I like Bernie Sanders. I joined the "Run Bernie, Run" Facebook group some time in 2014, because I thought that he would bring focus to bear on matters that needed it, and drag the campaign somewhat further to the left than her excessive caution would likely allow her to do otherwise. I am glad he got in the race, and I think most people would admit that his campaign has gained more traction than they ever expected.
But there is one small problem for Bernie: he is losing. That isn't a huge surprise, given that he is up against the Clinton machine and the DNC, but such is the enthusiasm engendered by his campaign, and the passionate hope of his supporters that he will prevail, many Berners are oblivious to the fact that unless Bernie starts winning delegates in the sorts of numbers that he needs some time soon, he will continue to fall further and further behind, making the goal even more unattainable. We keep hearing that the electoral landscape is going to start changing towards demographics that favor Bernie rather than Hillary, but the actual ETA at this Caucasian Canaan keeps getting deferred, like a departure on a budget airline with engine trouble.
According to Five Thirty Eight, Bernie is 11% behind where he needs to be if he is going to get the Democratic nomination. This doesn't sound like a huge margin, but when you consider that delegates are awarded proportionally, it means that at some point very soon, Bernie is going to have to start taking in >60% of the delegates in all the remaining contests in order to get the nomination. That is a big ask.
To put it in context, Bernie needs to start having the blowout victories that he had this Tuesday past in Idaho (78%) and Utah (79%) in almost every contest from here through to the last primary in the District of Columbia on June 14th. (Bernie is not going to get 60% in every one of the remaining contests, which pushes up the margins he needs to win by in the ones he does win.)
Here are some benchmarks to keep track of over the next few weeks, to see whether Bernie is on course for the nomination or slipping further behind:
Washington, Hawaii and Alaska
This should be good hunting ground for Bernie: Alaska is very white, Hawaii is very liberal, and Washington is white and liberal with a strong independent streak (not totally unlike New Hampshire).
Bernie needs to get 81 of the 142 available delegates. If he doesn't get them, he is falling further behind.
The fact that the current governor and failed presidential candidate, Scott Walker, has tried to destroy the labor movement in the state has probably pushed progressives even further left here. Scott Walker could be Bernie's best friend in his hunt for the White House. Nonetheless, the latest poll had Hillary 6% up, but given the polling debacle in Michigan, Bernie's people might fancy their chances.
If the Bern is hot at the weekend and Bernie scoops 81/142, in Wisconsin he needs to get 48 of the 86 available delegates. Failure makes the remaining hurdles even higher.
Wyoming is so white it could be in a Clorox commerical. 'Nuff said.
If Bernie manages to get the 48 (or more) he needs in Wisconson, then he will need to get 9 of the 14 available delegates. If he's not winning in Wyoming he better begin to wonder when to get out. If
Hillary Clinton is a former senator for the state of New York. You know what I mean?
The second-biggest prize left to play for in the Democratic primary. If Bernie has got himself back on track, then he needs 125 of the 247 available delegates, from where we stand today. If he has fallen short over the preceding few weeks, clearly he will need more. If he falls short in New York, then things are beginning to look desperate.
Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Rhode Island
The key demographic in this set of contests are going to be the urban voters in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Pittsburg and their suburbs, as well as the the suburbs and exburbs of of Washington D.C. and New York.
If Bernie's delegate haul is anywhere significantly south of 189 on the night, then continuing his campaign really is futile.
The question of when Bernie gets out of the race is important not just for the Hillary campaign, it also shines a light on the extent to which Bernie Sanders' candidacy really is about instituting a political revolution, as he often claims, or is more about him than he likes to admit.
If Bernie really wants a political revolution in the United States, he needs to decide at what point that goal is better served by getting Democrats, particularly liberal and progressive Democrats, elected to Congress. That begins with the primary process, and continues into the general election.
Bernie has demonstrated a tremendous capacity to raise money from small donors. But he also continues to burn it (sorry!) at a prodigious rate, on what appears to be an increasingly unlikely tilt at the presidency.
Bernie's goals of Wall Street and campaign finance reform (and overturning the Supreme Court's decision in Citizen's United via a constitutional amendment) can still be achieved, even if he doesn't win the White House, if Congress is onboard with these goals. How much longer Bernie chooses to spend his money on the democratic primary, rather than supporting progressive congressional candidates, will tell us a lot about how much the Bern is actually about Bernie rather than the revolution.
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Birdie Sanders image, courtesy of Donkey Hotey