In the 2016 race for the Democratic nomination for president, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders really only has one problem: Mathematics.
As the dust settles on Super Tuesday, two mathematical points that will eventually doom Sanders have become crystal clear. First, the insurgent presidential candidate has almost no support among Black voters, and very limited support among Latinos. Secondly, because of the proportional allocation of delegates in the Democratic primary, Hillary Clinton has already built an insurmountable lead.
As it pertains to people of color, Sanders doesn’t need to win Black and Latino voters, he just needs to keep the margins respectable. As it turns out, that’s easier said than done. On Super Tuesday, Clinton received more than 70% of the Black vote in every state. Every state. In Arkansas and Alabama, she received more than 90% of the Black vote. These aren’t wins; these are epic blowouts. In Texas, Clinton beat Sanders among Latino voters by 40 points! When you consider how many Latino voters there are in Texas, any double-digit win among them usually signals an electoral rout. (Clinton won Texas, 65% – 33%.)
No matter how much Sanders claims to be leading a “political revolution,” no one can win the Democratic nomination while performing so poorly among people of color. Moreover, Sanders’s inability to keep the margins closer truly calls into question his entire candidacy.
By contrast, Clinton either wins the White vote (as she did in Massachusetts) or she keeps the margins respectable (as she’s done in all the Southern states).
Demographics alone would eventually sink any chance Sanders has to win the nomination. However, he also has a very unforgiving delegate math problem.
In terms of pledged delegates, Clinton now leads 596-399. A candidate needs 2,383 delegates to win the nomination, but since delegates are awarded proportionally, even a modest deficit is hard to overcome. In fact, if Clinton narrowly lost every state from here on out — she would still win enough delegates to clinch the nomination. Because of the proportional allocation process, Sanders would need to defeat Clinton by huge margins — similar to how she has beaten him in the South.
But here’s the real problem: there are a ton of states remaining on the calendar that favor Clinton. Louisiana, Mississippi, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Florida, Illinois, New York and Pennsylvania have yet to vote. Almost all of these states have high concentrations of Black and/or Latino voters. If Clinton just breaks even among these states, she easily wins the nomination. And if her performance up to now is any guide, many of these states will be blowout wins for her.
No matter how you look at it, Team Sanders has a serious math problem that will eventually end its bid for the presidency. You could argue that these math problems have already ended Sanders’s bid for the presidency. No matter what Bernie Sanders says in the days ahead — nothing he can do from this point forward will add up to a win.