With a recent string of losses, it’s looking increasingly unlikely that US Senator for Vermont Bernie Sanders will best rival former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to become the Democratic Party’s nominee for the US general Presidential election. But the race isn’t over yet, so could Bernie Sanders beat Hillary Clinton and go on to become his party’s standard-bearer?
The recently-held New York Democratic Primary was a game-changer. Considering the fact that the Vermont Senator had just racked up a string of victories, the question everybody was asking heading into the Empire State was can Bernie win New York? He couldn’t; the former Secretary of State bested Sanders in New York, pushing her already high delegate count into the stratosphere.
The next round of contests was held on Tuesday 26th April. On this day, five states held their Democratic primaries; Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. The BBC reports that Clinton beat Sanders in every state except Rhode Island. When it comes to delegates, Clinton now leads Sanders by 2,165 to 1,357, taking her closer to the nomination.
Looking at superdelegates
Democrats need to secure the votes of 2,383 delegates to claim their party’s nomination outright. Clinton is now just 218 delegates short, while Sanders would need 1,026 extra delegates to reach this threshold. According to Bustle, there are 1,016 delegates left up for grabs, meaning that it’s impossible to Sanders to clinch the nomination outright.
But we must remember that both candidates’ existing delegate counts include superdelegates, party grandees who each get to cast a vote to determine who will stand in the general election. As Death and Taxes Magazine points out, when superdelegates pledge their support to one candidate, unlike normal delegates who have to honour this promise initially, they don’t. Many superdelegates who promised to support Clinton during her 2008 Presidential run switched to her rival, current President Barack Obama, when it became clear he had the mandate of ordinary voters.
The next round
In other words, we probably shouldn’t be including superdelegates at the moment. If we take superdelegates out of the equation, Clinton is leading Sanders by a smaller margin, 1,645 to 1,318. Feasibly Sanders could post big victories in the remaining primaries and caucuses and pull a Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention, where superdelegates switch to his side after seeing that the people want Sanders to be the Democratic nominee.
For this strategy to work, Sanders needs to pull out huge wins going forward. NJ.com reports that the next slate of contests will be held between 3rd May and 17th May in Indiana, Guam, West Virginia, Oregon and Kentucky. Looking at the last few public opinion polls in each state, Clinton is generally leading Sanders in all of these contests. The Huffington Post’s amalgamation of opinion polls shows that the former Secretary of State is winning nationally as well, by 50.4% to 43.6%.
Now let’s look at the Sanders campaign itself – do they still think they can win? Apparently not, the BBC suggests, as the campaign has started laying off staff, after originally enlisting the services of around 1,000 workers. Explaining this decision, a Sanders spokesman said that with so many primaries and caucuses now done “we no longer require many of the loyal and dedicated state and national support staffers”
However following Tuesday’s losses, the Vermont Senator vowed to campaign on until June, when the Democrats will hold their national convention. Elaborating, Sanders’ Communications Director Michael Briggs said: “We will continue to have a strong and dedicated staff of more than 300 workers who are going to help us win in California and other contests still to come.” California has 548 Democratic delegates, way more than any other state. According to the Huffington Post, Clinton leads Sanders by 48.5% to 41.7% in Golden State public opinion polls.
CBS News writes that at present, Clinton must secure 18% of the remaining delegates while Sanders must win more than 80% to become the Democratic nominee. These numbers change slightly if we take superdelegates out of the equation, but with Clinton leading opinion polls in the next states to hold primaries, it’s clear that Sanders’ window of opportunity is fast closing. He must post spectacular wins going forward to have any hope of beating Hillary Clinton.