Editorial: Bernie’s delegate math

In the Democratic presidential primary, Sen. Bernie Sanders won 128 delegates in the past six states holding either a primary or caucus, compared to 75 delegates for Sen. Hillary Clinton. And that includes Clinton’s much-ballyhooed win of Arizona. Arizona did have the most delegates at stake in the March 22 primary election, but of those 74 delegates, Bernie won 30.
Sanders on the other hand captured wins in Idaho, Utah, Alaska, Washington State and Hawaii — and by large margins. In Alaska, he won 82-18 percent; in Hawaii he won 70-30 percent; and in Washington State he won 73-27 percent. To date, Sanders has won 15 states to Clinton’s 20. Sanders has fared well in the North, plain states, Rocky Mountains and West, while Clinton has won the south and the industrial mid-west, plus Arizona.
While Clinton is favored, Sanders has shown surprising strength in much of the country. So why the premature calls for Sanders to drop out of the race, or for pundits to declare that Clinton has the Democratic nomination in the bag?
What they really mean is that Sanders has a very slim chance of being able to win enough delegates to win the nomination, while Clinton might only be able to earn the nomination by virtue of the Superdelegates cast at the convention.
Currently, the pledged delegate count favors Clinton with 1,243, compared to Sanders’s 975. But there are 2,073 Democratic delegates yet to be cast. In the Democratic primary it takes 2,383 to win, leaving Clinton with roughly 1,100 delegates to go at this date. In other words, she has just passed the halfway mark.
What tosses the election more to Clinton’s advantage is that, so far, she has 469 pledged Superdelegates to Sanders’s 29. But there are a total of 718 Superdelegates, meaning roughly 220 have not yet committed to a candidate. Furthermore, not only can the Superdelegates switch their allegiance at any time, those votes aren’t officially cast until the convention on July 25-28 in Philadelphia.
A bit of math and the primary calendar suggests Clinton will come close to clinching the nomination by the final primaries on June 7, but it’s not a sure bet. On Tuesday, April 5, voters in Wisconsin cast votes to determine 96 delegates, which could be a toss-up or tilt toward Sanders. On April 9, Sanders could be expected to take the Wyoming caucus and many of its 18 delegates. The primary in New York, on April 19, will be a crucial test for Sanders to see if he can hold Clinton to under 55 percent, and thus gain a significant share of that state’s 291 delegates.
If he can, that bodes well for Sanders’s chances to hold Clinton to that same margin in the five East Coast primaries on Tuesday, April 26, when Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island vote with a total of 462 delegates at stake. Then, there’s the primary in Indiana on May 3 for 92 delegates, and West Virginia (37) on May 10. If Sanders can hold Clinton to under 55 percent in all those states, he’ll still be in the running at the May 17 primaries with Kentucky (61 delegates) and Oregon (74 delegates) and on to the caucuses on June 4 and June 5 in Virgin Islands (12 delegates) and Puerto Rico (67 delegates).
If Sanders holds Clinton to 55 percent of the delegates in all those races, she will have picked up another 650-plus delegates (730 delegates if she wins 60 percent), and will still need 370-450 more at the June 7 primaries to clinch it. Those primaries include California’s 546 delegates, plus Montana’s 27, New Jersey’s 142, New Mexico’s 43, South Dakota’s 25 and a caucus in North Dakota for 23 delegates — a total of 706 delegates. If Sanders holds Clinton to under 55 percent in those states and in Washington, D.C., Clinton will have come up just a few delegates short of winning the nomination by pledged delegates — something that hasn’t happened since Vice President Walter Mondale beat Sen. Gary Hart and Jesse Jackson on the first ballot back in 1984.
Sanders’s hope, of course, is that he wins 55 percent of these remaining contests and, therefore, will be able to convince enough of the 718 Superdelegates to support his candidacy and win the nomination. That’s a long-shot, to be sure, but it’s a possibility, and reason enough to remain full-speed ahead until the last primary votes are counted.
Angelo S. Lynn

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