Tag Archives: delegates

California (and Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, and South Dakota), Here We Come

After Bernie Sanders outperformed expectations in Florida, Illinois, Missouri, and North Carolina but still fell short of victory in every state that voted on March 15, analysts noted that Sanders would need to secure an average of 58 percent of the remaining vote to win the Democratic nomination.  In the time since, Sanders has run a bit below that mark; while he secured very big wins among overseas Democrats and in Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Utah, and Washington, a tough loss in New York held him to just over 55 percent of the last few weeks’ pledged delegates.  But while New York was undeniably a setback, Sanders has still had a strong start to the second half of the primary season and maintains a definite (albeit low-probability) shot to win.

The election will likely hinge on June 7, when voters in California, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, and South Dakota will all head to the polls.  Combined, these states hold just under 50 percent of remaining pledged delegates.

California, home to 34 percent of remaining pledged delegates all by itself, is particularly enticing for Sanders.  The state has a semi-open primary, meaning that “No Party Preference” voters (but not Republicans or members of the American Independent Party) can participate in the Democratic nominating process, and such voters prefer Sanders to Clinton by wide margins.  California is also on the West Coast, where Sanders has performed quite well thus far, and it is a leader on issues like environmental sustainability and the minimum wage, areas in which Sanders has a much bolder platform and stronger record than Clinton.

As has been the case throughout the country, Sanders’ standing in California polls has steadily risen as voters have become more familiar with him.  He still trails Clinton by 8.5 percent there, but that’s a major improvement from where he was only a couple months ago, and he’s definitely got a chance to close the gap more and overtake Clinton before voters head to the polls on June 7. Big Sanders wins in California and the other states that vote that day certainly aren’t high-probability events, but lower-probability things have happened during this election cycle.

How big those June 7 wins will need to be will depend on how the next seven weeks shake out.  The graph below shows the June 7 vote share Sanders would have to get under four possible scenarios:

  • Pessimistic Scenario: The current polling averages hold in Maryland and Pennsylvania. Other contests, for which there is too little reliable polling for a recent average, are assumed to follow the aggregate national polling average.
  • Somewhat Optimistic Scenario: Sanders meets FiveThirtyEight’s original projected targets in remaining non-California contests.
  • Very Optimistic Scenario: Sanders earns the average share of overall remaining pledged delegates he needs across all non-June 7 contests.

Sanders Share Needed.png

As the graph makes clear, Sanders has a very uphill climb ahead of him. But he also still has a potential path to victory.  What that path will look like is not entirely within our control, but his supporters’ continued advocacy in Connecticut, Delaware, Guam, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, the Virgin Islands, and West Virginia can make a big difference before California, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Washington, DC (the only place that holds a primary after June 7) head to the polls and potentially help him win this thing.  Every remaining primary matters.

Update (4/20/16): This post originally used the term “Independents” instead of “No Party Preference” voters, but this wording was changed to avoid confusion given the existence of the American Independent Party.

Update (4/26/16): Sanders’ aggregate performance in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island was roughly consistent with the pessimistic scenario outlined above; that scenario has gotten a little more favorable, but the other scenarios are now steeper.

What Sanders Needs

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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.

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