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Despite Winning Two Caucuses, ‘Super Saturday’ Was Mostly Bad News For Bernie Sanders

Clinton Sanders Debate

Last night, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders managed to pull off wins in the caucuses in both Kansas and Nebraska while Hillary Clinton unsurprisingly crushed Sanders in the primary in Louisiana thanks again to her overwhelming support of African-American voters, but despite the fact that he continues to mount the occasional win, the truth is that Sanders’ campaign is becoming more and more quixotic with each contest:

Bernie Sanders stayed alive on Saturday, but it will take a dramatic reversal of political fortunes for him to overtake Hillary Clinton.

Sanders scored wins in the Kansas and Nebraska caucuses, riding support among the state’s largely white electorates to win by a comfortable margin in both states. But Clinton won overwhelmingly in Louisiana, with Sanders again unable to compete in a state with a large bloc of non-white voters.

The problem with a draw for Sanders, however, is that he started Saturday in a deep hole to Clinton, having secured 432 delegates to her 1,066. It takes 2,383 delegates to win the Democratic nomination. On Saturday, 109 delegates were up for grabs, and given Clinton’s projected margin of victory in Louisiana, she and Sanders will take home similar shares of that total.

Sanders could score another win when Democrats caucus in Maine on Sunday, but all those little wins won’t be enough for Sanders unless he starts getting results in larger, more diverse states. A big test comes on Tuesday in Michigan, when Democrats hold a primary with 147 delegates at stake.

Speaking at a rally in Warren, Michigan on Saturday, Sanders pleaded with supporters to help him turn to the tide. “On Tuesday Michigan has an enormously important primary,” he said. “We will win that primary if voter turnout is high. Let’s make it high turnout. Thank you.”

Sanders on Saturday evening also hit Clinton over her use of super PACs, her ties to Wall Street and her refusal to release the transcripts of paid speeches — a preview of the attacks he’ll likely use during the Sunday night debate in Flint, Michigan.

In Kansas on Saturday, Sanders crushed Clinton, taking 68 percent of the vote to Clinton’s 32 percent. In Nebraska, with almost 80 percent of votes recorded, Sanders had claimed about 55 percent of the vote to Clinton’s 45 percent.

Louisiana is where Clinton won and won big on Saturday, leading Sanders by almost 50 percentage points with almost 80 percent of precincts reporting. It’s another in a string of Southern wins for Clinton, who dominated in the region on Super Tuesday and won big in South Carolina a week ago.

Sanders’ refusal to drop out of the contest, even with a dramatically narrowing path to the nomination, is a nuisance for Clinton, who is eager to put the primary contest in the rearview mirror and focus on the general election.

“We have to win this election and we all know the stakes keep getting higher and the rhetoric you’re hearing from the other side keeps sinking lower,” Clinton said during a Democratic fundraiser in Detroit. “I want to congratulate Senator Sanders for running a strong campaign, I am thrilled we are adding to our pledged delegate count I’m grateful to everyone who turned out to support us.”

“Now all eyes turn to Michigan,” she added.

(…)

For Sanders, though, the electoral map will look increasingly bleak unless he is able to rack up a series of big wins between now and March 15.

While the self-described democratic socialist has stunned with the political movement he has sparked, he has yet to prove that he can appeal across demographic lines. He performed strongly in New England, delivering big wins in Vermont and New Hampshire, and narrowly losing in Massachusetts.

Regardless of where Sanders finishes in the race, he’ll have left his mark: His message attacking income inequality has forced Clinton to move to the left in her approach to corporate America and Wall Street more specifically.

As things stand in the Democratic delegate count, the future looks quite bleak for Sanders even under the most optimistic of circumstances. According to these estimates, Clinton has won 651 of the 1107 delegates that have been chosen to date while Sanders has won 456, meaning that Clinton has won 58% of the delegates awarded to date while Sanders has won 42%. Going by pledged delegates alone, Clinton stands 1,080 delegates short of the majority she needs, while Sanders is now 1,926 delegates short of the majority. At this pace, Clinton will reach that majority long before the final primary in June based on pledged delegates alone. In addition to pledged delegates, though, Clinton also has the support of 458 of the 712 Democratic National Committee and elected officials who serve in that position and are allowed to cast votes on the floor for the party nominee. Sanders has only 22 Superdelegates. Taking Superdelegates into account, this gives Clinton 1,121 delegates in total, putting her just 1,261 delegates short of the majority while Sanders has 480 total delegates and is 1,901 delegates short of a majority. What this means is that Clinton needs to win at least 39.8% of the remaining delegates to win the nomination, while Sanders would need to win more than 60% of the delegates that are still outstanding. Leaving the Superdelegates out of the calculations, Clinton needs to win 58% of the remaining delegates that will be up for grabs in future primaries and caucuses, while Sanders would need to win of the 65% remaining delegates. Given the states coming up on the primary calendar, Sanders history so far in non-caucus states outside of New Hampshire, and the polling that we’re all aware of, that is an essentially impossible task that is only going to become more impossible to achieve as time goes on.

This becomes more apparent when you actually look at the polls for the upcoming contests. In Michigan for example, which holds its contest on March 8th, Clinton has a double digit lead over Sanders that has been consistent for months now, and in Mississippi Clinton’s average lead according to RealClearpolitics is close to 50 points. This likely means that Clinton will win the vast majority of the 183 delegates up for grabs that day among Democratic candidates. Looking ahead to the March 15th states, Clinton leads by double digits in Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, and Illinois. These four states alone constitute 464 delegates and, assuming Clinton wins all of them, which seems like a safe bet, and grabs the lion’s share of the delegates, this could be the moment that Bernie Sanders is essentially mathematically eliminated from becoming the nominee, or at least it will put him very close to that point.

Sanders entered this race with the intention of getting Democrats to pay attention to a set of issues he believes to be important, and he’s succeeded in that goal far more than he probably expected. However, once he reaches the point where he cannot possibly win he will no doubt start receiving pressure from top-level Democrats to get out of the race so the party can concentrate on the General Election in November. If he and his supporters refuse to accept reality at that point, then they will end up becoming more of a hindrance than a help to their party and the likelihood that Sanders will be treated to a prime speaking slot at the convention will become smaller and smaller. At that point, he really just ought to accept reality and call it a day.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. D Stone says:

    “Going by pledged delegates alone, Clinton stands 1,080 delegates short of the majority she needs, while Sanders is now 1,926 delegates short of the majority.” I think you have a math problem (or you’re including superdelegates while claiming to include only pledged delegates).

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  2. PJ says:

    Just a general comment.

    Clinton currently has got 42% more pledged delegates than Sanders, won 50% more states, and got 55% more voters to vote for her.

    Clearly Clinton is losing this primary badly and needs to quit.

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  3. Gustopher says:

    If Sanders keeps getting bad news like this, he might be President someday.

    More seriously though, I doubt that the super-delegates would overturn the will of the people, should it come to that, so long as the candidate who won the most pledged delegates wasn’t insane, or a dangerous demagogue. These are people who might prefer Clinton, but care about the party and aren’t going to piss everything away just to have their preferred candidate lose the general election (and does anyone doubt that a candidate installed that way would be fatally damaged?)

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  4. PJ says:

    @Gustopher:

    If Sanders keeps getting bad news like this, he might be President someday.

    More seriously though, I doubt that the super-delegates would overturn the will of the people, should it come to that, so long as the candidate who won the most pledged delegates wasn’t insane, or a dangerous demagogue. These are people who might prefer Clinton, but care about the party and aren’t going to piss everything away just to have their preferred candidate lose the general election (and does anyone doubt that a candidate installed that way would be fatally damaged?)

    Sanders may be able to get enough delegates to drag the primaries out, but he’s not going to get more than Clinton. He may be able, slim chance, to get enough, 1669, to make sure that Clinton can’t win without adding superdelegates. But again, if he would be able to drag this all the way to the convention, which I seriously doubt that he would do, then all he could is to thwart the will of Democratic voters.

    And, again, so far, Clinton has got 1.5 million more votes than Sanders. He’s not going to make that up either. Which is why there are some rather ugly views among some Sanders supporters, not all, and definitely not from Sanders, that certain Democrats voting should be valued more than the rest. Because they live in blue states, etc…

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  5. Todd says:

    I agree that at this point, it’s fairly implausible that Sanders can turn things around enough to get even more pledged delegates in the end than Clinton. However, I think there is still rationale for him to continue in the race, and I know I’ll catch crap for this from the partisans, but it’s the email thing. Stipulating that there’s probably no “there” there, on the off chance that there does turn out to be something to it, the Democrats will be much better off having a “backup” candidate who just happened to get like 40% of the votes. Also, wouldn’t it be a bit ironic if Clinton has the most delegates, but the email thing hits the fan and the Super Delegates are the ones who have to tell her it’s over?

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  6. PJ says:

    @Todd:
    He’ll still be the runner up. The one most likely to be chosen if Clinton, for whatever reason, is unable to accept the nomination.

    Dragging this all the way to the convention will do nothing, unless somehow he would want to thwart the will of Democratic voters. Which, again, I don’t think.

    Also, wouldn’t it be a bit ironic if Clinton has the most delegates, but the email thing hits the fan and the Super Delegates are the ones who have to tell her it’s over?

    I guess there are Sanders supporters who are ok with super delegates thwarting the will of Democratic voters… Good to know.

    But why stop at the email scandal, you forgot Benghazi, maybe the Republicans find something there? Or perhaps a video pops up showing Clinton shooting Vince Foster in the mouth…

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  7. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Todd:

    Speaking as an attorney, let me assure you that there absolutely is no possibility of a “there” there until at least January of 2017.

    Realistically speaking, she will never be charged with a crime, much less indicted and tried for one, but here in the world of hypotheticals, the earliest such an adventure could possibly take place would be post the election – and even then only if the Republicans win the White House. No currently serving US Attorney is going to approve such an adventure, and even if they somehow insanely tried, Lynch would shut it down in short order. It’s just not going to happen in this term.

    I think you’ll find that, if they do, you’ll find that they have suddenly and mysteriously lost and and all interest in the Clinton named Hillary.

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  8. Well, I think that in the total “super weekend” he reduced his difference from Hillary (by 3 delegates)

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  9. Andre Kenji says:

    @Miguel Madeira: Native Portuguese Speakers dominating the comments section in OTB. 😛

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  10. al-Ameda says:

    @Todd:

    Also, wouldn’t it be a bit ironic if Clinton has the most delegates, but the email thing hits the fan and the Super Delegates are the ones who have to tell her it’s over?

    Hillary has a few things going for her, despite being the subject of 24 years of partisan attacks, and 8 recent overtly partisan investigations:
    (1) In position to be 1st woman to be nominated to run for president
    (2) If Trump is the nominee, he has higher negatives than Hillary
    (3) Sanders would be running with the hope, even in this polarized environment, to get 40-43 percent of the vote

    I understand that people are all too familiar with Hillary Clinton, that she is very clunky on the campaign trail, that people are weary of all the bulls***, but I don’t see anyone one else in the wings should the email thing blow-up.

    In the back of my mind is the unsettling notion that Democrats are well-positioned to do a “1968” and sit it out if Hillary (the boring but flawed establishment candidate) is the nominee and let the GOP run the table, even with a grease ball like Trump at the top.

    I want a Democrat – the most electable Democrat – to head the ticket because I want that person to be the president who makes the next nominations to the Supreme. I’m not interested in purity.

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  11. the Q says:

    Gosh, the beatch loses to Cruz or Rubio and beats only Trump in the latest polls. She should quit now before her indictment. After all, she didn’t have sex with that server. My God, you losers keep selling out the party to the DLC cohort which gave us a Republican Congress the last 20 years and 31 states now with GOP governors.

    Bernie beats ALL OF THEM. HRC should step down and save the Dems the further destruction of the part since she leads only Trump in the general.

    Keep rooting for the corruption queen, our version of Nixon – a paranoid, secretive, flawed leader who will only lead to more Dem defeats.

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  12. Todd says:

    @al-Ameda:

    I want a Democrat – the most electable Democrat – to head the ticket because I want that person to be the president who makes the next nominations to the Supreme. I’m not interested in purity.

    Oddly enough, that is exactly my reason for not supporting Clinton. I think the Democrats are taking a huge risk by nominating such a flawed candidate. Fortunately, the Republicans will almost certainly nominate someone even worse.

    Call me idealistic, but “hey, at least we’re not as bad as the other guys” just doesn’t seem like a terribly inspiring campaign theme.

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  13. An Interested Party says:

    Gosh, the beatch loses to Cruz or Rubio and beats only Trump in the latest polls.

    Stay classy, Q…

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  14. Todd says:

    It’s all good. The cake is most likely already baked. As such, I honestly hope that every fear I have about Clinton as a candidate turns out to be wrong.

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