Last night, Bernie Sanders continued his winning streak by routing Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin. He has now won six of the last seven nominating contests against Clinton dating back to March 22. In recent national Democratic primary polls, he has closed Hillary’s once enormous gap and is now running neck-and-neck with her. Clearly, the momentum is with him.
But sometimes momentum isn’t enough to win a nomination. Here are two reasons why the deficit facing Sanders is too steep for him to overcome.
Clinton dominates the superdelegates
As Sanders’ momentum has grown, the Democrats’ system of designating hundreds of uncommitted delegates has come under increased scrutiny. No less than 15% of all delegates up for grabs are these superdelegates who aren’t bound to vote with the will of the people. Therein lies Sanders’ problem. Clinton currently has the acknowledged support of over 470 of them, while Sanders can boast support from a meager 32. It will be very difficult for him to arrive at the majority fighting against such a stacked deck.
One thought I’ve heard regarding the unfairness of the superdelegate system is that they will switch their support to the candidate with the most regular delegates come Democratic National Convention time. That will probably be true for some, but perhaps not enough. But for the sake of argument, let’s assume the candidate who gets the most pledged delegates will also end up with the most superdelegates. Even in that case, it will be hard for Sanders to wrest the nomination away from Clinton.
Clinton dominates the pledged delegates
As of Wisconsin’s vote, Clinton has earned 1,304 pledged delegates. Sanders has 1,086. There are still 1,661 ‘hard’ delegates (that is, pledged) to be contested. In order for Sanders to catch up in the hard delegate count, he will need to win right at 57% of these remaining delegates. Since Democrats employ a proportional method across the board for awarding delegates, that means he’ll need to beat Clinton roughly 57-43 on average in all the primaries and caucuses left on the schedule. If you look at his recent victories in places like Utah, Idaho and Alaska, you might be convinced that would be possible. However, those were all caucuses where he does exceedingly well. Unfortunately for him only four of the 20 Democratic nominating contests left are caucuses. The rest are primaries.
And primaries present a different outlook for Sanders. Take last night’s win in Wisconsin, for example. It was clearly a huge win for Sanders. His margin of victory fell just short of the 57-43 margin he will need the rest of the way. To barely reach the target mark in a state well-suited for him is an ominous sign for him going forward. His current status in many upcoming states is far less agreeable. Clinton actually leads him by double-digits in the polls in such large states as New York and California. In short, it is highly unlikely that Sanders will be able surpass Clinton even in hard delegates won. And, of course, there are still all those superdelegates to contend with.
It would be easy to get caught up in the emotion of the FeelTheBern movement and think there is a legitimate possibility that he’ll be able to win the nomination, especially with him riding a winning streak of late. However, the numbers don’t lie. And they say that, barring something that would disqualify her, Hillary Clinton is still a shoo-in for the Democratic nomination.Tomorrow, I’ll take a similar look at the GOP nomination race.