Politics

It’s Over: Bernie’s Math Doesn’t Add Up

Even if Sanders wins every remaining state, he would likely lose nomination

The delegate math for Sen. Bernie Sanders now is so bleak that pulling off an upset victory to capture the Democratic Party presidential nomination would require a series of extraordinarily improbable events, according to experts and a LifeZette analysis.

Sanders’ real role in the 2016 race may be that of a well-funded irritant who forces Hillary Clinton to spend money and prevent her from fully focusing on the general election.

After voting in three states Tuesday, Clinton has won the support of 1,185 delegates through primaries and caucuses and counts the support of 467 so-called “super delegates,” elected leaders and party officials who can vote for any candidate they choose. The 1,689 total exceeds the Vermont senator’s total by 745 and puts her almost 71 percent of the way toward the 2,382 she needs.

That is a significant lead, especially considering Democratic Party rules that award delegates proportionally to any candidate with at least 15 percent of the primary or caucus vote. With only two candidates left in the race, that means that Clinton will rack up delegates even when she loses. Consider that Sanders, despite thumping the former secretary of state in two of the three states up for grabs Tuesday, only narrowed her overall lead by 16 delegates.

“It’s looked this way for weeks now,” said Joshua Putnam, who teaches political science at the University of Georgia and tracks the intricacies of the delegate selection process at a blog called Frontloading HQ. “The rules are such that it is difficult for a front-runner/delegate leader to break away and claim the nomination. But the flip side is that it is difficult for a candidate who is behind to overcome a lead.”

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Putnam said Clinton is in an even more commanding position over Sanders than Barack Obama was when he defeated her through drawn-out primary process in 2008. To lap Clinton and make it to the magic number of 2,382, Sanders would need 1,438 additional delegates, or more than 76 percent of the remaining delegates that will be awarded through voting. Including super delegates from those states, the share of the total remaining to put Sanders over the top is 64 percent.

With no winner-take-all states, it means that Sanders likely would fall short even if he reeled off 25 consecutive wins to close out the primary season. And that includes a lot of delegate-rich states with high numbers of minority voters, like New York, California and Pennsylvania. Clinton has been strong and Sanders weak in contests with low percentages of white voters.

[lz_table title=”Democratic Delegate Math” source=”RealClearPolitics”]Delegates
Needed to win,2382
Remaining,2245
|Candidate,Total delegates
Hillary Clinton,1689
Bernie Sanders,944
[/lz_table]

Even passing Clinton would a tall order, let alone getting a majority. Sanders would need about 70 percent of the remaining pledged delegates to overtake her lead.

That puts Sanders, who has run an anti-Establishment campaign, in an awkward position. To the win the nomination, he would need to scoop up a large number of super delegates, including some already committed to supporting Clinton. That is no easy feat for a candidate who spent his whole career as independent and whose self-proclaimed socialist label spooks many party insiders.

After many of his supporters complained loudly about the prospect that a group of kingmakers unconnected to primary voting could determine the nomination, the Sanders campaign quietly has been reaching out to super delegates. Sanders declined to say last week on “The Rachel Maddow Show” that the candidate with the most pledged delegates should be the nominee.

“Well, I — you know, I don’t want to speculate about the future, and I think there are other factors involved,” he said.

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But many super delegates are personally close to Clinton. Others feel an obligation to back Clinton because she was the first choice of rank-and-file Democrats in their states.

“We voted, and the state is for Hillary,” said Janet May, who has an automatic vote at the convention because she is a Democratic national committeewoman from Alabama. “I think there’s very little room for maneuvering at this point … I believe we committed to Hillary at the primary.”

Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Ed Rendell said on MSNBC last week that Clinton is the clear choice of the party.

“Right now she’s got two-and-a-half million more votes in Democratic primaries and caucuses than Sen. Sanders has,” he said. “You can’t turn your back on a margin like that.”

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