary in these states.
Second, they wound up basically splitting the delegates. It’s not like Wyoming was going to suddenly narrow the gap, but every delegate helps. If you were trying to calculate a way for him to reach parity by June 7, the mountain got a little higher.
Finally, in a state where fewer students participated (Wyoming is light on universities) and the process is heavier on party officials, activists and the like, it showed the remaining resistance to Bernie among more establishment-friendly Democrats.
There’s also an unprovable chance he was harmed by calling Hillary unqualified. We don’t have entrance polling data (and caucus entry polling has proven shakier than primary exit polling anyway), so we don’t know how late deciders broke, but this would seem to indicate it definitely didn’t help him.
Most of the data over the past couple weeks was trending in Bernie’s direction. His March 22 and 26 caucus margins were huge. He beat his final polling numbers in Wisconsin. He’s now even in multiple national polls. He’s getting closer (though still trailing in New York). Most of the April 26 states are now in range.
This is now a negative data point to counter some of that optimism. It doesn’t mean he can’t win New York or continue his streak the following week. Perhaps this was a small sample size one-off. At best for him it’s a fluke. At worst, his narrow path now has an extra boulder in the way.