Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Math's Just Not There for Bernie

I've been doing some number crunching and I've got some bad news for Bernie Sanders. While he is still technically alive in this race, things are not looking particularly good. Put simply, the math is just not there for him. I'll explain.

At present, Sanders trails Hillary Clinton by 309 pledged delegates (1127 to 818). His supporters insist he can catch and surpass Clinton, but when you look at the remaining contests, it's tough finding a path for him. While he does have a clear advantage in many of the remaining states, most of those states don't have enough delegates to make much of a difference, and the ones that do are ones that have diverse populations that typically give him problems. Let's break it down, and to show I'm being as objective as possible, I'll give Sanders as much of an advantage as I can, perhaps even more than he deserves.

Sanders will clearly do well in the following states: Arizona, Idaho, Utah, Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Pennsylvania, Indiana, West Virginia, Kentucky, Oregon, Montana, North Dakota, New Mexico and South Dakota. I'll be generous and give him a margin of victory of 20 points in every one, including Wisconsin and Pennsylania, where if he wins it's far more likely he'll end up eking out Michigan-type wins than blowouts.

The total number of delegates up for grabs in these states is 890. Assuming Sanders wins 60 percent of the vote, he ends up with 534 delegates to 356 for Clinton. That's pretty damn good, if you ask me. That would shave Clinton's lead down to 131 delegates. But unfortunately, that's where the good news for him ends. The majority of the remaining 1130 delegates come from states with diverse populations that are more likely to lean towards Clinton, some of them by wide margins.

The three biggest of these states are New York, New Jersey and California, which collectively have 848 delegates. New York has 247 of them, and Clinton presently holds a 20 point lead there over Sanders. If that holds, it would give her 148 delegates to Sanders 99. Next up is New Jersey, which has 126 delegates. Polls show Clinton up by as much as 15 points, but let's be fair and make it 10 points. In that event Clinton would end up with 69 delegates to Sanders 56.

Last, but not least, is California with a whopping 475 delegates. This is perhaps the most diverse state in the country and perhaps the most difficult to predict. There's no doubt Sanders will clean up in the areas with large college populations and the mostly white, northern region, but Clinton has a clear edge in the Bay area and the southern part of the state. I make this a tossup, meaning both candidates split the delegates evenly. That's 237.5 delegates a piece.

All totaled, Sanders would gain 392.5 delegates to Clinton's 455.5, meaning her lead would swell to 194 delegates. If you're the Sanders' camp, this would be a devastating outcome. Even if Sanders manages to win the balance of the remaining contests' 282 delegates by, say, 6 percent, he would net only 16 delegates. And keep in mind some of those contests are in states like Connecticut and Maryland, as well as Puerto Rico, where Hillary is leading in the polls. Again, I'm being generous here.

When all is said and done Clinton's margin of victory should be 178 pledged delegates, and that's assuming she loses both Wisconsin and Pennsylvania by 20 points, which is highly unlikely. If you think that's insignificant, consider Barack Obama wound up with a margin of 62 pledged delegates in '08, which, when coupled with the majority of Super Delegates, was enough to win the nomination. In fact, Obama's path to victory that year proved to be far tougher than Clinton's is turning out to be this year.

There's no way around it; Bernie Sanders is fighting a war of attrition, and it's a war he appears destined to lose. He will put up the good fight and, no doubt, he will hang on as long as he can, just like Clinton did in '08. But, barring a miracle, he will come up short in the end.

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