Dear Bernie Sanders Supporters: If Bernie’s Going To Win, This is What You Need to Make Happen

Alright Bernie Sanders supporters, I think it’s time we have a sit down to discuss a few facts. Since Hillary Clinton’s 5-for-5 sweep last Tuesday, I have been inundated with Sanders supporters telling me that the media is lying and he still has a great chance to catch up and ultimately win the nomination. I even saw an article from a huge left-wing blog that insisted Sanders had a “phenomenal” night last Tuesday when he lost 5 of 5 states.

Look, if you want to be an optimistic Sanders supporter, go right ahead and be as optimistic as your heart desires. I’m not here to bash Bernie or even tell anyone they should push for him to get out of the race. Technically he hasn’t been eliminated, so there’s nothing wrong with having hope for him continuing his campaign.

But if you’re going to have that hope, please, can we at least ground it in reality? That’s all I’m asking.

That being said, here’s the reality.

As of writing this, there are 28 more contests left (including U.S. territories and D.C.), totaling 2,020 delegates, between now and June 14th when this whole thing wraps up. Currently Hillary Clinton has 1,163 delegates while Bernie Sanders has 844. For those who don’t feel like doing the math, that’s a lead of 319 delegates. To win the nomination outright a candidate needs 2,382.

*Keep in mind not every single delegate from each state has been awarded to either Clinton or Sanders.

I should point out that I’m only talking about pledged delegates – not superdelegates. I’ll bring those up later.

It doesn’t seem so bad for Sanders, right? He’s only down 319 delegates with 2,020 still left up for grabs.

The problem is, delegates are given out proportionally. That’s why 1-2 point victories don’t matter a great deal delegate wise because each candidate is going to get about the same amount. This means it’s not just a matter of winning… but by how much. And that’s where the math gets nearly impossible for Sanders. As it stands now, Sanders needs to win about 58 percent of all remaining delegates just to tie Clinton. Essentially from here on out, Sanders needs to average a winning margin of 58-42 – in every single state – just to tie Hillary Clinton.

Now, to be fair, a few of the upcoming states are very favorable to him. Several are mostly white, some are caucuses, and a few are open primaries – three things that benefit Sanders. But the problem there is, many of those mostly white states are also very small, meaning that there aren’t many delegates to be won.

Disclaimer: The following states aren’t in the order that they vote, just grouped into categories in which I put them. 

Let’s say he wins Utah, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Alaska, Wisconsin, Delaware and Connecticut – a total of 307 delegates – all by a margin of 65-35 percent. By doing so, he would win 200 delegates to Clinton’s 107. If he were to win by those margins (just using those states), Clinton would still lead by 226 delegates. And, again, that’s assuming he wins every single one of them by 30 points.

Just to put into perspective how difficult that would be for him to do, of the nine states he’s already won, he’s only won by 30 or more points in two, though he did win by 29 in Maine. That means it’s highly unlikely that he’s going to win all ten of those states by 30 points.

But then reality needs to set in. It’s very… very unlikely in places like New York, California, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania. D.C., Puerto Rico, or New Mexico (far more diverse states) that he’s going to win all of those contests. And even if he does win a few of those, he’s probably not winning them by huge margins.

So, for the sake of some realism (based on past results), let’s say Clinton wins Maryland (large African American population), D.C. (large African American population), and Puerto Rico (she’s won all territories thus far) – a total of 175 delegates – all by an average of 20 points, 60-40 percent. That adds to her lead of 226 with the hypothetical wins from earlier up by 35 delegates to 261. So, in just those three places she would make up just about half the delegates Sanders gained in those 10 states I put him winning by 30 points. In fact, let’s go ahead and give Clinton Guam and the Virgin Islands, too (again, she’s won all the territories except for “Americans abroad”). So, that’s another 14 delegates, putting her lead up to 275.

To summarize thus far, I’ve given broad hypotheticals for 15 of the 28 contests left, and Sanders has only chipped into Clinton’s lead by 44 delegates. At this point Clinton would have 1,389 delegates to Sanders’ 1,114.

Now let’s say Sanders wins New York, California, New Jersey, New Mexico and Pennsylvania by 10 points,  55-45 percent. I don’t think he will, but for the sake of argument to paint this about as optimistic as I can without being ridiculous, let’s say he does. Of those 1,071 delegates in those states, he would walk away with 589 to Clinton’s 428. At that point, the delegate count would be:

Clinton: 1,817

Sanders: 1,703

Which still puts him behind Clinton by 114 delegates with 20 of the 28 contests now accounted for. This leaves us with Arizona, Hawaii, Washington, Rhode Island, Indiana, West Virginia, Oregon and Kentucky. States with a total of 453 delegates. For Sanders to make up the hypothetical 114 delegate hole he’s in, he would have to win every single one of those eight states 62.5-37.5 percent (283 delegates vs. 170) – just to still trail Clinton by one delegate. Which would put the count at:

Clinton: 1,987

Sanders: 1,986

Again, let me remind everyone that in the nine states he’s already won, in only two of them did he win by 30 or more points.

So, to summarize everything I’ve listed here:

  • I have Bernie Sanders winning a total of 23 of the remaining 28 contests.
  • In ten of those states he would need to win by an average of 30 percent.
  • In five he would need to win by an average of 10 percent.
  • In eight others he would have to win by an average of 25 percent.

Then if you want to throw in superdelegates, let’s say he’s successful in convincing 35 percent of them to support him (he currently has 5 percent). Again, that’s very optimistic, but let’s just say he does. There are a total of 712 superdelegates. Which means, at a 65-35 split, Clinton would have 463 to Sanders’ 249. Which would make the count:

Clinton: 2,450

Sanders: 2,235

Once again, let me emphasize that this was about as optimistic as I could get for Bernie Sanders without being completely delusional. And even with me giving him 23 of the next 28 contests, most by margins he’s not likely to win by even if he wins them all, and giving him 35 percent of the superdelegates (again, he currently has 5 percent) – he loses the nomination to Hillary Clinton.

For those who might say I’m still not being optimistic enough in some of my hypothetical projections, I would like to point out a few polls. The only recent poll out of New York from March 15th (a state I put Sanders as winning by 10 percent), actually has Clinton ahead by 48 points. In Arizona (a state I put Sanders as winning by 23 points), a poll released on March 11th has Clinton leading by 26 points. In Maryland (a state I gave to Clinton by 20 points), a poll released on March 8th has Clinton ahead by 33 points. A poll released on March 2nd in Pennsylvania (a state I gave to Sanders by 10 points), actually has Clinton leading by 30 points.

So, while the polling is still sparse in those states, based on those numbers alone, my projections are extremely optimistic for Bernie Sanders. And remember, any state where he doesn’t meet the winning percentages he needs to make up the ground means he has to win even bigger in the others. So, for example, if all of these projections I made above were 100 percent true, except they tied in California (at my original projection of a 10 point win 55-45 he would get 261 of the 475 delegates), he would lose 23 delegates from my above hypothetical projections to Clinton. That means he would have to make those delegates up somewhere else, which makes his path even more difficult.

Like I said earlier, I’m not here to bash Sanders or those who support him. I’m not even here to hype Clinton. All I wanted to do was put these numbers out there because there seems to be quite a few people who are pushing nothing but blatant propaganda about the steep hill Bernie Sanders has to climb if he wants to become the Democratic nominee. If people want to have the debate over his chances to catch up, that’s fine. All I’m asking is that we have that discussion based on the facts and the reality of the math involved.

Ignore these numbers if you want, say I’m not being optimistic enough – that’s your call. These numbers are what they are. Either believe them or don’t. I’m not here to convince anyone to give up on Sanders or to say Clinton has already won the nomination. All I wanted to do with this is make sure that when people are discussing this situation, they’re doing so based on reality rather than pro-Sanders fan fiction which isn’t helpful to Sanders or his supporters.

Take it from this Hillary Clinton supporter: If you still #FeelTheBern, you need to take action now and urge others to volunteer for him in the upcoming states as well if he’s going to overcome the odds and win this primary. (That goes for Clinton supporters as well – don’t take anything for granted when it comes to your candidate’s chances!)

Allen Clifton

Allen Clifton is a native Texan who now lives in the Austin area. He has a degree in Political Science from Sam Houston State University. Allen is a co-founder of Forward Progressives and creator of the popular Right Off A Cliff column and Facebook page. Be sure to follow Allen on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to his channel on YouTube as well.


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