South Carolina was devastating for Bernie Sanders; Massachusetts may well mean the end of any real chance for his campaign. South Carolina was way worse than expected. The worst of the worst poll said he would lose by 50. It seemed like an outrageous outlier. It wasn’t. There is no sugarcoating it. If the same happens on Tuesday, it would spell the end for Sanders campaign, even if he were to win Massachusetts and Vermont.
It isn’t going to be the worst possible outcome for Sanders everywhere (which would mean he would be down 300 pledged delegates), but it does look like he is going to lose Massachusetts. As a matter of fact, I think Super Tuesday may look closer to the best reasonably possible outcome for Sanders (down just 100 delegates … and this is where the Hillary Clinton campaign is conservatively pegging things). My best guess is that Sanders will be down between 150-200 delegates. There will be no ability to spin, pivot, or recover after a Massachusetts loss, however. The Clinton campaign will essentially declare victory, and the national media, reasonably so, will go along with it.
Here are the worst possibilities*, the best possibilities, my analysis and forecast for each state, and what to watch as exit polling and real results start to come in tomorrow night.
Worst – HC +27 Delegates HC 62 BS 33
Best – HC +12 Delegates HC 53 BS 42
My Analysis – A CBS/YouGov poll (HC +20%) has a lot of things right in terms of demographics by age, but under-polled Latina/os by 4-5%, Black voters by 5-7%, and Asian voters by 6%. PPP’s poll was mid-February, but had a very accurate representation of hispanic and Asian (or other) voters. Other voters (including Asians) were going for Sanders, interestingly, by 21%. Hispanic respondents still didn’t know much about Sanders and hadn’t made up their minds. Clinton was winning them by 30%, but 44% hadn’t made up their minds. Sanders shouldn’t have given up on this state so easily. Virginia’s economy is doing fairly well at 18th in the nation, and it is perhaps the most “establishment” state in dixieland. I’d like to quietly hope wildly for a very surprising single digit margin, but won’t. If Sanders had put appropriate resources into the campaign here, in Texas, in South Carolina, in Arkansas, and held serve in Massachusetts, this would have been an entirely different race. Let’s go with PPP at 22%. (D:58-37)
To Watch: Polls close at 7pm eastern. A significant population of Latina/os with 5% and Asians 7% – definitely, definitely, definitely check those exit polls for a breakdown of how they are voting.
Worst – HC +8 Delegates HC 49 BS 42
Best – BS +7 Delegates HC 43 BS 48
My Analysis: The polling is bad that has Clinton at +8. Too few millennials by 4-9%. Too few Latina/os. But the race is tighter than Sanders fans may have hoped it to be. Correcting for the errors in that poll still made the race awful close. A new poll from UMass out this morning is the death knell. That poll called the margin in New Hampshire exactly right this year. There have been undecideds in this state, including most especially the very popular Elizabeth Warren; Massachusetts could have gone Sanders all the way up through the disaster on Saturday. People want to vote with winners. And, yes, MA is a fairly White and Liberal state, but it’s white and liberal and establishment in a year where a dominant campaign theme is anti-establishment policies and rhetoric. HC +2 (D:47-44)
To Watch: Polls close at 8pm eastern. If Clinton does indeed pull off a win in this state, as Nate Silver now also very much predicts, he and the media as a whole will write the Sanders’ campaign obituary. Premature by a bit, perhaps, but very likely correct anyhow. It’s hard to see how Sanders could pick up any real momentum in states until late March. By then, even the most ardent Bernie Bro will likely be drowning sorrows in March Madness.
Worst – HC +40 Delegates HC 156 BS 66
Best – HC +10 Delegates HC 123 BS 99
My Analysis: Shame on the Sanders campaign for not setting and reaching a 100 delegate total here. It. Was. Possible. Splitting CBS and NBC’s final poll. 22.5% (D:136-88)
To Watch: Polls close at 7pm Central, 8 Eastern. Might the Latina/o share of the vote hit 35%? Likely not. The Sanders campaign did not learn the right lesson from Nevada at all. Look at the age and turnout for Latina/o’s keeping in mind that Sanders’ campaign very stupidly did not put almost any money into Texas. Will that mean similar turnout to 2008 (around 30%), with fewer young hispanics by far than Nevada? If it’s all the way down around 25%, we should all be screaming bloody murder about Texas’ new, very strict voting ID requirements.
Worst – HC +48 Delegates HC 39 BS 14
Best – HC +28 Delegates HC 32 BS 21
My Analysis: It’s like South Carolina but slightly more Conservative as a state. Prepare for the worst. (D: 39 BS 14) 7CST/8EST poll closing.
Worst – BS +74 Delegates HC 2 BS 14
Best – BS +83
My Analysis: Better than best because why not. A miniscule number of delegates are at stake. BS +86 (D:0-16) 7pm Eastern poll closing.
Worst – HC +34 Delegates HC 45 BS 22
Best – HC +26 Delegates HC 41 BS 26
My Analysis: Best from NBC this weekend also matches PPP from earlier. In Tennessee, African Americans should make up under 35% of the vote rather than over 60% as in South Carolina. Still, Tennessee Democrats, according to older polling, are slightly more conservative even then South Carolina’s. Tennessee’s economy is 37th out of 51 in the U.S., which means Sanders’ democratic socialism could appeal to substantial numbers of working class white people the way it has in West Virginia (worst economy in the nation). But Sanders gave up on Tennessee along with the rest of the SEC primary. People there aren’t desperate enough to introduce his ideas to themselves on their own. Other than African Americans, there is not a sizable population of people of color. Split the best and worst difference. +30 HC (D:43-24).
To Watch: Polls close 8 CST/9 EST. How does Sanders perform with voters making less than $40,000 a year in a conservative Southern state with a democratic electorate that has a sizable African American population, but one that is perhaps only half the size of South Carolina’s?
Worst – HC +52 Delegates HC 78 BS 24
Best – HC +28 Delegates HC 66 BS 36
My Analysis: Killer Mike’s early and persistent efforts pay off in a small way. It isn’t the worst, but is worse than CBS and NBC’s final predictions and RCP’s average. Closer to Survey USA’s slightly earlier poll. HC + 38 (D: 71-31)
To Watch: How bad is the damage when polls close here, along with VA and VT, earliest of the evening, at 7pm eastern?
Worst – HC +32 24-13
Best – HC +15 22-15
My Analysis: Arkansas, where Bill was governor but with the 44th worst economy in the U.S., stuns everyone by nearly going in the loss column for Clinton. All of the sudden people look at the recent West Virginia poll and compare the two states if their African American populations were more even. Ok. I’m going totally wild with one pick. It’s only 37 delegates and will be balanced by how overcautious I’ve been on Minnesota. HC +4. (D: 19-18)
To Watch: A late, pyrrhic victory for Sanders at 7:30 CST/8:30 EST? Not likely, really, but man would that embarrass the way the Sanders campaign was run.
Worst – HC +25 24-14
Best – BS +6 18-20
My Analysis: No significant polling in last two weeks, very little before that, but polling with a very definite trend (update, a Monmouth poll out late this morning almost precisely continues the trend) . Lots of effort here by the Sanders campaign. They need it to be a 10 point win and will come close (update, exceed). BS +12 (D:15-23)
To Watch: Poll close 7 CST/8 EST. If Sanders victorious, watch all the pundits erasing Latina/os (9% of Oklahoma eligible voters) and Native Americans (11% of eligible voters in the state) by saying Bernie only won because it is a white state. Take it to the bank; it’s going to happen.
Worst – HC +34 51-26
Best – BS +21 32-45
My Analysis: Minnesota scares the jeebers outta me almost worse than Massachusetts, to be quite frank. No polling, except for an awful one for Sanders in mid-to-late-January. And this in a state that elected Jesse Ventura for Governor. Very anti-establishment. Everyone wants you to think Sanders is going to walk easy here. But that poll. That one damn poll. Shivers. Squeaker. Upset. HC +2 (D:40-37)
To Watch: Minnesota caucuses begin at 7pm CST/ 8pm EST. If you’re still paying attention when results begin coming in hours later, you, like me, will likely be looking for silver linings where there are none.
Worst – HC +1 Delegates 34-32
Best – BS +11 Delegates 29-37
My Analysis: Best. And Sanders wins the Latino vote more clearly this time. BS +11 (D:29-37)
To Watch: 7pm MST/9pm EST standard time start for CO caucuses. See Minnesota “To Watch”: there should be a silver lining, here though. If Sanders wins or draws with the Latino vote, we can talk about how Latina/o voters have been completely erased by a Democratic machine that has failed hispanic voters very badly and will fail them even worse when Clinton loses to Trump because she has no clear message or policy alternative to Trump on immigration.
There is one chance that Sanders can continue, reasonably, if he loses Massachusetts: sweeping Minnesota, Oklahoma, and Colorado by impressive numbers and decisively winning Latina and Latino voters in Texas would reset the entire calculus of the campaign. I think the hispanic vote in Texas will be even and am terribly worried about Minnesota, however.
Current: 91-65 pledged delegate lead for Clinton nationally
Worst: HC +290 pledged delegates, for ~315 lead nationally
Best: HC +40 pledged delegates, for +75 national lead
Actual Possible Best^: HC by ~90, ~115 delegate lead nationally
My Forecast: HC +126 (range 125-175 for Super Tuesday for 150-200 lead nationally). Still, game, set, match because of Massachusetts loss.
It’s a Kissinger-friendly-Democrat whose alternative job would be managing director of Goldman Sachs versus Donald Trump, still deciding whether the KKK is a bad organization. USA USA USA!
Fly me to the moon.
*I’ve taken the worst possibilities from the worst reasonable poll that is out that was taken in 2016. In the case of Colorado, there is only one poll, which is a push poll by a GOP firm. A small loss for Sanders there is a definite possibility. I’ve taken the best possibilities from either the best possible poll available in 2016 or where polling was non-existent or sparse from 538’s analysis of where each state race would be if this is a even race nationally.
^After Saturday, there is no reasonable way to think it won’t be close to the very worst in Alabama, Georgia, and likely also Tennessee and Virginia.
Update 1: Based on the new Monmouth poll out today, I’ve revised my Oklahoma numbers up slightly from +4 for Best Outcome to +8 for my prediction for Bernie Sanders to +5 and +10 for the same. I’ve also very slightly adjust Alabama numbers. Monmouth has had a measurable pro-Clinton bias of several points if you exclude South Carolina where everyone was wrong except Clemson. I’ve also added the bit at the end about the possibilities if Clinton wins MA and Sanders wins MN, CO, and OK by substantial margins.