If you are a Bernie fan on the evening of Mega Tuesday, March 15, you are either looking to slit your wrists or punch a wall because not only has Bernie lost four of tonight’s five primaries, but to add insult to injury he is being edged out in the remaining open race in Missouri. How can Bernie still win? Is there even a shot? There are good and bad news. Since all of those pulling for a Bernie nomination have been bruised and battered, I am going to start with the good news.
One, the Southern Firewall is behind us. There is only one southern state left on the calendar, and it’s Kentucky. Arguably, it’s not necessarily a southern state because Kentucky was never in the Confederacy, and its cultural disposition and percent of African Americans is closer to Missouri than Alabama. Secondly, there are 2020 pledged delegates left (49.9% of all the pledged delegates at the Democratic National Convention) to be won in 24 states and a handful of US Territories including the big one, Puerto Rico. Thirdly, even after this terrible night, Bernie Sanders has won 53% of all delegates outside of the South so far, which means we have proven that we can win a majority of them.
Ready for the bad news? Probably not, but here it is. If we fail this time, there is nothing a Bernie Nomination scenario can fall back on. There is zero room for error, and if you haven’t become involved in the campaign either by way of donating, phone banking, or volunteering, you will have to be in order for this to have a shot. If you have been involved in such ways, you will have to increase it.
The Delegate Math for a Bernie Nomination
We are Bernie supporters, so we know the super delegates are never going to help get us over the top if we fall short in getting a majority of the pledged delegates. In fact, if we can get to a pledged delegate majority, we will have to brow beat the Party elites into not overturning it and handing the nomination to Hillary Clinton. So at a very minimum, Bernie needs to win 2026 pledged delegates.
Up until March 15th, Bernie earned a total of 552 pledged delegates according to Nate Silver’s best estimate, which is 223 delegates fewer than Clinton. According to tonight’s news networks, Bernie has lost Florida by roughly 30%, North Carolina and Ohio by approximately 14%, Illinois by 1.5% and Missouri by the smallest of margins, 0.2%. Since every single primary and caucus in the Democratic race awards delegates proportionally, we can make a fairly accurate estimate that after tonight, Bernie will go down to trailing Clinton by 321 delegates, give or take a delegate.
The next eight contests are crucial to build the momentum necessary for Bernie to start winning the remaining states by the necessary margins to win back the pledged delegate lead. Beginning on March 22 until April 9, the Democrats will have 6 caucuses and 2 primaries where the population consists of white liberals, Latinos whose establishment has lined up behind Bernie, or Asians whose elected leaders have also lined up behind him. Beginning in Arizona’s primary, white liberals, California expatriates and Latinos will kick off this contest. There, Congressman Raul Grijalva has been an early supporter of Bernie’s and has lined up other Latino Democratic establishment support. On that day, Utah and Idaho will also hold their caucuses. Four days later, Alaska, Hawaii and Washington hold their caucuses which are also dominated by white liberals, except Hawaii’s where Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, who endorsed Bernie at considerable political cost, will likely help to deliver a win. Over the following two weeks the state which is the birthplace of the progressive movement, Wisconsin, will hold its primary followed by the last caucus in a heavily white state, Wyoming.
These contests account for 373 delegates. Here is the catch. Bernie not only can, but he MUST win all of them. Not because this is a particularly large number of delegates at stake, but because momentum is everything in a primary and in order to recover from the March 15 drubbing, he must win them all. If we go by the previously held caucuses this year, Bernie should be able to win those by a 2 to 1 margin on average, and could win the two primaries in Arizona and Wisconsin by an average of 16 points. That would cut Clinton’s lead in the pledged delegates to anywhere between 220 and 225 delegates.
Believe it or not, this will have been the easy part. The next phase to a Bernie nomination scenario involves using the momentum from these eight wins to win the following primary in New York, Hillary Clinton’s adopted state where she served as Senator for eight years. Thereafter, we have states on the lower eastern seaboard, Appalachia, the Prairie, the Southwest and the West Coast to win. All of them look good for Bernie except Kentucky (which could perhaps be fought to a draw like Missouri, or even won with so much subsequent momentum) and Maryland, whose high African American population would appear to favor Clinton. The final battle will be fought on June 7 where over 700 delegates will be at stake and where California towers over all others with its 475 delegates. After the next eight contests which were discussed above, Bernie needs to win an average of 57% of all pledged delegates to overtake Clinton in the pledged delegate lead.
Believe it or not, that doesn’t sound as daunting as many in the corporate media would have you believe. Up until now, Bernie has won 53% of all pledged delegates outside of the South, even when the non Southern states of the March 15 primary are included. This is why the momentum from the next eight states is so crucial. If we are to increase that average by 4%, we need a very large spring board, and we have absolutely no room for error.
This absolutely cannot happen without all hands on deck. For starters, help out by phone banking. The instructions are easy, and having done it, not the least bit intimidating. You may have convinced yourself that you are simply too shy or socially awkward to do it, or that you don’t have the time. That’s fine, no one will ever know but you whether you did it, but as long as you understand that a Bernie nomination will never happen if you have decided you can’t get involved. There is no shortcut or magic solution, there is only the work that must be put in to contact voters in states that are voting and mobilizing them to the polls.
You can also help out by donating to the campaign. Most Bernie voters are not flush with cash but they make the room by foregoing that daily Starbucks, or their soda or bag of chips with their lunch they buy at work or other trivial expenses they don’t even realize they have, and they contribute $5-$10 every few days. You may believe it doesn’t make a difference, but Bernie has out raised everyone in the campaign through these small donations such as those, and can only remain competitive that way.
Lastly, you can keep contact with other Berners via this great resource for Bernie activists, the SandersForPresident subreddit. If you don’t have a reddit account, you can make one in seconds and it’s free. I strongly recommend it because it will keep you aware of everything that is going on with the campaign and other more experienced Bernie volunteers will give you a hand to make the most of your time and effort.
You can dismiss what I said and simply hope that Bernie can pull this off without you, or that the path is far easier than what I have laid out, but realize that I have done the math and numbers don’t lie, nor do they have a bias or passion. If we can’t put away the next eight contests, we will not have the momentum to get Bernie the necessary majority of pledged delegates for his nomination. It is up to you to ask yourself how deeply you feel the Bern, and how much you are willing to involve yourself to make it happen. This is a doable task, but not without help. Consider this the final wake up call for a political revolution. I hope you answer it.