As predicted by me here, with some noteworthy exceptions down at the county level, Bernie Sanders won a stunning upset in Michigan and, contrary to the “he still can’t win” spin, proved that he can stay in this thing with a reasonable chance at victory all the way through June 7.
All told, it’s been a stellar run since Saturday with Sanders meeting or exceeding my delegate expectations, it appears, in every state except Mississippi. The excess delegates in other states, especially Kansas, should be enough, when everything in Maine and Michigan is finally assigned, to mean he keeps pace with “Bernie’s Narrow Path to Victory.” (Remember that my delegate math is different than FiveThirtyEight’s primarily because it is based on a less-rigidly maintained anti-establishment campaign narrative rather than The White and Liberal™narrative).
But beware the Ides of March.
To put it crassly, Bernie needs five Michigans on March 15 and he only has one week to do it.
Ok, that also isn’t quite accurate. The Sanders Campaign, as noted previously in “Bernie’s Narrow Path,” does not need to win in Florida (214 pledged delegates), but he cannot afford another thirty point loss as in Texas. As it is the state where my two oldest children were born, it warmed the cockles of my heart when I realized late last week that Bernie also is not conceding North Carolina (107 pledged delegates). My model suggests that Sanders needs to garner about 130 of those 331 pledged delegates, or about 40%. There is good news to be had in North Carolina based on polling by Elon University (note, Clemson got South Carolina right and Michigan State got last night nearly right where all the other pollsters or poll aggregators were way off), but it will require all out effort to meet the potential. Florida has a few real wild cards that are simply too much to predict rightly. (More when I address and attempt to forecast reasonable ranges for each state in the next few days).
The other three states, however, require definite wins from Sanders. Once again, there is awful polling for Sanders in two out of the three states (Ohio and Illinois). I need to get into the weeds with the numbers there, but I suspect they’re equally ridiculous in terms of age breakdown, polling size, use of landlines only, and inability to fathom how rural voters will go. In Ohio, at least, we once again have a University poll that RealClearPolitics has perversely refused to include in their accounting that says Sanders was already leading by one point as of February 20th. In Illinois, we are stuck with nonsense like this side-splitting idiocy from Chicago Tribune yesterday suggesting a 42 point deficit for The Bern. Nope.
The third state Sanders needs to win is Missouri, where we have no reliable polling, so far as I know, since August. Sanders needs to take about 200 delegates out of the 370 available between the three (about 54%) to stay viable and really ought to be closer to 225 (61%) so that he isn’t storing up wrath for himself in states like Pennsylvania and California where my model predicted much better outcomes as the Sanders campaign finally has a chance for top-notch ground games.
Frankly, right now, state level organization in places like Illinois and Ohio falls well short of the mark. Outstanding national level organizing and strategizing is going far better and Sanders incredible social media strength paying huge dividends.
So there it is: based on deep 538 database work, I very accurately predicted the biggest upset in American polling history, bigger even than Gary Hart shocking Walter Mondale in New Hampshire in 1984. That happened because pollsters and dismissive poll aggregators and forecasters bought into their own bogus narratives. The mistake would be for Bernie people to do the same thing.
Again, beware the Ides of March. 300 pledged delegates is the very barest minimum to stay viable, 350 puts the campaign in great position to finally shut up the critics and go all the way to the Golden State.