With sweeping victories in 8 of the 12 Super Tuesday contests, Hillary Clinton has built up a nearly insurmountable delegate lead that Bernie Sanders simply cannot catch. At this point she is essentially the Democrats’ nominee for all intents and purposes. But Sanders’ wins in four states, including ones with comfortable margins in both Colorado and Minnesota, could predict future problems for Clinton in important Midwestern and Western states and give him plenty of reason to stay in.
In a complete reversal from her damaging Super Tuesday showing in 2008 where Barack Obama racked up large delegate margins in smaller states that sealed her fate, Clinton now has the upper hand thanks to blowout delegate wins. In Alabama she won 37 delegates to Sanders’ 4, a net of 33. She gained 43 more than him in Georgia, 74 more in Texas, and 29 in Virginia. Meanwhile, Sanders received a net gain of 10 delegates in Vermont, 4 in Oklahoma, 18 in Minnesota and 9 in Colorado (with current percentages reporting).
Overall Clinton leads with 587 pledged delegates to Sanders’ 397. Just like Obama in 2008, it’s almost impossible for Sanders to win later states with the overwhelming margins he’d need to catch up (especially given his continuing huge deficits with African American voters). But there’s also little incentive for him to drop out.
Despite the practically impossible road ahead, he still has plenty of money (raising $40 million in February alone), lots of support and active volunteers. His message is compelling, he’s turning new people out to vote, and continuing to keep Democrats excited about the race.
And the preference of Democratic voters seems to be largely set: Sanders is still cleaning up among young voters and winning whites by a decent margin. African Americans seem to have completely passed on his candidacy, and Clinton is winning Hispanic voters consistently now, but Sanders has just enough of the Democratic base to keep winning a handful states.
His 19-point margin in Colorado and 24-point margin of victory in Minnesota is what should concern Clinton most. Sanders still has a real chance to take working class states of Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania, along with many of the very white Western states. Losing major swing states in their primaries could be an awkward look for Clinton. The talk of some Sanders volunteers at a watch party in Minneapolis that Starting Line was at last night centered on dismissing Clinton’s wins in the south as a given, and looking forward to who would win the blue and swing states.
As long as Sanders doesn’t campaign through the later states with a very negative message on Clinton, what’s the harm? However, if he’s still harping on Clinton’s Goldman Sachs speeches in places like Ohio, then there’s a real problem.
And a continued campaign with debates between Clinton and Sanders could force Clinton to improve her appeal among young voters and work on her economic message some. The Republicans appear to be in a bloody fight against Trump that they plan to take to the convention, so he might still be distracted. If Sanders were wise, he’d start to focus his attacks solely on Trump and gets his supporters geared up to take on the madman in the general.
Even though she can’t celebrate quite yet, last night should serve as a redemptive moment for Clinton. Her frontrunner status in 2007 was undone in a very humbling fashion once states started voting in 2008. Now her lifetime of public service and roles in the most contentious political battles of the 90’s and 2000’s has earned her the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party. Especially if Trump emerges as the Republican’s choice, she is tantalizing close to becoming President of the United States (even if there’s still a lot of work to do).
All Americans, regardless of how they feel on Clinton, should take some note of that historic milestone that a major American political party will nominate a woman for the first time ever. And that we’ll very likely soon have our first female President.
by Pat Rynard