What Bernie Sanders Needs to Win the Democratic Nomination


What Bernie Sanders Needs to Win the Democratic Nomination

by Zack Gorman

After Hillary Clinton’s strong performance on Tuesday, she now has an advantage of over 300 pledged delegates compared to Bernie Sanders. This total is based solely on votes and doesn’t include her much larger advantage when super delegates are considered. So, where does this leave us? Just about all the remaining states have demographics that favor Bernie, but will it be too little too late for him? I wanted to crunch the numbers and see for myself.

Building on Projections with Tableau

For this exercise, I’m using the projections built out by the phenomenal team at FiveThirtyEight that show how the two candidates would perform in each state were they tied nationally. They make these projections based off of the demographics of each state and how each group tends to vote for each candidate. But the projections they have aren’t accounting for a 320+ delegate hole, so I built out something in Tableau that does.

How Can Sanders Win?

If Sanders is to win the Democratic nomination, he’ll almost certainly have to do it with a majority of pledged delegates. The likelihood of a large swath of super delegates switching their support to him when more voters support Clinton is incredibly small. These projections show the type of path he’d have to follow to overcome Clinton’s current lead. He’d need 60%+ of the vote in a dozen states and would need to keep any losses (there are two in this projection) to two delegates or less. 

Simply put, unless there is some kind of unexpected or shocking event, this Sanders dream scenario is highly unlikely. While there is currently little reliable polling for the states left to vote, the states where there are polls show Bernie beneath the levels he needs to overcome the deficit. Even when comparing Bernie’s results so far to how he should be performing were this a nationally tied race, he’s only exceeded his goals five times while meeting or falling short of those goals 23 times. He needs to substantially surpass those goals in just about every remaining state to have any sort of legitimate shot of finishing with more pledged delegates than Hillary. If he does not, Hillary is a virtual lock to be the Democratic nominee for president.

More About the Author

Zack Gorman

Analytics Consultant
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