Despite Bernie Sanders losing all five states in last night’s primary contests, he’s within striking distance of Hillary Clinton. And if Sanders wins the upcoming Western primaries, he could erase Clinton’s lead and become the new front-runner for the nomination.
At the end of the night, Hillary Clinton increased her delegate lead by about 100, still leaving Sanders plenty of room to eliminate her advantage in the 24 remaining states. A candidate needs 2,383 delegates to clinch the Democratic nomination, and as of March 16, Clinton only has 1,139 delegates to Sanders’ 825. Less than half of the pledged delegates have been selected thus far.
All of the states most favorable to Clinton have already voted, including the entire deep south, and the states most favorable to Sanders are still on the calendar. If anyone should be worried about their chances at the nomination waning over time, it’s Hillary Clinton.
Furthermore, it’s most important to note that going into these favorable states, Bernie Sanders only needs 58% of the remaining pledged delegates. And considering he picked up 67.7% of the vote in Kansas, 64.3% in Maine, and a thundering 86.1% in his home state of Vermont — shutting out Clinton entirely from the 15% delegate threshold — this is not as impossible as the doomsayers predict.
He also squeaked above the 58% figure with 59% of the vote in Colorado and 61.6% in Minnesota, and he scored a respectable 57.1% in Nebraska. He received 60% back in New Hampshire and has come in virtual ties in many other states outside of the South thus far, meaning he’s beaten the target a total of six times.
Sanders also continued to bolster his argument for electability in the general in tonight’s contests. Among groups that hold special significance in general elections, like young voters and independents, Sanders performed particularly well. For example, 70 percent of independents in Illinois voted for Sanders over Clinton. And despite Clinton pulling out a narrow win in Illinois, Sanders still won the under-45 bloc by a vast margin:
— CBS News Politics (@CBSPolitics) March 16, 2016
What all this means is that Bernie Sanders is still well within striking distance of the nomination as more Sanders-friendly states take to the polls throughout the Spring. The primary season is only halfway over, and the remaining states are overwhelmingly favorable to Sanders in that they’re blue states with large populations of Democratic-leaning independents and voters under 45.
In fact, out of the 17 states Sanders has lost, it’s important to remember that Barack Obama still beat Hillary Clinton in 2008 despite losing 21 states. Florida and Ohio, which Clinton won last night, also went for Clinton in 2008. According to New York Times election results, Clinton beat Obama in Florida by 17 points. She also beat Obama in Ohio by a 10-point margin in 2008. Sanders’ loss in those states isn’t that devastating in context.
Nationally-renowned pollster Nate Silver carved out a path for Sanders to win the nomination, showing which states the Vermont senator had to win, and by what margins, to remain competitive. Silver doesn’t list Delaware and Maryland as must-win states for Sanders, meaning he could theoretically lose those states and two others while still remaining competitive throughout the remainder of the primary season.
If Sanders and Clinton are neck-and-neck in national polls, Sanders can still win the nomination if he wins the upcoming Western contests by comfortable margins. Many of the Western states are caucuses, where Sanders traditionally does well. Three of Sanders’ last four landslide victories — Kansas, Maine, and Nebraska — are caucus states. While Western states are traditionally polling deserts at this stage, donations from certain geographical regions help shine a light on how favorable the West is for Sanders. it should be noted that six of the top 10 cities that donate the most money per capita to the Sanders campaign are in Western states that have yet to vote:
U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, a Florida superdelegate who has endorsed Sanders, explained in a recent Huffington Post blog that the second half of this primary season — after March 15 — could be referred to as “Presidential Primary Version 2.0.” Grayson agrees that Sanders’ best states are in the months to come:
Democratic presidential primary 2.0 elects a total of 2033 pledged delegates. If Bernie Sanders wins those races (and delegates) by the same 60-40 margin that he has amassed in primaries and caucuses outside the “Old South” to date, then that will give him an advantage of 407 pledged delegates. That is more — far more — than the current Clinton margin of 223. [Ed. Note — Margin is now 314, but the math still works out. Again, Sanders’ target is about 58%.]
Almost 700 pledged delegates are chosen on June 7 alone. It seems unlikely that either candidate will accumulate a margin of 700 pledged delegates before then. So this one may come down to the wire.
Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a wild ride.
Tom Cahill is a writer for US Uncut based in the Pacific Northwest. He specializes in coverage of political, economic, and environmental news. You can contact Tom via email at [email protected]