We have a neutral position on the current elections in the United States, sans our complete loathing of Donald J. Trump. We are thrilled to see, at least on the Democratic side of the primary season elections and caucuses, a robust debate on policy, ideals, and goals for their party and their nation. This will continue through to the convention in August, where the party will formally nominate their candidate for president.
The results today decided who that candidate is. On Tuesday, March 15th, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won the five contests held that day, over her fiery challenger, Senator Bernie Sanders, of Vermont. These victories, along with prior contests, have all but sealed the fate of this primary season for the Democratic Party. Some may be motivated to debate this view, but we say this only because of a wild combination of reason and arithmetic.
Unlike the Republican Party electoral primary process, which operates under numerous delegate allocation schemes, the Democratic primary has a comparatively simple formula. Though there are minor variations among states, the critical element is all Democratic contests award their delegates proportionally. These delegates are humans who will go to the party convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and cast ballots for who they wish to see as the party nominee for president. A basic summation is this; if a state has ten delegates up for grabs, and the candidates split the vote 50/50, each candidate will win five delegates who will be voting at the convention.
Hillary Clinton has won a majority of delegates during these contests, owing to her commanding victories in states with large populations and, with them, large numbers of delegates. Bernie Sanders has won several states, but many had few delegates, because they are small population states, or his victories were too narrow to gain a great advantage under proportional allocation. To understand this, let us review the delegate allocation from these states and territories*:
Vermont had 16 delegates, and he won 16 to her 0 for +16
Minnesota had 77 delegates, and he won 46 to her 31 for +15
Kansas had 33 delegates, and he won 24 to her 9 for +15
Colorado had 66 delegate, and he won 38 to her 28 for +10
Maine had 25 delegates, and he won 16 to her 9 for +7
New Hampshire had 24 delegates, and he won 15 to her 9 for +6
Nebraska had 25 delegates, and he won 15 to her 10 for +5
Oklahoma had 38 delegates, and he won 21 to her 17 for +4
Michigan had 130 delegates, and he won 67 to her 63 for +4
In these contests, which Sanders won, he gained 77 delegates over Clinton.
Texas had 233 delegates, and she won 147 to his 75 for +72
Florida had 214 delegates, and she won 124 to his 60 for +64
Georgia had 102 delegates, and she won 73 to his 29 for +44
Alabama had 53 delegates, and she won 44 to his 9 for +35
Virginia had 95 delegates, and she won 62 to his 33 for +29
Mississippi had 36 delegates, and she won 32 to his 4 for +28
South Carolina had 53 delegates, and she won 39 to his 14 for +25
Louisiana had 51 delegates, and she won 37 to his 14 for +23
Tennessee had 67 delegates, and she won 44 to his 23 for +21
Ohio had 143 delegates, and she won 75 to his 54 for +21
North Carolina had 107 delegates, and she won 59 to his 42 for +17
Arkansas had 32 delegates, and she won 22 to his 10 for +12
Nevada had 35 delegates, and she won 20 to his 15 for +5
Iowa had 44 delegates, and she won 23 to his 21 for +2
American Samoa had 6 delegates, and she won 4 to his 2 for +2
Northern Marianas had 6 delegates, and she won 4 to his 2 for +2
Illinois had 156 delegates, and she won 66 to his 64 for +2
Massachusetts had 91 delegates, and she won 46 to his 45 for +1
In these contests, which Clinton won, she gained 403 delegates over Sanders.
As you can surely see, when Sanders wins, he is not crushing Clinton in delegates pickups. With delegate allocation being proportional, he needs to win big states, while winning them by wide margins. This has not yet happened for him, yet Clinton has done this repeatedly to him.
This Contest Is Over
Sanders will stay in this race to the end. He owes it to his supporters. He also owes it to the Democratic Party, helping them to adopt more of his popular appeals. Hillary Clinton also needs him to stick around making his case, for it helps mold her into a better candidate. Regardless, he will not be winning the Democratic Party nomination.
To win nomination on the first ballot at the convention, a candidate needs a majority of the delegates. A majority is 2,383 delegates. There are 2,404 delegates remaining, and these are whom Clinton and Sanders will be fighting for going forward. Of the 1,873 delegates allocated thus far, Clinton has 1,099 of them and Sanders had 774 of them. This means Clinton needs 1,284 more delegates to clinch a majority and thus the presidential nomination of her party, whereas Sanders needs 1,609 additional delegates. Therefore, Clinton needs only 53 percent of the remaining delegates, whereas Sanders needs 67 percent of them. Because of proportional allocation, he must win the remaining states with no less than 67 percent of the vote.
A 34 point margin
Winning 67 percent of the remaining vote is not impossible, to be sure, but it is certainly improbable, especially considering how the race has come along. The larger states, when Sanders competes well in them, are decided by comparatively small percentages. A 67 percent victory means Clinton would win no more than 33 percent, a margin of 34 points between them. Sanders has exceeded that margin of victory only twice, in his home state of Vermont, as well as the Kansas caucus - also the only two states he won with at least 67 percent of the vote. It is far easier and realistic for Clinton to win 53 percent of the remaining vote than it is for Sanders to win with 67 percent of that vote. In fact, Clinton has exceeded 53 percent in fourteen of her victories. If Clinton wins any more states, even one, it will cause the percentage needed by Sanders to rise further. Worse, there are only six remaining states awarding more than 100 delegates: California, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Washington. No doubt Sanders will compete well, but winning these states with 67 percent of the vote (or more if losing any more states, or winning with less than 67 percent, along the way) is fantasy left only to the delusional.
A Contested Convention
It is possible that, in spite of her successes thus far, Hillary Clinton will fail to win 53 percent of the remaining vote. If so, will there be a contested convention, where both Clinton and Sanders arrive at the convention lacking a majority? No, probably not. The one thing left out of this article has been the so-called "Super" delegates. These are Democratic Party luminaries and current office holders. Hillary Clinton holds a commanding lead among this group (currently 467 for Clinton and 27 for Sanders), and if she limps into a convention only a few delegates short, no doubt her Super Delegates will carry her over the line.
The one thing that seems certain at this point is there is no reasonable or likely path for Senator Sanders to win a majority of the delegates. It is reasonable to conclude it being likely Clinton will win a majority, and, regardless, will certainly have the most delegates heading into a convention. With her Super Delegates, it is all over but the shouting. The Sanders campaign will do all they can to keep hope alive, however, the results today were not a mere flesh wound.
* Delegate awards are not final until state parties finalize them. This may take some time. However, in most cases, these are the likely results.
- The state of Missouri, at the time of this writing, has not been called, though Clinton holds a very narrow lead.