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“The Unfuzzy Math”: Bernie Sanders’s Final Few Days of California Dreamin’

So here we are. It all comes down to Calif—hey, wait. No, it doesn’t all come down to California.

That’s how Bernie Sanders has been framing next Tuesday, and the media have completely bought into it. Watching cable news, you’d think that if Bernie wins California, Jerry Garcia’s going to rise from his grave and the Dead will reunite and Sanders will be the nominee.

California’s big, and California’s razor close, and certainly it makes a difference whether Sanders or Hillary Clinton wins it. But not that big a difference. A whopping total of 475 delegates are at stake, but if it’s as close as the polls suggest, the winner stands to net a mere 20 or 30 delegates. Using this excellent delegate calculator, let’s go through all the remaining races and then circle back to the big prize, bearing in mind that right now, among pledged delegates, it’s Clinton up by 268, 1,769 to 1,501.

Saturday June 4, Virgin Islands. Seven delegates are at stake. The U.S.V.I. are three-quarters African American and just 15 percent white. So say Clinton wins it 75-25. She’ll take five delegates to Sanders’s two, netting three.

Sunday, June 5, Puerto Rico. I’ve been banging on about Puerto Rico being important because it has 60 delegates, which is a pretty big prize. Let’s say Clinton wins that one by, oh, 65-35, which doesn’t seem crazy. She’ll win the delegate contest 39-21, netting 18.

Then come all the contests on Tuesday, June 7:

South Dakota has 20 delegates. Say Sanders wins 60-40. He’ll win the delegate race 12-8, netting four.

North Dakota has 18 delegates. Give Sanders another 60-40 win here; again, he’ll win 11-7, netting another four.

Montana has 21 delegates. Give Sanders a third win of about that size. That’s 13-8 in terms of delegates, so he nets five more.

New Mexico is a little more interesting. It has 34 delegates. A poll came out earlier this week showing Clinton with a 26-point lead. I can’t quite believe that, but about half the turnout is expected to be Latino, so give Clinton New Mexico by 14 or 15 and she wins the delegate race 20-14, netting six.

Now we come to New Jersey and its 126 delegates. Not much polling. There was one in early April that showed Clinton +9, but early April was a long time ago. An early May survey had her +28, and a mid-May one +17. Sanders certainly hasn’t been competing there much. Let’s be if anything a little conservative and say Clinton wins it roughly 58-42. That translates into delegate totals of 73-53, so she’ll pick up 20 delegates.

So if these totals are about right, Clinton will win another 170 delegates, Sanders another 136. That would put her at 1,939 and him at 1,637. Which brings us to California.

California’s 475 pledged delegates are awarded in a pretty complicated way (here’s a PDF of the whole plan, if you’re interested). Most of them, 317, are awarded within congressional districts based on who won that district. There are 53 of those. In 2008, according to Bob Mulholland, the veteran California Democratic insider and a Clinton supporter this year, she won 42 of them. “But that’s an eight-year-old race,” as he noted to me, so who knows if it means anything for this year. Another little wrinkle is that all congressional districts aren’t created equal—some have as many as nine delegates, others as few as four. Just 105 delegates are awarded on the basis of the total statewide vote, and then there are 53 elected officials and party operatives who are pledged according to the results. That’s your 475. Then there are 73 superdelegates, from Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer on down.

But put them aside. This is about pledged delegates, right, because that’s what’s up for grabs when people vote. This brings us to one of the great obfuscations of this primary season.

You always read that a candidate needs 2,383 delegates to clinch the nomination. And that is true if you include superdelegates. Hang with me here, this matters. There are 4,051 pledged delegates and 713 supers. Add those two numbers together, then divide that by two, then add one (i.e., 50 percent plus one). That gets you to 2,383.

But if you’re talking pledged delegates only, 50 percent plus one is 2,026. You never see that number, and I guess I understand why—2,383 is the number, officially. But 2,026 is a majority of pledged delegates—you know, the ones you win by persuading voters to pull the lever with your name on it. I’ve been mystified as to why the Clinton people aren’t pushing more awareness of the 2,026 number. If the situation were reversed, we can be sure that Jeff Weaver would be all over cable denouncing the mere existence of 2,383, that strutting harlot of a number!

So it’s next Tuesday night in California. The state-by-state delegate scenario that I played out above has occurred. Clinton is at 1,939, needing just 87 delegates out of California to hit 2,026. Do you know how badly Sanders would have to beat her to limit her to 86 delegates? No, you don’t. But I do. He’d have to win by 82 to 18 percent. That would net Bernie 309 delegates out of California and would get him to 2,026, while she’d have 2,025.

That isn’t going to happen. What’s going to happen, even if Sanders wins the state by, say, three or four points, is that he will net about 20 delegates, but she will still have won around 225 or 230, meaning she will exceed 2,026 by about 150 delegates, and Sanders will be short of the magic number by about the same amount. And then there’ll be a little cherry placed on the sundae the following Tuesday when the District of Columbia votes and Clinton wins big and nets another 10 or so delegates.

So that’s the unfuzzy math. It has nothing at all to do with the superdelegates Sanders and Weaver have spent months traducing. It’s pledged delegates, earned in the voting booth (or at the caucus hall). Superdelegates will never, ever, ever undo such an outcome, and they never, ever, ever should. In a season when Sanders people have alleged a rigged system and sometimes outright theft, that would be the only actual case of theft in this season—for superdelegates to tell the voters sorry, you made the wrong choice when you chose your candidate, who is (incidentally) the first woman nominee in our party’s history.

And then California Democrats will meet after the fact at the Long Beach Hyatt Regency on June 19 to formalize everything, just like that recent meeting in Nevada. But let’s not even go there.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, June 3, 2016

June 5, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, California Primary, Hillary Clinton, Pledged Delegates | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Momentum Is Irrelevant”: Why Bernie Sanders Supporters Can’t Accept The Grim End Of Their Crusade

It’s hard to say goodbye to something you love — and there are a lot of people right now who absolutely love Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. As well they should. It has been one of the most remarkable happenings in the recent history of American politics, as a rumpled, crotchety 74-year-old socialist put together a serious challenge to the Democratic Party’s anointed candidate, raising over $200 million and energizing young people across the country for a revolutionary crusade to remake American politics.

So you can understand why Sanders supporters have trouble accepting that there’s just no way for him to be the party’s nominee. Part of it comes from the fact that, technically, it’s still possible for Sanders to prevail. Yes, it would require him to persuade nearly every remaining Democratic voter to cast a ballot for him, and then get all the superdelegates now supporting Clinton to flip as well. So who knows?

Here’s the brutal truth, though: No matter how the big prize of California comes out next Tuesday, Clinton is still going to have a majority of the delegates and is still going to be the Democratic nominee. As Harry Enten has observed, it’s a near-certainty that Clinton will officially pass the number of delegates she needs when New Jersey closes its polls at 8 p.m. eastern on Tuesday. Even though the California primary looks to be extremely close — the widely revered Field Poll shows Clinton leading Sanders by a margin of 45 percent to 43 percent, and other recent polls have found similar splits — since Democrats allocate delegates proportionally, the two candidates will gain similar numbers of delegates. It won’t matter at that point who nosed out who in that last big contest.

But tell that to a Sanders supporter, and you’ll likely get an earful of protestation. That’s not because they aren’t rational people, it’s because they have so much invested in his campaign — often financially or in terms of the time they’ve spent, but mostly emotionally. Bernie has promised them so much, and the campaign has accomplished so much, that saying, “Oh well, we gave it a good shot but it didn’t work out” must seem like a betrayal of everything they’ve been fighting for.

Hillary Clinton has offered her supporters little in the way of grand dreams and glorious visions of transformation. She’s a pragmatic politician presenting a pragmatic program. Sanders, on the other hand, is a candidate of revolution. He asked his supporters to believe in something epic, to change their thinking about what’s possible in politics. If you Felt the Bern, you yourself were transformed. To admit that the campaign is over means admitting that the dream is dead, and that person you wanted to be — hopeful, committed, optimistic — was wrong about what was possible.

Add to that the fact that Sanders supporters have convinced each other that the system is rigged, which means that any outcome other than Sanders winning is not just unfortunate but fundamentally illegitimate. If you believe that, it means that once you assent to a Clinton victory you’ve assented to corruption.

While Sanders himself has gotten some criticism for not bowing out already or acknowledging that it’s all over, you can’t blame him — and when you watch him being interviewed in recent weeks, you can see his internal struggle. He surely feels that at the very least, he has an obligation to stay in the race long enough for all his supporters to have the chance to cast their ballots for him. And it would be weird to say, “I’m still in the race, even though I know I’ve lost.” So he can be forgiven for putting the best face on things, even if it sometimes means he has to stray into fantasyland. “If we win California, and if we win South Dakota, and North Dakota and Montana and New Mexico and New Jersey, and the following week do well in Washington, D.C.,” he told rapturous supporters this week, “I think we will be marching into the Democratic convention with an enormous amount of momentum.”

Which is, of course, ridiculous. First of all, he’s not going to win all those places. But even if he did, Clinton will still have passed beyond the majority of delegates she needs. After all the voting is done, “momentum” is irrelevant. It’s like saying that even though your team lost the game 5-4, the fact that you scored a run in the ninth inning means you ought to be considered the winner.

Even after all the TV anchors and newspaper headlines declare that Clinton is now the nominee of the party, there will be a few Sanders supporters who refuse to accept it (and those few will surely have no problem finding cameras into which they can air their grievances). They’ll say Bernie can still make his case to the superdelegates, that they’re holding out for the FBI to indict Clinton, that it was never a fair fight to begin with. If you feel the urge to mock, consider sparing a sympathetic thought for them.

They’ve come a long way, and their idealism is something our system needs. And eventually, even if it takes a while, they’ll make their peace with defeat.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, June 3, 2016

June 5, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic National Convention, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Over-Inflating Impressions Of Trump’s Strength”: Clinton’s Lead Over Trump May Be Bigger Than You Think

A fresh round of hand-wringing among Democrats broke out over the weekend, and at the core of it was the same old storyline that we keep hearing again and again: Donald Trump is unconventional and unpredictable! The normal political rules don’t apply! Democrats are getting caught off guard by this, and you should be terrified!

But what if Hillary Clinton’s national advantage over Trump is actually larger than it appears? And, more to the point, what if the reason for this is a thoroughly conventional one?

NBC’s Chuck Todd and Dante Chinni have served up a useful analysis of the current national polls that suggests this is a very real possibility. They looked at three recent polls that currently show the race very close: The NBC News poll showing Clinton up 46-43 among registered voters; the New York Times/CBS poll showing her up 47-41; and the Fox News poll putting Trump up 45-42.

But then Todd and Chinni took into account the fact that a sizable chunk of people supporting Sanders are now saying they cannot back Clinton. These are the “Sanders-only voters.” They took the additional step of assuming that Clinton wins back 70 percent of those voters. Here’s what happens to the national numbers:

In the NBC/WSJ poll, Clinton’s advantage over Trump goes from three points to eight points and she leads 51 percent to 43 percent….

In the latest CBS News/New York Times poll, Clinton’s advantage grows from six points to nine points with 70 percent of Sanders-only voters — she leads 50 percent to 41 percent. In the latest Fox News poll, where Trump currently leads Clinton, the Sanders-only voters make it a tied race — 45 percent to 45 percent.

Now, in my view, we shouldn’t place too much stock in national polling at this point, because it historically has not been predictive. But if we are going to obsess over it, let’s keep this in mind: In two of these polls, once you allow for the possibility that Clinton could win over many of Sanders’s supporters once he concedes and endorses her, Clinton holds sizable national leads, of eight and nine points. Nate Cohn has similarly concluded that, if Clinton can consolidate Sanders supporters behind her, she could gain a “considerable advantage” against Trump.

And we’ve seen this before: As Todd notes in his video presentation of these numbers, in 2008, Barack Obama picked up three points against John McCain in NBC polling after Clinton surrendered in the primaries.

If this is right, the point is that the tightening in the polls between Clinton and Trump — which is real — may reflect a particular moment in this race that may prove fleeting, in ways we’ve seen in the past. To be sure, Democrats should not underestimate Trump or imagine that defeating him will be easy. They should work to determine the true source of his appeal, i.e., his suggestion that our political and economic system is failing people and he’d snap it over his knee and get it working again. They should work on making an affirmative case for Clinton that addresses this voter dissatisfaction in addition to relying on the low hanging fruit of attacking his business past and highlighting his wretched comments. Nor does any of this mean that Clinton’s high negatives aren’t a real problem. Democrats should obviously be prepared for any manner of attack that Trump will throw at her, and they’ll need to figure out how to create a more positive narrative around her.

Rather, the point is that we should stop over-inflating impressions of Trump’s strength. We should stop ascribing magical political powers to Trump based on the questionable notion that his “unconventional” and “unpredictable” campaign makes him a more formidable foe than anyone expected. Trump will be difficult to beat, but that might be mainly because these elections are always hard. It is perfectly plausible that the “old rules” will end up applying to some degree. For instance, Clinton may be able to beat Trump, at least in part, by offering up more convincing policies and revealing his to be the nonsense that they are. Maybe assuming that Trump has rendered policy debates meaningless actually gives him too much credit. Maybe we shouldn’t accept Trump’s boasts of super-human appeal in the Rust Belt at face value: they may well run headlong into demographic realities. Meanwhile, we should keep focused on what the aggregate data is actually telling us.

One other point: The Todd/Chinni analysis could have important implications for the endgame of the Dem primaries. Once the voting is over in June, Sanders will have nothing left to do but win actual concessions in exchange for working to swing his supporters behind Clinton. You could see a real shift in how this race is covered, with more and more analysts — and high profile party leaders, such as Elizabeth Warren, and, yes, Barack Obama — pointing out that the failure to unite Democrats is making the prospect of a Trump presidency more likely. That could make it harder for Sanders to hold out. We don’t know if Sanders’s supporters will get behind Clinton in the numbers she needs, and she will have to do her part to make that happen. But despite all the tensions, Sanders, too, will probably end up doing all he can to ensure that it does.

 

By: Greg Sargent, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, May 31, 2016

June 1, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, National Polls | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Wild And Unpredictable Ride”: The Rise Of Donald Trump Is Evidence That Our Political System Isn’t Working

The Republican Party is in total chaos. Democrats aren’t there yet but may be approaching the neighborhood. It’s time to acknowledge that our political system simply isn’t doing its job.

Once again, following Thursday’s debate and its messy aftermath, the GOP establishment confidently predicts that the Donald Trump phenomenon is over, done with, finished, kaput. Why, he picked a fight with popular Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly! He bluffed his way through the debate with rhetoric and showmanship rather than policy positions! His campaign organization is in turmoil! He wouldn’t even pledge to support the eventual Republican nominee!

By any traditional measure, Trump is not a viable candidate. Yet he continues to dominate news coverage of the campaign, and thus far there is no indication that his transgressions have caused the plunge in his poll numbers that party pooh-bahs so eagerly anticipate.

As Buffalo Springfield once sang, “There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear.” (Ask your parents, kids.)

By one early measure — an online poll for NBC News conducted by the SurveyMonkey firm — Trump maintained his big lead following the debate, with Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson vaulting into second and third place; businesswoman Carly Fiorina, who dominated the undercard debate, reportedly leapt into the middle of the pack. The numbers in the SurveyMonkey poll are less important than the trend lines: So-called “protest candidates” are capturing voters’ imaginations in a way that establishment candidates are not.

Trump, Fiorina and Carson have never held elective office; the basis of their appeal is that they are not professional politicians. Cruz has spent his time in Washington ostentatiously declining to play politics as usual, recently going so far as to call his own majority leader a liar.

At this point, it is fair to say that a significant portion of the party has lost faith in the GOP establishment. It’s also fair to say that this has little or nothing to do with where candidates stand on the issues.

Trump made his initial mark in this campaign with demagoguery about illegal immigration. But with the exception of Jeb Bush, the other GOP contenders have basically the same position: Seal off the border with Mexico, if necessary by erecting a physical barrier.

Carson has compared the Affordable Care Act to slavery. No other Republican in the race uses such over-the-top language, but they all pledge to repeal Obamacare. Cruz vehemently opposes the Iran nuclear agreement. All the Republican candidates feel the same way. Fiorina wants to shrink bloated government. Everybody else does, too.

The irony is that the Republican field includes several candidates who, in theory, could be formidable in the general election. Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio are both from Florida, a state the GOP basically must win to have any chance in the Electoral College. Ohio Gov. John Kasich or Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker theoretically might be able to pry one or more of the Midwestern industrial states out of Democratic hands.

But the process of quelling the Trump-led insurgency is already boxing the whole field into absolutist positions that will be difficult for the eventual nominee to soften. The longer chaos reigns, I believe, the less room the GOP candidate will have to maneuver.

All of this should make Hillary Clinton very happy. But the Democratic Party and its likely nominee have problems of their own.

To be sure, I’d much rather be playing Clinton’s hand than anybody else’s in either party. In the RealClearPolitics polling averages, she leads her closest opponent for the nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, by 35 points — and beats every one of her potential GOP opponents in hypothetical head-to-head matchups.

One problem, however, is that her favorability has been going down, according to polls. Another is that while Sanders has made few discernible inroads with key parts of the Democratic Party coalition — especially African Americans and Latinos — he is within striking distance of Clinton in the first two caucus and primary states, Iowa and New Hampshire.

Sanders is drawing big, passionate crowds, and I believe one reason is that he, too, is kind of an anti-politician — a man who unabashedly labels himself a socialist and refuses to tailor his views to please a given audience.

Significant numbers of voters seem to be demanding authenticity, passion and rough edges from a nominating process designed to produce none of the above. To state the obvious, this could be a wild and unpredictable ride.

 

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, August 11, 2015

August 12, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Primary Debates, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

   

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