Another Path to Victory for Bernie Sanders

cross-posted at CounterPunch

On March 2, I wrote up the projection that became Bernie’s Narrow Path to Victory in Counterpunch. Parts of it have held up incredibly well; other parts have been quite wrong. The overall outlook, however, is that five weeks and some 1371 contested pledged delegates later, Bernie Sanders is only about a dozen delegates short of where I said he would need to be as of April 6.

Not bad.

At the same time, aside from the contests of March 15, my race by race forecasts using a number of data points including FiveThirtyEight’s Facebook Primary (Adjusted to USPD), have been substantially accurate. Meanwhile, Nate Silver and FiveThirtyEight have set out a Rose Colored Glasses scenario for getting Sanders to the most pledged delegates as of June 15.

In what follows, I am not going to go over Bernie’s Narrow Path or the Rose Colored Path in any detail but will refer to them each occasionally.  We’ve learned a bunch about what is possible and what isn’t in the previous five weeks. If you pressed me hard, I would probably say that Sanders is likely to fall around 50 delegates short on June 15, provided he even survives the race beyond April 26. But a potential 50 delegate shortfall in a more than 4,000 delegate race is no reason at all to throw in the towel. As such, I’m setting out a more realistic path to victory for Bernie Sanders than either my own month old effort or FiveThirtyEight’s.


The major thing to learn, and that FiveThirtyEight definitively ignores, is the lesson of the Ides of March: hitting at or near your ceiling in five big states on one day as an insurgent is an impossible order. Four of the five races that will be held on April 26th, as opposed to just one on March 15, will be closed primaries.  Accordingly, I am setting out a path to victory with much more pressure on the later race in California. Here is Another Path to Victory in text summary form; race by race notes bunched according to the calendar to follow:

Another Path Final



I will talk about why I think Sanders’ ceiling is 25% in California in a separate post later this week (in brief, West Coast progressivism, adjusted Facebook Primary numbers, lots of time, Asian voters preferring Sanders strongly to date, and especially Latina and Latino millennials). You’ll also note that I’ve put New Jersey a bit high at +10, where even Silver’s Rose Colored Projection only gives him a laughing chance of +6. Putting this kind of down race expectation on June 7 without going totally overboard allows for more realism about the challenges and potentials of April 19 and April 26.


Before quick explanations for each pick in clustered form, I should say why the projection has Sanders down just ~202 delegates where you are likely seeing other numbers around 220 or even 250.

The biggest difference from the “down 250” talking point is that we all know Sanders has already won Washington very big and will shave an additional 30 or so delegates from Clinton’s lead the moment they are tallied. The Green Papers delegate by delegate projections using the actual rules of Democratic races by state is what I am using to say +31 Sanders (74-27 total for Washington, where AP, NYT, HuffPo, etc. currently have it at just 25-9.). I am also using Green Papers projections for unassigned delegates from March 15, for an additional +3 for Sanders. Sanders will have an additional 4 delegates when Nevada’s state delegate convention meets (+2 Sanders, -2 Clinton according to Ralston Reports). I am projecting Sanders +54.9% / +8 delegates for Wyoming on Saturday, bringing the AP total as of this morning down from a 250 Sanders deficit to just 202. This could obviously move a few delegates one way or another over time, especially Saturday.*


April 19 – May 3, Even Steven
New York is now less than two weeks away and is turning into one of the great political contests in recent memory. Sanders gets to treat the race like the last, barnstorming weeks of a gubenatorial campaign as he did in Michigan and Wisconsin where he maxed out pretty near his ceilings. Clinton is now fighting, if not for her political life, tooth and nail not to be embarrassed in her own backyard or, better yet, for the final convincing victory she needs to claim presumptive nominee status without remainder. Currently, Clinton is plus 11 in RealClearPolitics’ polling average and enjoys a 24.4% Polls Plus lead with a 95% chance of victory per FiveThirtyEight.

Sanders, meanwhile, has to max out his potential in New York City and surrounding counties (probably around a 43-45% ceiling in my view) and win big with big turnout Upstate like he has outside the Detroit-Flint corridor in Michigan and outside of Milwaukee in Wisconsin. In this projection, Sanders could lose New York very narrowly as long as in Pennsylvania he hits at or near the 7% margin of victory FiveThirtyEight lays out in the Rose Colored Path. I have stated in another very recent piece why I think the race in Pennsylvania is currently a dead heat.

Another Path projects that Sanders could lose Maryland and Delaware pretty big (by around 25%) much like Southern states with large African American populations. With comfortably small victories for a total of +5 delegates on the same day in Connecticut and Rhode Island (rather than the huge +13 and +33 victories projected by the Rose Colored Path), Sanders could finish April 26th slightly down from his pre-New York numbers so long as he has a decent 8-10 point win in Indiana on May 3rd. Indiana holds an open primary on a date all by itself in a state with just under a 10% African American population. Wisconsin’s African American population is 7%.

May 4 – May 31, +50 Needed
There are just three state contests in four weeks here, giving Sanders a chance to run up the score in states favorable to him regionally, economically, and demographically. Still, on account of its status as a closed primary state, I’ve projected Sanders at +36 in Oregon, a 25% lower spread than Rose Colored Path’s +48. Another Path’s projections are slightly higher for West Virginia than Rose Colored Path’s (+40 versus +31) and Kentucky (+26 versus +20). I am using similar methodology for setting the ceiling in West Virginia that I did in correctly calling Oklahoma where virtually no one else did. To be honest, I have not yet looked all that closely at Kentucky and probably will not until after May 3.

June 4 – June 7, California Dreamin’ (but that’s not all folks) +163 Needed
June 7 is another hugely clustered day on the primary calendar, the biggest, in fact, in terms of number and mix of states. but it comes after a very slowly paced period with just five state races in six weeks. I’ve called Guam (May 7), Virgin Islands (June 4), and Puerto Rico with 60 delegates available (June 5) as virtually even. If Clinton wins Puerto Rico big the way she did in 2008, there would be even more pressure put on California, New Jersey, South and North Dakota, Montana, and New Mexico for the Sanders camp. Sanders will need, according to Another Path’s projection, around a 25 point win in California for a nearly 120 delegate jump, plus another 40 or so from the remaining five states, all of which actually have special challenges, especially New Jersey. Beyond California, and perhaps New Jersey, I see little sense in setting out a rationale for each state’s potential before the April 19 – May 3 contests finish up. In general, my projections are similar to or lesser than the Rose Colored Path’s projections for these contests.

June 14 Washington D.C. -10 Allowed
Bernie, if he somehow manages to fill the toweringly tall order up to this point, would head into the final contest in Washington D.C. with a needed 11 delegate lead, giving him a chance to sneak out the backdoor with a one pledged delegate victory even with a 50 point, 15-5 delegate loss in the Capital city he hopes to govern from come January 2017.

In my view, the four states beyond Pennsylvania on April 26th, along with New Jersey and California on June 7th, are the places Clinton is most likely to claim final victory, if at all. I am sure she would love to do so on April 19 in New York, but it does not look like Upstate realities and two straight weeks of non-stop media attention for both candidates will let that be a reality. Clinton winning New York by a hair, or even by as many as five points (as in my original Narrow Path Projection) does not necessarily knock Sanders out if he carries Pennsylvania comfortably.

*Update: this morning the New York Times delegate count included +31 from Washington with an asterisk next to the total. A previous version of this article included +5 for Sanders in Arizona from the original AP delegate count. As expected, now that the results certified Tuesday have been included in the AP totals, Sanders has gained three delegates in Arizona; Clinton has lost two. An additional delegate, apparently in Kansas, shifted from the Sanders column to the Clinton column overnight. The Green Papers for Kansas has Sanders 24-9 over Clinton. The AP totals show 23-10. This means that the race currently stands at +212 delegates for Clinton. On March 16, her lead stood at +319.



  1. simeon · April 9, 2016

    Dear Sir, now that the +54 spread in Wyoming failed to materialize , what kind of pressure does it put for downstate contests?


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