Bernie Sanders Needs Less than 57 Percent of the Remaining Vote to Win

For a long time now, CNN and other mainstream media sources have misled voters about the results in the Democratic primary.  They’ve often combined pledged delegate totals for each candidate, which are tied to voting results, with superdelegate totals, which have nothing to do with voting and are subject to change at any time.  While most superdelegates currently support Hillary Clinton, they almost certainly will end up backing whoever wins the pledged delegate race (if they don’t, they will be brazenly flouting democracy in a way that could quite possibly destroy the Democratic party), so including them when reporting election results makes Clinton’s lead seem much larger than it actually is.  The networks occasionally note that there are two different types of delegates, but they rarely explain that the superdelegate totals don’t really matter and more often than not display delegate counts across the bottom of their broadcasts which, by erroneously suggesting a huge Clinton advantage, may discourage people from turning out to vote.

In case that practice isn’t bad enough, CNN decided to move its delegate math from misleading to downright false during Saturday’s Alaska and Washington caucuses.  “Sanders would need 75% of remaining pledged delegates to win the nomination,” a rotating banner at the bottom of the screen declared, a statement that was egregiously wrong.

According to CNN’s own numbers (note how their headline graphics show the misleading combined delegate totals without explanation), Clinton had 1229 pledged delegates and Sanders had 934 before the caucuses took place.  CNN estimates a total of 4053 pledged delegates, so a candidate would need 2027 (just over half) to win the nomination.  Going into Saturday’s caucuses, Sanders therefore needed 1093 (2027 – 934) of the remaining 1890 (4053 – (1229 + 934)) pledged delegates, or just under 58 percent of those still on the table.

I decided to tweet this fact at CNN.  They did not correct their banner.  One of their pro-Clinton commentators, Bakari Sellers, then proceeded to echo their inaccurate number.  When someone on Twitter pointed him to my tweet, Sellers responded by claiming that he was actually referring to a total that included superdelegates.  Yet in addition to the fact that he had explicitly said “pledged delegates” on air, the number that included outstanding superdelegates – which still would have been misleadingly high – would only have been 68 percent (the only way to get 75 percent would have been to include superdelegates in Sanders’ target delegate total while excluding them from his possible delegate count, an approach which is obviously incorrect).  I gave Sellers this information.  He did not respond.

Sanders ended up winning Alaska, Hawaii, and Washington in landslides, likely earning about 74 percent of the 142 pledged delegates available on what pundits are calling “Western Saturday.”  Since the networks may have trouble accurately presenting the math moving forward, here it is: to win, he should now need fewer than 57 percent of the remaining pledged delegates.

Delegates Needed to Win

In other words, if his supporters continue to donate, phone bank, canvass, and turn out to vote, Sanders still has a very legitimate (albeit obstacle-laden) path to the nomination.  Don’t let CNN – or anyone else for that matter – tell you otherwise.


Filed under 2016 Election

32 responses to “Bernie Sanders Needs Less than 57 Percent of the Remaining Vote to Win

  1. You’re playing with the “big” boys and girls, Ben; awesome!

    They will lie in omission and commission as best serves an agenda that we can see, but can only guess at motives. We can see that this is anti-democratic, in that it attempts to “herd” the people rather than empower their choices with facts.

    What else do we see that’s really really really important?

    1. An empire of Wars of Aggression.

    2. Bankster looting and bailouts with a global military arm for petrodollar domination.

    3. Lying corporate media in this one case study you engage with, Ben, but ongoingly in every area of public importance.

    This form of empire is brutal, and as fellow math teachers, Ben, we can do some counting for its costs: since Hillary was FOTUS, ~500 million humans have been killed from illegal wars and reneged promises to end poverty. Documentation:

    Keep moving forward, Ben. The Force is strong in you 🙂 You will have one door open after another, AND IMPORTANTLY expect to recognize more of what you describe in this post: lies that push fascism upon Americans, with costs that colleagues and I document in professional good-faith accuracy.

    The good news is that I found ~90% of the Members of Congress I worked with over 18 years are honest. The bad is “leadership” of both parties (yes, think Hillary) are owned by some power that also uses Wall Street and corporate media for empire.

  2. B

    I think the point you’re missing is how delegates are proportionally awarded… So even if Sander’s won each state by 58%, it does not mean he’s win 58% of the remaining delegates. What CNN is focusing on is the margins Sander’s would need to win by so he could secure enough delegates to secure the nomination. Winning 58% of the remaining popular vote will not do this for him.

    • Your comment doesn’t make sense. Delegates being proportionally awarded does mean that 58% of the vote should roughly correspond with 58% of the pledged delegates (it might not be exact), and CNN’s math is wrong, as I lay out above.

      • I could be wrong but B’s point seems to be that some of the remaining states mechanisms for how delegates are awarded are not via a simple proportion of the vote but by some other way of dividing the proportions of delegates that would require a more decisive win by Saunders to gain the delegate count he needs to win (technically B does not say this but it seems the only plausible or charitable way to take what he says). I have no idea if B is right but I do recall that different states have different means of assigning delegates than a simple proportion of votes so it seems plausible.

        Sill if B is right CNN would still be conflating votes with pledged delegates if you are correctly quoting them. But CNN’s 75% number could be a reflection of the minimum vote count Saunders needs to win outright and your claim of 57% could be misleading in terms of the numbers Saunders needs to win a majority of pledged delegates,

        A more likely reading is, as you suggest, that CNN is figuring what Saunders needs to win an outright majority of all delegates with pledged delegates to lock in a win given that superdelegates are free agents (and thus could all vote Clinton etc. this would not be so much incorrect as pessimistic or undemocratic but still possible) but if your quotes are accurate they are not explaining these assumptions accurately.

    • B you are either an idiot, someone who had a lobotomy, or a Hillary-ous troll. Anyway your post does not make any sense at all.

    • Barbara Gilani

      tired of seeing the verbal blocks to positive momentum of Bernie via CNN.
      personally feel wealthy owner of CNN , high paid commentators of senior rank as Wolf Blitzer, etc all I assume love the wealther candiddate, Hillary, who won’t tax them. This sounds a scary proposition for both sides of the political parties. /But Bernie can bring in revenue, make life easier for middle class families, for a change and proves it economically via sound economists of a non-biased spectrum of fact checks.

  3. Electoral maps … should provide enlightenment. When have the states that overwhelmingly went to Secretary Clinton actually gone Blue when it mattered. They’ve other years also 😉

    • I actually don’t find that argument convincing, in part because Bernie has won many red states, too, and in part because I think the Democratic voters in red states matter. I do think Bernie is much more likely to win red states in the general than Hillary is, though, as he does much, much better among Independents and Republicans (see for more on why Bernie is the better general election candidate).

    • UpTopUpHigh

      I mean, let’s just make sure we’re being 100% realistic here. FL which she won by a LOT is an important state for any Dem to win. As is OH. And VA.

      They all went blue for both Obama elections. Florida obviously was a big, big deal in ’00 and was basically 50/50.

      In fact, realistically, anyone who wins any two of OH, FL and PA will likely win the election, be there Republican or Democrat. Sanders can do it, but it’s important to make sure we know what the targets are and dont say things that aren’t backed up by facts.

      • Those are good points. All I’ll note is that primary viability and general election viability are very different, as evidenced by the fact that Sanders polls worse than Clinton in most places in the primary race but better than her in head-to-head general election matchups.

  4. David Hayden

    Ben, you say the candidate only needs 2,027 to win the nomination, but everywhere else the total is 2,383. Can you explain where you’re coming up with the lower total?

    Based on the 2,383, I had done my own math this morning and came up with Bernie needing 77% of the remaining pledged delegates to win the nomination outright. (and Hillary needed 64% of the remaining pledged delegates to win outright, not counting superdelegates for either)

    The numbers I used were 1267 for Hillary and 1037 for Bernie with 1747 delegates remaining (all from the site).

    I’ll happily be wrong, I’m just curious where the differences in our numbers are coming from.

    • Good question! 2,383 is the number that includes superdelegates. 2,027 is the number that excludes superdelegates, which is the right approach. Your calculation is numerically correct (it is the same one the networks are doing), but it includes superdelegates in the denominator while excluding them from the numerator (part of the way to see that it isn’t the right approach is to note that the percentages don’t add to roughly 100%). Does that make sense?

      In general, since the superdelegates can flip at any time, they shouldn’t be included in the analysis. It’s very unlikely that the superdelegates would defy the popular vote and pledged delegate totals – doing so would be a brazen rejection of democracy and, in my view, lead to an en masse departure from and the ultimate demise of the Democratic party.

      • David Hayden

        I see where you’re coming from. I guess in my mind, the number to hit is still going to be 2,383, at least partially because I don’t trust that the superdelegates will follow the will of the people. If a candidate can manage to get to 2,383 without superdelegates, they’re the nominee. Period.

        But thank you for clarifying, at least I get why our math worked out so differently now!

        • No problem! If the superdelegates don’t switch, I really do think it would be the beginning of the end for the Democratic party.

          • Janice

            Of course, Clinton is well ahead in the individual primary/caucus “votes.” So, there is really zero rationale to think that super delegates would abandon Clinton. They have worked with both candidates long enough to know who would be the better choice in light of all the issues that will face the next president. In fact, it is their duty to take this responsibility seriously. Super delegates were not created for the purpose of mirroring the primary/caucus “votes,” otherwise, there would be no rationale behind their creation. The Democratic Party is much wiser than the Republican Party in the rules that it has created to govern itself.

            • David Hayden

              The superdelegates serve one purpose, to let the corrupt politicians in charge of the DNC ensure that their hold on power isn’t broken by anything as bothersome as the will of the people. It’s astonishing to me that the Republicans haven’t implemented superdelegates for that very reason. I suspect we’ll see them moving forward.

              • I think we’re all in agreement that superdelegates were created to subvert democracy, though Janice seems to think that’s a feature, not a bug (I, like you, David, strongly disagree).

  5. Bee

    LOL Keep thinking the party faithful acts on pledged delegates to decide who they are going to vote for LOL The reason the party has super delegates is to make sure scum does not get the nomination Oh and by scum I mean like an independent socialist fraud who has in the past said nasty things about the party faithful and still does so to this day. The party faithful or as some stupid lazy give a socialist daddies money millennials. Yeah good luck getting the people you have insulted over the last nine months of campaigning (or 25 years in congress) to vote for you LOL

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