Bernie Sanders is about to start winning. Will that matter?
Bernie Sanders is poised to win a slew of states in the coming weeks. But Hillary Clinton probably won't be sweating it.
Get ready to feel the Bernie-mentum.
Yes, Bernie Sanders’s political prospects don’t look great at the moment. He’s suffered through a string of frustrating defeats as rival Hillary Clinton has piled up state wins and pulled out to a wide delegate lead.
But his electoral results should improve during the next month. Upcoming Democratic contests are in states more in sync with the Feel the Bern message. Headlines may reflect a number of outright Sanders wins.
Geography is one thing that’s suddenly tipping in Mr. Sanders’s favor. Mrs. Clinton has dominated in the Deep South and Appalachian border states due to their preponderance of African-American Democratic voters. But now the party’s presidential struggles are moving west. Of the next eight contests, only one is in a state east of the Mississippi.
And that one is Wisconsin, which holds a primary on April 5. With a long history of liberalism and an electorate that’s 82 percent white, the Badger State could well be Bernie Country. Right now (sketchy) state polls show Sanders slightly ahead.
Voting methods are also changing to favor Sanders. Six of the next 8 Democratic contests are caucuses, not primaries. Caucuses reward fervor – you’ve got to hang around while people make speeches and organize. You can’t just vote and leave. And fervor is something Sanders supporters appear to have in abundance. Just disagree with them on Twitter – you’ll see.
Utah and Idaho hold caucuses on March 22. Alaska, Hawaii, and Washington hold caucuses on March 26. Wyoming holds its caucus on April 9. Sanders might sweep them all.
Of the upcoming contests, only Arizona, which holds a primary on March 22, looks like prime Clinton country. With an electorate that’s majority-minority, it looks more like the states she’s already won.
But now it’s time for the obligatory caveats. The above will mostly affect perception – Sanders will win states, get media coverage, and look like he’s doing better. You might even see the return of “Clinton Stumbles” stories.
However, the former secretary of State is still the prohibitive favorite to be the Democratic Party nominee for president. Prediction markets have her at a 95 percent chance to win.
That’s because state wins get the headlines, but the delegate lead does the work. Right now Clinton has 326 more pledged delegates than Sanders does. Hundreds more superdelegates have endorsed her and would be unlikely to vote for Sanders unless he overtakes her in the pledged delegate vote.
Closing a lead that big would be extremely difficult. All the Democratic votes are proportional, meaning even the loser gets a proportion of the delegates awarded. Thus to catch up to Clinton, Sanders needs blowout wins, not just victories. He needs to take home between 58 and 60 percent of the delegates awarded between now and the end of primary season.
Could that happen? Yes. Yale “could” also continue to blow through March Madness to an NCAA basketball crown. Then it could win the NBA for good measure. It’s not against the laws of physics. Just those of probability.