The Path—Realistically— For Bernie To Win

Priyanka Prasad
Here's how Bernie Sanders could use the momentum he has to eke out a win against Hillary Clinton.

For Bernie Sanders, the loss in New York must be difficult to swallow. Following a five-state loss on March 15, New York was the first crucial win needed to overcome the daunting delegate math.

Sanders won huge in the last eight out of nine contests (Democrats Abroad, WA, ID, UT, WI, WY, AK, HI) and it appeared he was surging with momentum. Unfortunately, the demographics were too unfavorable and the political machine in New York too strong—he finished with a disappointing 42-58 defeat.

However, as Sanders’s campaign manager Jeff Weaver was quick to point out on MSNBC, a path to victory remains. A small, narrow path—but a path nonetheless.

For the size of Clinton’s win, she actually did not net a significant number of delegates due to the way New York awards its congressional district delegates. Sanders won 52 out of 60 counties (despite getting trounced in New York City boroughs), and Clinton only came away with approximately 30 extra delegates.

This currently leaves Sanders at a 237 pledged delegate deficit. However, there are still about 1400 delegates to be awarded in 19 contests, and a significant portion of these are in the five states that vote on April 26.

Sanders, unquestionably, needs to win a majority of the remaining contests. He can afford a few losses (Maryland, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico are extremely unfavorable to him, demographically), but needs to win big in the delegate-rich states that remain: Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Indiana, Oregon, and the biggest one of all—California.

In the short term, Sanders must win at least 3 out of 5 states that vote on April 26: Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware and Maryland. He is polling well in Rhode Island and Connecticut, and somewhat poorly in Delaware in Maryland (but with Delaware’s 19 delegates, it would not be a major loss).

Pennsylvania could be a close contest, although polling is not currently in Sanders’s favor. While a Quinnipiac poll puts Sanders down only 6 points, other polls have him down anywhere from 11 to 13 points—a situation that echoes New York.

However, Pennsylvania does not contain the draconian registration deadlines of New York. Voters were able to register and switch party affiliations until late March, and Pennsylvania also possesses smaller minority populations and a larger white, working-class population.

If Sanders can pull out 3 wins, a series of wins in May could further help reduce the gap with moderately large states: Indiana, Oregon, West Virginia, and Kentucky.

However, it will be June 7 that will decide the nomination. A massive 694 delegates will be awarded that day, and 475 will be coming from California. 

California is a large, diverse state, and therefore not as liberal as it’s stereotyped to be. But there is good news for Sanders: He is only polling an average of 7 to 10 points below Clinton, and California’s primary is a month and a half away. 

Sanders has often exceeded polling by large margins, and these months give his campaign ample time to ramp up efforts in the Golden State. Grassroots efforts are already underway—major cities such as Berkeley, San Francisco, San Diego, and Los Angeles are hosting regular canvassing events and voter registration drives. California also contains the largest college population of the U.S.; there are over 200 colleges and 2 million college students in California, and it’s well established that these voters go in droves for Sanders.  

The semi-closed primary is also favorable to Sanders. It allows unaffiliated, No Party Preference (NPP) voters (essentially Independents) and Democrats to vote in the Democratic primary, but prohibits unaffiliated voters from voting in the Republican primary. Therefore, Sanders can take a huge chunk of the Independent voting population, which is likely the voting bloc that propelled him to victory in open primary states such as Michigan and Wisconsin. 

24 percent of the 17.3 million registered voters in California are registered NPP, and if Sanders can win them 70-30 percent (as he has done consistently), it will help him enormously. 

If Sanders can achieve an (admittedly difficult) 15 to 20 point win in California, he could net 100 delegates from this one state alone.

But before California, winning Pennsylvania is the vital first step for Sanders to achieve the delegate math he needs to keep inching up on Clinton. The mathematical possibility (if not probability) is there—he must win 58 percent of remaining delegates. He remains an enormous underdog, but as he continues to rise in the national polls, on trend to pass Clinton, there is no reason he should bow out anytime soon. 

Banner Image Credit: Reuters