Hillary Clinton had a great Tuesday night. She won all five states and amassed a sizable 324 delegate lead over her rival Bernie Sanders. Some wondered if another Michigan miracle would happen, especially in Ohio and Illinois, but political miracles are typically in short supply. Pundits, and even the Clinton campaign were ready to yet again declare that the Democratic race is nothing but over.
While pundits’ hindsight is 20/20, their foresight is hardly something to brag about. It’s that same foresight that predicted that Trump would never be a challenger to the “prohibitive frontrunner” Jeb Bush. With that in mind, here are the five reasons why the pundits are wrong, and why the Democratic race is not over yet:
- Money and Resources
Unlike typical candidates, Bernie Sanders relies primarily on small contributions. Despite Tuesday results, enthusiastic Sanders supporters continued to make 10, 20 or 30 dollar contributions, raising over $4 million in three days of which 20% of these donations are from new contributors. Sanders will continue to run ads on a national level, and will be able to open campaign offices in the upcoming contests. Sanders also has a very excited base, with over 400,000 active volunteers who will continue to canvass, phone bank and spread his message to potential voters.
- Favorable Map
Hillary Clinton swept the conservative southern states. She won all 11 states, gaining a 374 delegate advantage from those states alone. The south gave Clinton over 92% of her delegate advantage.
Now that’s all behind Bernie Sanders. The upcoming states heavily favor Sanders demographically and ideologically. Many liberal parts of the country such as Washington, Oregon, California and New York have yet to cast a vote. As the map below illustrates, 84% of upcoming states favor Bernie Sanders demographically.
This is the most overlooked aspect in the race. 46% of all delegates were decided between the first and second Super Tuesdays (March 1 – 15) featuring 24 contests. This is extremely condensed and makes it extremely difficult for challengers to reach enough voters, establish name recognition and be competitive. To make matters worse for the Sanders campaign, 10 of the 11 southern states, which heavily favor Hillary Clinton, voted during this short span.
Sanders supporters should now breathe a sigh of relief as the pace for the race will slow down significantly. The Sanders campaign will be able to spend more than five times the time to cater to upcoming states. There will be over a month’s time to gain momentum in New York and Pennsylvania, and an additional 40 days to surge in California.
California is essentially the last contest in the Democratic race, only ahead of Washington DC. There are 475 pledged delegates in play which represent over 23% of all remaining delegates. Bernie Sanders has a lot of time and resources to sway voters in the Golden State. If Bernie Sanders pulls the type of win that Hillary had in Florida or Texas, he could erase as much as 46% of her lead in one contest! But even if Bernie Sanders performs half as well, he could still end up cutting Clinton’s lead by about one-third.
- Superdelegates and the Inevitability Curse
Clinton campaign has already called the campaign over. Mainstream media and Clinton supporters point to Clinton’s massive lead of over 750 delegates (which include superdelegates) and ridicule any notion of a comeback.
This inevitability could curse the Clinton campaign. Clinton volunteers are less likely to spend personal time for the campaign. Supporters are less likely to vote or caucus. Hillary Clinton will spend less time campaigning; she has yet to visit Utah which caucuses next week. Bernie Sanders could capitalize on these errors and may even pull more Michigan-like performances.
What pundits and Clinton supporters are missing is that superdelegates are actually powerless. There is absolutely no scenario where superdelegates will be able to save Clinton should Sanders win more pledged delegates. The superdelegates will basically have a choice between choosing Bernie Sanders or the Republican nominee. Already 33% of Sanders supporters are considering not voting for Hillary Clinton if she is nominated. But it goes without saying that Sanders supporters would riot against the Democratic Party if superdelegates award the nomination to Clinton. They would stay at home, write in Bernie, vote for Jill Stein or even vote for the Republicans nominee just to punish the elites. You may call these supporters foolish, unrealistic, crazy, but that doesn’t change this reality: Superdelegates will never be able to save Clinton.
This doesn’t change the fact that Bernie Sanders is still facing an uphill battle to pull one of the greatest comebacks in US political history. But for now, it’s too early to call this race over.