Technically, the Democratic presidential contest is not yet over.
But let’s be real. It’s over. Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee for president.
It’s not just that Bernie Sanders lost delegate-rich New York by a wide margin Tuesday night. It’s that the margins by which he’d need to win in the remaining contests to overtake Clinton are implausible.
That might not sound like a huge lead, but almost two-thirds of the pledged delegates have already been awarded. So, as Nate Cohn of The New York Times notes, Sanders would need to win the remaining contests by an average of 18 points to overtake Clinton in pledged delegates. So far, he’s only managed that big a margin in two primary states: New Hampshire and Vermont, his home state.
Sanders’ best states tend to be low-population, heavily white states that hold caucuses. The remaining calendar is dominated by diverse, medium-to-large states holding primaries, with 69% of the delegates remaining to be awarded coming from just five states: California, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and Indiana.
FiveThirtyEight has produced an updated schedule of what Sanders would have to accomplish in the remaining contests to get to a tie in pledged delegates. He’d need to win every remaining state except Maryland and Delaware, and he’d have to win most of them by margins ranging from solid to overwhelming: Pennsylvania by 9, New Jersey by 12, Connecticut by 16, California by 18. None of that is in line with prior results or current polling.
On MSNBC Tuesday night, Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver tried to lay out a path for Sanders to overtake Clinton. He noted, for example, that Oregon is likely to be a strong state for Sanders. That’s probably true. But the FiveThirtyEight analysis shows Sanders would need to win Oregon by 51 points just to be on pace to tie Clinton overall.
The short story is this: Sanders is too far behind, and it’s too late to catch up.
But good luck explaining that to a Sanders fan on the Internet. If you try, you will be met with confusion and anger. You will be accused of having been blinded by the corporate media, and maybe even of being a corporate shill yourself.
Here is what you are likely to hear.
But Sanders won seven of the last eight contests before New York! That’s true, but only because a lot of smallish, heavily white states have voted recently. Clinton has taken about 57% of all the votes so far, in part because she won huge majorities in the South, like 83% of the vote in Mississippi.
Who cares?! The Deep South is irrelevant. Those states will never vote for a Democrat in the general election. When you look at the true “Deep South” (the band of states from Louisiana through South Carolina) you’re looking at states where the Democratic primary electorate is heavily black. In these states, Sanders was rejected by black voters, not conservative whites who have been leaving the Democratic party. But Clinton’s big wins aren’t limited to the Deep South. She won by 14 points in North Carolina, 14 in Ohio, 18 in Arizona and 31 in Florida. Overall, Clinton has simply won more states, with bigger vote margins, than Sanders.
But the South went first! The rest of the map is better for Bernie! Not really. Both Clinton’s and Sanders’ best states have come and gone. Sanders won huge in the Mountain West and northern New England, and nearly all of the states in those regions have voted. (Interestingly, Sanders fans eager to dismiss Clinton’s 66-point win in Mississippi seem pretty proud of Sanders’ 59-point win in Utah.) For the remaining states, I would refer you again to the FiveThirtyEight analysis. Saying Sanders can catch up means saying he can win California by 18 and Rhode Island by 33, after losing Arizona, Nevada, and Massachusetts. That’s not going to happen.
Hillary is just winning because of superdelegates! No, that’s wrong. The “superdelegates” are automatic delegates, including Democratic elected officials and members of the Democratic National Committee, who get to vote for whomever they want, simply by virtue of their positions. Most of them have endorsed Hillary. But even without them, she’d have a wide lead, and the calculations above are what Sanders must do to overtake Hillary among pledged delegates awarded based on primaries and caucuses, ignoring her superdelegate lead.
In theory, the superdelegates could switch and hand the nomination to Sanders, and that’s a scenario his campaign staff is openly talking about. But why would they? That would be anti-democratic, since Hillary has a clear and durable lead in pledged delegates and the popular vote. Why would Sanders ask them to overrule the will of the voters?
It’s over. It’s over. It’s over. Sooner or later, the denial will end. The only question is when.