Thursday, March 24, 2016

April Is Make or Break Month for Bernie


No doubt about it, Bernie Sanders had himself a good weekend. While Hillary Clinton, as expected, won in Arizona, Sanders took both Utah and Idaho, and not just by a little. He crushed her. And for his efforts, he netted 18 delegates. By far it was his best showing since his huge win in New Hampshire. But the fact remains that, despite his impressive weekend, he still trails her by 294 delegates.

This Saturday three states will hold contests, the biggest of these is Washington state, which has 101 pledged delegates up for grabs. Most polls show Sanders with a lead, but, like most caucus states, it is difficult to predict. If I had to guess, and it's only a guess, Sanders will probably win; not by the margin he won in Utah and Idaho, but certainly enough to give his supporters something to crow about. In fact, the likelihood is that he will sweep all three contests and net himself maybe twenty delegates. Back to back impressive weekends for Bernie. Not a bad way to end the month of March.

But then comes April, where Sanders will face his toughest tests yet. There are four big states on the calendar: Wisconsin, New York, Maryland and Pennsylvania. To have any chance of resting the nomination away from Clinton, Sanders must win all four, and do it impressively.  No Michigan-type wins; we're talking Vermont, New Hampshire style margins.

Unfortunately for Bernie, he's trailing in all four contests, three of them badly. Here are the current RCP poll numbers for each state. Wisconsin: Clinton by 6; New York: Clinton by 34; Maryland: Clinton by 31; and Pennsylvania: Clinton by 27. You'd expect Clinton to be leading big in the state that twice elected her to the Senate, but for her to command such impressive leads in Maryland and Pennsylvania, AND be ahead of him in Wisconsin, a state not known for its moderates, is very disconcerting to say the least. Put it this way: John Kasich, the so-called establishment Republican candidate, is dead last in the state polling.

Assuming these polls are accurate - and so far only Michigan has proven to be the outlier - it may be over for Sanders by the end of April. Oh, he will still be mathematically alive, but just barely. It wouldn't surprise me if Clinton headed into May with a 350 delegate lead. Even if he were to win 70 percent of the vote in California and New Jersey - and that's being VERY optimistic - Hillary would still win the nomination.

So what does Sanders have to do to avert total disaster? First, he MUST win Wisconsin by hook or crook. He has to appeal to every progressive in the state, and there are a ton of them. Then, if I were him, I'd skip New York altogether. He has no shot there. Ditto Maryland. Instead, I'd focus on Pennsylvania, particularly the western and central parts of the state. This is Bernie country: white, blue collar workers and college students. Lots of them. Just the kind of voter he seems to attract. He has to rack up huge margins in these areas, because Hillary is going to take Philly and the surrounding suburbs big time.

If he pulls out all the stops he might steal both states. It still won't be enough to prevail, but it at least keeps him alive and gives him a fighting chance going into May. Anything short of that and this thing is ostensibly over. The only question that will remain is when, not if, Hillary will clinch.

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