For my Republican New York Primary Preview, click here.
This is one of the rare times where the hype matches the stakes. If Hillary Clinton wins New York and most of its 247 pledged delegates, the math, which already looked so bad for Bernie Sanders, will have never looked worse. Let’s look at hypothetical scenarios coming out of New York so we can understand the gravity of this primary.
Scenario 1) A narrow Clinton win
Even if Clinton just squeaks by and earns, say, 125 New York delegates to 122 for Sanders, the damage to Sanders isn’t that he falls three more delegates behind, it’s that A) He lost an opportunity to win in Clinton’s home state, which would shake her support in future states; and B) There are 247 fewer remaining pledged delegates to make up his sizable pledged delegate deficit. New York is the second biggest state of the Democratic Primary. With just one contest, the primary’s remaining pledged delegates would drop from 1647 to 1400. That’s 15 percent fewer remaining delegates overnight, and no progress for Sanders.
Essentially, a narrow loss from Sanders in Clinton’s home stat might seem like a positive result, but I see it more like a football team, down by two touchdowns mid-way through the fourth quarter, putting together a nice drive but coming up short of the end zone. Sure, there was some laudable progress, but not only was there no touchdown, a ton of time came off the clock in the process.
Scenario 2) A big Clinton win
Obviously this is even worse for Sanders. The current RCP average has Clinton at 53.6 and Sanders at 41.6:
Let’s say, for the sake of this scenario, it ends up Clinton 57, Sanders 43. That gives Clinton 141 pledged delegates to Sanders’s 106. Below is a before and after of their pledged delegate counts. In parentheses would be the percent of remaining pledged delegates needed to win a majority of pledged delegates overall (2,026). (The not inconsequential superdelegate factor is ignored here for the sake of Sanders’s competitiveness.)
It’s unreasonable to expect Sanders to win nearly 60 percent of remaining delegates if his momentum is blunted in New York. Clinton would benefit in polls across the upcoming northeast primaries. Considering how few caucuses are left, it’s tough to see where Sanders can get any wins with 60 percent of delegates, to say nothing of earning an average of 60 percent across every remaining contest.
Scenario 3) A Sanders win of any margin
Now here’s where things get interesting. If Sanders win in New York, he might win every remaining state. Every single one.
Bernie Sanders has a knack for closing the gap in every contest he has with Hillary Clinton. Clinton once had big leads in every state, but when Sanders shows up, starts spending his considerable treasury, and holds his rallies, he always narrows his deficit. Clinton was inoculated from that trend on the bigger primary days across many states — Super Tuesday and March 15, for examples — but Sanders is at his best when he can target. Part of it is just the natural tendency of underdogs to make a late run as people get to know them and the media pushes the horse race, but part of it is Sanders’s magnetic passion and authenticity winning over the masses.
If Sanders overcomes the deficit in Clinton’s home state, she wouldn’t have one safe state the rest of the way, and it wouldn’t be unreasonable to think Sanders can win every contest down the stretch, with margins in the high 50s in play.
Would it be enough? It might be. Consider the following:
The campaign hopes to position itself for liberal California, which holds its primary on the penultimate day of voting (its June 7 primary is one week before the final contest, Washington DC). Thanks to its huge population and many “bonus” delegates earned by its Democratic voting record, it has a gargantuan delegate haul — 475 pledged delegates, nearly twice as many as second place New York. The Sanders Campaign is hoping to be within a stone’s throw by that day. Consider that if he wins the state with 60 percent of the vote, he’d get 285 delegates to Clinton’s 190, a net gain of 95.
The question is, can he get the deficit down to 95? Let’s figure it out.
As shown earlier, he’s down 210 pledged delegates (1307 – 1097) heading into New York. To get that down to 95, he needs to “outscore” Clinton by 115 pledged delegates between now and June 7. Between now and June 7, there are 933 pledged delegates up for grabs across 13 contests. However, June 7 itself has five contests in addition to Big Daddy Cali, and those total 219 delegates. Add that to our 933 and we arrive at 1,152. That’s how many delegates Sanders has to work with to get his 210 pledge delegate deficit down to 95.
What would it take to do that? If Sanders won 55 percent of those 1,152 pledged delegates, he’d earn 634 delegates to Clinton’s 518. Sanders’s deficit of 210 would be down to 94, meaning a 60 percent margin in California could put him on top by a solitary delegate.
Well, kind of. Let’s not forget:
- It starts with a win in New York, or else he’d need to win more than 55 percent of remaining delegates, and he’d have to do it without a loss in Clinton’s home state bringing down her numbers across the board.
- Washington DC will vote after California and should be a huge Clinton win, so even if Sanders does take a single-digit lead after June 7, DC’s 20 pledged delegates might hand it back to Clinton as the final piece of momentum heading into the convention.
- None of this analysis included superdelegates, which, remember, might not change their minds just because Sanders wins the national pledged delegate race.
Nevertheless, New York is huge, both in acreage and political power. If Sanders pulls off the upset tonight, no Clinton lead is safe the rest of the way.
Now to see if he can do it.
Trump 56, Kasich 23, Cruz 21 (But Kasich/Cruz find a way to block the 95-delegate sweep)
Clinton 56, Sanders 44 (It’s a “closed primary,” after all, and after two Senate wins, Clinton knows how to win the state. New York is no Michigan.)