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I served in the US Navy from 2002-08; four of those years were as a Nuclear Propulsion Operator aboard an aircraft carrier. I engage in political activism in various Democratic circles when I am able to. I have a cat, and I am an uncle.

All opinions that I express are my own and do not reflect the views of any organization that I represent.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

IT’S NOT OVER BUT




On Titanic Tuesday, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton inched closer to securing the Democratic nomination by winning five out of the five contests including dominating in Florida, Ohio, and North Carolina and eking out close wins in Illinois and Missouri.

On Tuesday night Senator Sanders won caucuses in Idaho and Utah collecting 17 and 26 delegates respectfully.

Arizona went for Clinton as she collected 44 delegates to Sanders’s 30.

Overall Sanders won the night taking two out of three contests and edging out Clinton by 18 in the important delegate count in the three contests.

Looking at the overall pledged delegate count, Clinton still leads Sanders by over 300. Factor in the superdelegates, Clinton has a 1,690-946 advantage putting her 692 delegates shy of the magic number of 2,382 to clinch the Democratic nomination.

What have we learned so far?



The results from Tuesday went as expected based on the demographics. Arizona is bit more diverse so it favored Clinton while Idaho and Utah were more white thus favoring Sanders.

The Sanders campaign believes that they are well positioned because the nominating process moves to the north and western states where they believe that they can catch Clinton and make a case to the superdelegates to start shifting their support to Sanders.

Here is the problem with that line of thinking.

Every Democratic contest allocates their delegates proportionally. As shown on Tuesday, Clinton won a total of 11 in Idaho and Utah while Sanders took 22 in Arizona despite losing those states to their respective opponent.

Looking back to Titanic Tuesday, both candidates collected delegates as was the case on Tuesday and in other contests. The evidence of proportional allocation is shown in Missouri where Clinton defeated Sanders by one-fifth of a point, but in the delegate count both candidates tied at 34.

The question facing the Sanders campaign is where and how can they make up Clinton’s delegate lead.

The how is that Sanders must win in the remaining states and he must win by huge margins. While he won huge margins in Idaho and Utah last night, Clinton won by 18 in Arizona and as reflected in the delegate count Sanders only gained 18 on Clinton’s lead. As shown by the New York Times’s delegate tracker, Sanders would have to win every contest with an average of more than 60% of the vote.

So where can Sanders collect a huge delegate haul and win more than 60% of the vote in each of the remaining contests?

Here are the upcoming contests for March and April.

This coming Saturday, Alaska, Hawaii, and Washington will host caucuses with Washington’s 101 being the huge prize. Sanders has done well in caucuses. Of the 12 contests that Sanders won, 8 of those were caucuses. Because it is a rural state, Alaska is likely to favor Sanders despite having white alone statewide demographic of 62%.

Washington has the large urban center of Seattle-Tacoma-Olympia and the sparsely populated region of Eastern Washington. While Washington’s white alone population of 70% should benefit Sanders, the large urban centers along the coast could benefit Clinton who delivered her election speech from Seattle on Tuesday as she is likely to campaign there ahead of the Saturday caucuses.

Hawaii is a caucus, but there are two things that are working against Sanders in this contest. First, Hawaii is a minority-majority state meaning that the minority population is at or greater than 50% of the state’s population. The second is that Hawaii is Obama’s birth state and per Real Clear Politics Obama is still very popular among Democrats. Real Clear Politics has Obama at an average of 87% approval among Democrats. If it wasn’t for that pesky Twenty-Second Amendment, I would support and emphatically vote for Obama again. And Clinton has pivoted herself towards Obama while Sanders suggested a primary challenge to an incumbent president in 2011.

Wisconsin and their 86 delegates will be hotly contested on 5 April. Early voting is already taking place and Representative Gwen Moore (WI-4, D) cast an early ballot for Clinton. Senator Tammy Baldwin was an early endorsee of Clinton when she and several other women senators wrote a letter encouraging Clinton to run for president. As of this moment, no elected officials in Wisconsin have endorsed Sanders but the campaign says that they are planning on announcing endorsements.

Does this spell doom for Sanders? Not necessarily. There could be a spillover effect from neighboring states in the Wisconsin primary. Minnesota and Michigan went for Sanders while Illinois and Iowa went for Clinton. The FiveThirtyEight polling average shows the two candidates are separated by six points and says that Clinton in the polls-only forecast has a 71% chance of winning the state.

9 April is Wyoming and their 14 delegates are up for grabs which is also how many Democrats there are in Wyoming. I do not expect either candidate to invest in a lot time and money in that state, but it will likely go for Sanders and it would not surprise me if he swept that entire slate of delegates.

Three large delegate hauls happen in consecutive weeks. The first is New York on 19 April and their 247 delegates. Clinton should come away a big winner in this contest because of demographics (56% white alone, 40% white liberal), this is her political base as she was twice elected US Senator in the 2000s, and the FiveThirtyEight average polling shows her with a 67-24 lead as well as the most recent polling (14-16 March) shows her leading by 48 points. Sanders might do well in upstate New York, but most of the population lives in the New York City metropolitan area and I expect it will be a happy night at Clinton headquarters in Brooklyn.

The second large delegate hauls happen the following week in Maryland and Pennsylvania where 284 delegates will be up for grabs; 189 in Pennsylvania and 95 in Maryland. Pennsylvania has the same white liberal voting bloc as Wisconsin (39%) and even though polling shows Clinton with a commanding lead, the trend in this nominating contest has been that Clinton starts out leading well outside of the margin of error but as it gets closer to polling day the polls tighten up to where it is a close race. There is still about a month before Pennsylvania Democrats make their decision so there is a lot that could happen between now and then.

As for Maryland, this is the next to the last in the South primary before Kentucky votes on 17 May. Even though the Census places Maryland in the South Region, a survey conducted by FiveThirtyEight shows otherwise. This is another contest that benefits Clinton given its white liberal voting bloc that is nearly identical to Nevada, Arkansas, Tennessee, Illinois, and North Carolina. Those are states that Clinton won.

The other benefit that could play to Clinton winning Maryland is the Senate Democratic Primary that is taking place on the same date. Senator Barbara Mikulski, the longest serving woman in the history of the US Congress, is retiring after this term and the two Democrats, Representatives Donna Edwards and Chris Van Hollen, are running to replace her. Two of the most recent polls show Edwards leading with a poll conducted earlier in March showing her leading by six points among likely voters. While some might try to paint this Senate race as Bernie vs. Hillary, it is not. In fact, both candidates are supporting Clinton, had previously taken on establishment candidates and won, and are considered to be part of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party.

As shown in previous primary contests, black and other non-white voters have strongly supported Clinton in every nominating contest so far. It was what saved her in Iowa and allowed her to pull out close wins in Illinois and Missouri. The Latino vote in Nevada gave her a six-point win, and it is likely that same voting bloc gave her the double digit win in Arizona last night. The evidence of black support is shown in contests in the South specifically in South Carolina, Arkansas, Georgia, Texas, and Virginia. In Texas, 80% of blacks and 65% of Hispanics supported Clinton. In Virginia, barely half of white voters were in favor of continuing Obama’s policies while when asked that same question 3 out of 4 black voters supported that idea.

If black turnout is up in the Maryland Democratic Primary, both Donna Edwards and Hillary Clinton will have that voting bloc to thank for their victories.

As for the other 26 April contests in Connecticut, Delaware, and Rhode Island, Sanders could win those contests but it might not offset the potential Clinton delegate haul in Maryland and Pennsylvania. The number of delegates from those three states are just barely over half of Pennsylvania’s 189 and the total of those three states is one more than Maryland’s 95. Also as pointed out by the Cook Political Report’s Dave Wasserman, Connecticut, Delaware, and Rhode Island have higher income voters and they, as in previous contests, have gone for Clinton. I also expect Connecticut and Rhode Island to go for Clinton because if Sanders couldn’t win Massachusetts what makes one think he could win in the two other New England states that remain.

So, in summary, I have Sanders winning the caucuses in Alaska, giving him a slight edge in Washington, and sweeping all the delegates in Wyoming. As for Wisconsin, it could shape up to be another Missouri type draw where one candidate receives more popular votes but it is a tie in the delegate count.

I see Clinton winning Hawaii due to demographics as well as winning New York going away and claim Pennsylvania and Maryland as well as Connecticut, Delaware, and Rhode Island.

The only places where Sanders will dominate the delegate haul will be in Alaska and Wyoming which does not do him any good because those delegate totals are tiny in comparison to the large hauls in Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Wisconsin. Time is running out for Sanders. As pointed out by FiveThirtyEight in February and the Washington Post earlier this month, Sanders needs to start winning the larger delegate states and he needs to win them big.

Sanders had a great night earlier in March with his upset win in Michigan defying the polls, but it was offset by Clinton’s huge win in Mississippi where she claimed 32 of the state’s 36 delegates. Despite Sanders’s Michigan victory, it was Clinton who emerged victorious in the delegate haul winning 95-71 in the two 8 March contests.

In the five Titanic Tuesday contests, Missouri and Illinois were close for Clinton, but big wins in Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio allowed Clinton to come away with a 391-284 delegate win.

So to answer my question, yes there are places where Sanders can win, but with the Democratic nominating contests allocating their delegates proportionally a narrow win does not help Sanders and in the places where he is expected to win huge – Alaska and Wyoming – they are not enough to cut into Clinton’s delegate lead.

Again as I have stressed in previous writings I am not calling for Sanders to suspend his campaign and graciously concede to Clinton. He has every right to continue his quest for the Democratic nomination if he and his strategists still see there is a viable path to the nomination, but that path will get narrower after Wisconsin and more so after New York, and then with the 26 April nominating contests in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island.

The Democratic Primary is not over, but it will eventually end and the focus will shift to the general.

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