For Bernie Sanders, The Numbers Just Don’t Add Up

A few days ago, I posted an article praising Bernie Sanders and encouraging him to use his amazing power to bring a real revolution to our country by shifting his focus from the White House to a Democratic landslide in November. Just hours later came Bernie’s “fantastical” (thank you for the word Rachel Maddow) announcement that his main goal now is to bring about a contested convention while vowing to squander his political capital flipping super delegates. I was gobsmacked.

I love Bernie, but this caught me totally off guard. Bernie is a philosophical idealist but he is also a very astute politician. In his press interviews he insisted it was “mathematically impossible” for Clinton to get the 2383 delegates needed to win. I have done the math. I have reviewed the math. I have listened to pundits do the math on big boards. I have checked out dozens of scenarios using the remaining 13 contests. I have read and re-read polling data and double checked their math. Still, Bernie was so sure, maybe I missed something. So I checked to see where my error in judgment must be hiding.

A full day was spent slogging through hundreds of blog posts, FB vitriol, commentary on various articles, and statistics. I tried to figure out the path for Bernie that his handlers are promoting. There were several suggestions from staunch Bernie supporters and the Sanders’ Campaign.

1. He can win outright
2. We should let the popular vote decide the delegates
3. If Bernie won by a landslide he should get all the super delegates for that state
4. The candidate who wins the most states should win.
5. If a candidate wins a state by a landslide, he should get all the delegates and super delegates, (winner take all).

With the help of several awesome sites, Real Clear Politics, New York Times, Five Thirty Eight, to name a few plus at least a dozen more, a beautiful Excel spreadsheet came to life. I did the math all 5 ways to find the narrow path.

Today, Hillary has 1,679 delegates and Bernie has 1,361. (There are slight differences in these totals depending upon whether the source included super delegates that have already pledged. Our data includes no super delegates in these numbers). There are 9 states left. West Virginia, Kentucky, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oregon, Montana and California. There are 3 Territories left. Puerto Rico, Guam and US Virgin Islands. Then there is Washington, DC.

To make it easier. Blue is Clinton won by more than 10 points. Green is Sanders won by more than 10 points. Pink is within 10 points and white means they haven’t voted yet.

 

graph

To win outright without super delegates, and to win before the convention, Hillary needs 694 delegates. Bernie needs 1022. There are only 1,159 delegates left in 13 contests so Bernie must win more than 88% of them. That is not just “a narrow path” that is darn near impossible. Bernie needs an average of 79 delegates per contest to meet that goal. The numbers don’t add up when only 2 states even have that many delegates available.

So let’s help him out! Split the super delegates right down the middle. Each candidate gets 352 super delegates. That means he would only need 670 to win. Assuming he gets to keep the super delegates we just gave him, he still needs to take 58% of all of the remaining delegates. It also means Hillary only needs 342 delegates (about 29%). In proportional races even if he gets the wins by 58% in every contest, she can easily reach the magic number. If he loses any state, he cannot win outright and no one could claim he didn’t get his share of the super delegates.

If you let the popular vote decide, Hillary wins hands down. She has 2,260,969 more votes than Bernie without the votes from the upcoming 13 contests.

If Bernie won by a landslide in a state, and we give him all the super delegates for that state, we have to do the same for Hillary. So if Bernie or Hillary won by more than 10 points (55%) we’ll give the winner a bonus of all the super delegates for that state. Hillary gets 255 new delegates and Bernie gets 130. Darn. He still need 892 delegates to win outright. We can’t help him with half the super delegates in this scenario like we did above because we already gave him a bonus for all the states where he trounced Hillary. Even with the bonus super delegates, he still needs an average of 68 delegates from each of the 13 remaining contests and only 2 states have enough delegates.

If we go with winner take all in states where either candidate won by more than 10 points, the race is over. Hillary would only need 39 total delegates from anywhere in the next 13 contests and she hits the magic number. Bernie on the other hand loses delegates. Hillary crushed Bernie in states like New York, and Pennsylvania and Florida and Texas. Using this math Bernie now needs 1,244 delegates instead of only 1,022 if he just left the super delegates alone. There are only 1,159 delegates left in the primary contests. He can’t win, even if he flips more than half the remaining super delegates.

wta

If we go with who wins more states. Hillary wins again. Bernie has 18 wins, Hillary has 25 wins. There are 13 races left. Bernie must win 7 of 13 to even catch up. If he loses even 1 state, Hillary will finish with the most states.

But the greatest loss is not the defeat he faces in the primary race, it is the slow, painful death of his message. The repeated disappointment as each race ticks by. It is the constant slow creep to the inevitable while pundits drone on with the gloom and negative press for both candidates. It is the sound of engines roaring as Trump powers up the Republican election machines.

Yes, Bernie, polls show you beat Trump by a higher margin than Hillary. But every poll shows Hillary also beats Trump. What the polls show for Kasich and Cruz is no longer important. The goal is to beat Trump. More importantly, the goal must be to get Democrats elected to the House, the Senate, Governor’s Mansions and state Houses in every state.

Trump is now the presumptive nominee for the Republican party. There will never be a better time to rally the electorate behind Democrats across the board in every race in this country. I desperately want to see Bernie racing across the country charging up the base to turn the vote blue up and down the ticket. I desperately want to see him standing in the Senate galvanizing newly elected Democrats to implement his revolution. I want to see him remain a force to be reckoned with while channeling the spirit of Robert Byrd bringing it on the floor of the Senate. I don’t want to see our Bernie end up like Ted Cruz or John Kasich. I want to see him end up like Ted Kennedy. A man who left the Presidential race with his head high to became one of the most influential Senators in American history.

The path to the White House is not narrow. It is a chimera promoted by those with a self interest in keeping Bernie in the race. The path to the real revolution is there for the taking. The path to end Citizen’s United is right in front of him. Dear Bernie, please take that path and leave the numbers to the pundits and geeks. Be the change we want to see in the world. There are at least 6 Republican Senators that are vulnerable this year. Go get them. Bring your magic all the way down the ticket and change the world.

Latest Comments

  1. Jackie says:

    These are hard-to-swallow facts. I would like to see a rebuttal from someone in the Sanders camp, if such argument can be articulated. Thank you for all this hard work!

    1. William Peterson says:

      If one keeps in mind the migration that Mrs. Clinton has had to make to maintain interest in her campaign; if one keeps in mind that many of the states that have been won by Mrs. Clinton represent states that cannot be counted on even a little in our current political climate (I expect they will be won by extremely right wing opponents); I don’t actually see how Senator Sanders can be stopped. Yes, the math is absurdly against him and I must say it won’t get better. The math of an open general election will be much worse for Mrs. Clinton. Add to that the number of voters who reject being part of that campaign and I foresee a VERY difficult time winning the Presidency for the DNC and Mrs. Clinton. I see that Senator Sanders has the support of voters who represent the future of the Democratic Party, and without that support, the Party may not be viable.

      1. Lyndy Bleser says:

        Thank you for the comment. Not getting into the substance of each candidate’s issues, the data shows that overall, whether for Democrats or Republicans, Clinton has more actual votes than any other candidate on either side of the aisle. The media constantly cites her ‘likability gap’ or “enthusiasm gap” but the data does not support that narrative. You are probably right that Sanders voters represent the future of the Democratic Party and one would hope that the Party stays to the left going into the future. However, millennials will soon begin having families, careers and suffering from the same realities that most of the “older” people that support Clinton experience. Every generation brings new ideas, and new aspirations. But don’t forget that many of the “rebels” of the 1960’s have become part of the Conservative anti-government movement that Trump capitalizes on every day.

  2. Jonathan says:

    Something I’ve been trying to find out, and haven’t managed to get a clear answer on, is what the popular vote looks like in truth. When people say that Clinton is ahead by millions of votes, is that counting the votes in caucus states? How would they do something like that? I’m a little shaky on the intricacies of how caucuses work, especially since it seems to change from state to state, but if Bernie is winning most of those states, and the vote counts aren’t accurate, how can we say that Clinton is really ahead in the popular vote by as much as she is? Not looking for an argument, seriously just trying to get an answer to this so I can understand.

    1. Lyndy Bleser says:

      Thank you so much for the response and the questions.
      In the chart, the Pop vote counts show the total number of votes for both Clinton and Sanders that have been cast for each state, for both primaries and the caucuses.
      The reason that Clinton is so far ahead in popular votes is that Sanders wins caucuses which are usually small; and he wins in states that don’t have huge populations that vote for Democrats. For example, in Wyoming, Sanders won 58% of the votes. Sounds awesome. Sounds like a big win. But if you look at the chart, there were a total of 278 votes cast in the entire state. Now look at where Clinton won 58% of the vote in Arizona and New York. Arizona had almost 400 thousand votes and New York had nearly 2 million votes cast. Another example from the chart is where Sanders won 82% of the vote in Alaska. That is Huge! But only 539 votes were cast statewide. Clinton won in Alabama by only 78% but there were more than 386 thousand votes cast in Alabama.
      Don’t worry about being confused about caucuses. No one understands them, but each state has the right to decide how its delegates, and later its electors, will be chosen.
      As for Bernie winning most of the states, he is not. He has won 18 races and Clinton has won 25. It is not surprising that many people are confused because the media narrative is that Sanders is “crushing” Clinton or “running away with the primary” or has “momentum”. When Hillary won all 5 primaries in 1 night she did “as expected”. When she won 4 out of 5 it “slowed Sanders’ momentum”. When she wins 9 out of 12 she has a “likability gap”. The narrative is confusing and mostly false.
      The best example of how the numbers don’t meet the hype is Washington state. The media was stunned by the number of people that showed up for Bernie events in Washington. Estimates of more than 20 thousand people at a single rally showed up at multiple events throughout the state. On caucus day, however, just over 26 thousand people actually showed up to vote. More importantly, it was an open caucus so Independents, Progressives, Liberals, Democrats could all vote that day. In addition, Washington has an 18 day voting period and the last day to register was only a week before the caucus. Yes, Bernie won the state, but by fewer votes than then number of people that showed up at his events.
      Bottom line is the data is what it is. The narrative about the data is what confuses the issues. Clinton has more people actually showing up to vote for her than any other candidate, Republican or Democrat. Unfortunately, you won’t find that fact anywhere unless you are a geek like me that loves politics and dislikes pundits.

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