Clinton, Sanders Neck And Neck In Wisconsin

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are close in Wisconsin, and that's bad news for Bernie Sanders.

Bernie Sanders Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are battling in a tight race in Wisconsin, with Clinton now openly questioning whether Sanders is really a Democrat:

Hillary Clinton wants voters in Wisconsin to know that she has been a Democrat for much of her adult life. Why? Bernie Sanders hasn’t been.

Clinton said her near-lifelong membership to the Democratic Party was “important” in the nomination contest while campaigning here on Saturday, two days ahead of Wisconsin’s Democratic primary.

“I am also a Democrat and have been a proud Democrat all my adult life,” Clinton said. “And I think that is kind of important if we are selecting someone to be the Democratic nominee of the Democratic Party.”

Clinton grew up in a Republican household and was briefly a Republican when she went to Wellesley College in 1965. Shortly after arriving on campus, however, Clinton grew more liberal and has been a member of the Democratic Party since her graduation in 1969.

Sanders, however, has never been a member of the Democratic Party and is one of two independents in the United States Senate.

Sanders has caucused with the Democratic Party ever since he came to Washington as a congressman in 1991. He unsuccessfully ran for the United States Senate in 1971 as a member of Liberty Union party and, in 1981, when he successfully ran for mayor of Burlington, Vermont, he did so as an independent. At times, the senator identifies as a democratic (small D) socialist.

Sanders, however, listed the Democratic Party as his party affiliation in his statement of candidacy for his presidential run. He also declared as a Democrat during the New Hampshire primary.

Sanders has also, at times, said he would never be a member of the Democratic Party.

“I am not a Democrat and have no intention of becoming one,” Sanders wrote in a letter to an academic as mayor of Burlington in 1988.

While the candidates battle over a who a Democrat is, they are also battling for votes in Wisconsin, and it once again appears as though Bernie Sanders could end up losing ground in the delegate count even if he wins the primary itself. Recent polling has been all over the place, with one poll showing Clinton up by six points as of last week while more recent polling has Sanders up by as much as five points or as little as two points. As a result, the RealClearPolitics average gives Sanders (47.2%) a 2.2 point lead over Clinton (45.0%), with similar numbers in the Pollster average. Since there had not been much polling in Wisconsin prior to about three week ago, these averages reflect recent numbers rather than the impact of much historical polling, so it would appear that this is yet another state where Sanders is at least putting up a fight even if he doesn’t ultimately end up winning.

The problem that Senator Sanders faces in Wisconsin is the same one he has faced in other states where he’s managed to pull off wins. Thanks to the manner in which Democrats allocate delegates proportionally, even a win by Sanders has generally meant that Hillary Clinton has been able to pick up at least some delegates to add to her already seemingly insurmountable total delegate haul. If these numbers hold, for example, then Clinton will likely do fairly well in delegate allocation even if she loses the state as a whole, a fact which will dilute much of the momentum that Sanders might otherwise receive from a win in the Badger State. Given the fact that the race heads from Wisconsin into Pennsylvania, New York, and other Mid-Atlantic states, this does not bode well for Sanders, whose really has no realistic chance at winning the nomination as it is. Additionally, if Clinton manages to win in Wisconsin, then the damage to Sanders will be even more severe since he will be one step closer to being mathematically eliminated from getting the majority he’d need to win the nomination on the first ballot. At that point, one wonders why he would continue in the race to begin with.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, Hillary Clinton, Politicians, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. HarvardLaw92 says:

    Sanders winning by anything less than a minimum of 9 points is a victory for Clinton.

  2. SKI says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Per the 538 “only path to the nomination” projection, he would need a 16 point win…

  3. KM says:

    I’ve always found the Sanders’ supporter narrative interesting. “Look look we’re winning! That means he’s viable! President Sanders FTW!!” He’s barely eking out his wins. For all his vaunted popularity, he’s cruising by with barely a majority; he’s claiming “underdog” status as the reason he’s not pulling the numbers his fundraising suggests he should. Meanwhile “unpopular” Hillary is not going down no matter how hard he swings . She’s kind of dicking around and still not being crushed.

    It reminds me a fencer in my club – the kind who is excited by their rare 5-4 win. They run up and down, screaming their victory and assure us all they will be number 1 in the pool…. only to find themselves dead last again. When angrily questioning the scoreboard, it’s pointed out everybody else had (at least) a win too and thus it became points scored for and against. They rage when their indicator places them in the bottom and are reminded “Every point counts!” – “But but but I won!!!”

    Close wins only count when they impart an advantage and not just keep you afloat. It’s not enough to be victorious in the little battles if they don’t give you what you need to win the war.

  4. c says:

    you@KM:
    So, the 50-60 point wins in the last 3 contests were “barely a majority”?!?

    You are right, he barely got 70%-80% of the vote in washington state, alaska, utah, hawaii, etc en route to winning 6 of the last 7 contests. How could he see that as convincing – i mean until he wins 95% of the vote, we have to consider it basically a tie or even a clinton win! (I hope the sarcasm came across sufficiently)

    All of them were projected to be “close” in the polling beforehand, but the results showed the huge change in momentum in this race now that we have left the deep south…

  5. SKI says:

    @c:

    All of them were projected to be “close” in the polling beforehand,

    Now you are misstating things yourself…

    Let’s keep things in perspective, Sanders has been on a good run of winning small delegate pools with huge (yuuuge?) percentages based on fairly low voter counts. If you add up the 6 state contests AFTER March 15th, the actual votes cast are as follows:

    Arizona March 22 235,697 163,400 Clinton +72,297
    Idaho March 22 5,065 18,640 Sanders +13,575
    Utah March 22 15,666 61,333 Sanders +45,667
    Alaska March 26 99 440 Sanders +341
    Hawaii March 26 10,125 23,530 Sanders +13,405
    Washington March 26 7,140 19,159 Sanders +12,019

    Grand difference in votes?

    12,710 votes.

    On March 15th alone, Clinton got 1,420,736 more votes than Sanders.

  6. Mr. Prosser says:

    @c: To quote The Kroog, “Now, as the bumper stickers don’t quite say, stuff happens. But at this point it’s something like a 90 percent probability that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee. Anyone denying that arithmetic is basically pulling a con job on Sanders supporters.”

  7. KM says:

    @c:

    last 3 contests

    huge change in momentum

    And in all of them? Again, you’re singling out the best of the wins without looking at the bigger picture. Yes, he had some great wins but then so did she. His wins are keeping him afloat, not pulling him ahead. Even without the superdelgates, she’s still ahead by 300+.

    Every point counts. He doesn’t have enough to win = he is not winning despite his victories. This is really not hard to understand. When you are behind, you need to win 15-2, not 15-12 because your opponent still got 12 pt…. a very bad thing when it’s not winner-take-all. Every single delegate she gets is one he needs 2 more to counter. Unless the momentum is a total tsumani, it’s not going to be enough. Sanders needs a curb-stomp every time.

    Seriously, don’t be the person screaming at the scoreboard. Enjoy the victories you deserve but if those wins don’t give you first place, it’s because your opponent scored more points on you then you did on them.

  8. c says:

    @KM:
    I was replying to your comment that he was “barely ekeing” out wins as just plain laughable because he was dominating 6 of the last 7 contests (and actually won the election day vote in the 7th (Arizona), though he lost the early vote).

    @SKI
    According to the Alaska election Board the counts 68,976 democrats as having voted (80% of which went to Sanders), not the 440 that you refer to (those are the results of the caucus – caucuses usually do not report the total voter counts). Washington similarly had a huge voter turnout – estimated at 230,000, not the 26,000 that you referred to. You can’t just add up those numbers from google, since they are apples and oranges.

    @KM:
    I was not just singling out his big wins or cherry picking. I was referring to the RECENT elections (e.g. I did not include New Hampshire, etc), since the narrative seems to be that the momentum has shifted and Sanders has been making a big comeback now that all the Deep South primaries are finished.

    Also, he is not back by 300+ now. After the last round, he cut it by about 100 to about 220 or so (not sure what the total is after the remaining washington delegates will be apportioned – they only list about 1/3 of the delegates apportioned as of now).

    I am not railing against the scoreboard or trying to say that it is not a large hill to climb, but the road to securing the most pledged delegates is VERY achievable at this point. He will have to win about 57% of the remaining votes. This is high, but it is far below what he has been tracking in the past week or 2.

    I know all the arguments against this (he only wins in caucuses, or he only wins white people (despite winning 3 of the most diverse states in the past 2 weeks)), but my interpretation is that as people have had more of a chance to get to know him, he has become more and more popular. Given that, the idea of him winning Wisconsin, NY, California with 57% of the vote does not seem at all far-fetched.

    We will see who is right, but I am hopeful that the momentum shift will continue to carry through Wisconsin to my home state of NY (where his recent rally drew almost 20,000 people vs HIllary’s drawing 350), and beyond.

  9. SKI says:

    @c:

    You can’t just add up those numbers from google, since they are apples and oranges.

    I was using RCP, not google but point taken. Of course, those big percentages you are citing are also based on state conference delegates – and may not be representative of actual support.

    my interpretation is that as people have had more of a chance to get to know him, he has become more and more popular. Given that, the idea of him winning Wisconsin, NY, California with 57% of the vote does not seem at all far-fetched.

    Yeah, it actually does.

    The state he spent the most time campaigning in – and therefore presumably “knew him best” – was Iowa.

    With the exception of Michigan – where Sanders eked out a 17,000 vote, 1.5% win in its open primary and lots of reports of strategic anti-Trump voting from Clinton supporters – Sanders is not materially outperforming his expected results when looking at state by state demographics (538’s polls-plus model).

  10. Jen says:

    There was an interesting discussion on the concept of “momentum” yesterday on the On the Media program. Bottom line, momentum is little but a perception: after studying a number of contests, a candidate is just as likely to fade as he or she is to advance.

    In other words, don’t count on momentum. Ever. It makes for some nice media coverage but there’s no science behind it actually mattering.

  11. KM says:

    @c:

    He will have to win about 57% of the remaining votes. This is high, but it is far below what he has been tracking in the past week or 2.

    Why the focus on just the last few weeks? You’re arbitrarily offering a narrow window to over-represent your data. Does Sanders consistently win at 57+% or are these later entries overshadowing prior losses? If he wins but takes it at 49% like in Michigan, he’s still done. He needs to be on point or better for every primary and cannot afford a slip-up even once.

    Listen, I like Bernie. It’s possible he might keep up a winning streak. But to claim he’s going to win them all at the high level he needs is stretching the bounds of mathematical reasoning and straight into magical thinking. Possible =/= Probable.

    We will see who is right, but I am hopeful

    We all hope our chosen candidate will prevail. Hoping doesn’t change that, barring some unforeseen circumstances, he’s not going to bet Hillary to the finish line.

  12. David M says:

    @c:

    His caucus wins should have an asterisk next to them, as there aren’t that many left going forward. They are nice, and earn delegates, but they don’t have much predictive value.

  13. PJ says:

    @c:

    I was not just singling out his big wins or cherry picking. I was referring to the RECENT elections (e.g. I did not include New Hampshire, etc), since the narrative seems to be that the momentum has shifted and Sanders has been making a big comeback now that all the Deep South primaries are finished.

    There’s no Sanders momentum. There have been a string of caucuses though. Sanders does better in caucauses than in primaries and better when the primary or caucaus is open compared to closed ones.

    Problem for Sanders is that he has almost run out of caucauses. And the ones left, except for Puerto Rico (which he won’t win), are all small. Two thirds of the remaining delegates are to be awarded in close or semi-closed primaries in five states that favor Clinton.

    Reality favors Clinton.

  14. PJ says:

    @c:

    I was replying to your comment that he was “barely ekeing” out wins as just plain laughable because he was dominating 6 of the last 7 contests (and actually won the election day vote in the 7th (Arizona), though he lost the early vote).

    First, it was five of six. All caucauses. And no, you don’t get a prize for winning the election day vote.

    According to the Alaska election Board the counts 68,976 democrats as having voted (80% of which went to Sanders), not the 440 that you refer to (those are the results of the caucus – caucuses usually do not report the total voter counts).

    Seriously, you actually believe that in Alaska 68,976 Democrats voted in the caucus? You do understand that caucuses seriously depress voting? BTW, do you know how many registered Democrats there were in Alaska in April 2015?

    68,976.

  15. PJ says:

    Also, the actual attendance for the 2016 Democratic caucus in Alaska? 10,610.

  16. PJ says:

    @c:

    Washington similarly had a huge voter turnout – estimated at 230,000, not the 26,000 that you referred to.

    Huge voter turnout? Compared to what?
    1,204,927 voted in the Massachusetts Democratic primary.
    (That would be five times as many.)

  17. c says:

    @PJ:
    My mistake on the number. Looked up the wrong number – was just trying to make the point that more than 440 people voted in Alaska, which was what was quoted, and must have grabbed the wrong info from an alaska news story.

    The huge turnout in washington was relative to past turnout in washington. Their officials were crowing about the big turnout. Obviously, comparing it to a different state like Massachusetts that has a primary vs a caucus would (as i said) be apples and oranges.

    The 6 out of 7 included the democrats abroad (which is apparently a real thing, who knew?)

    You think the reason he won was caucuses vs primaries.
    I say it is because his message has been getting through stronger as the season has progressed and more and more young voters are coming out for him now that we have left the deep south, where Hillary dominated.

    Again, both narratives are plausible – you cannot know what the core factor is and neither can I.

    Wisconsin and NY should be a validation of one of the 2 theories. If sanders wins heavily in Wisconsin and holds his own in NY, it will look good for my theory. If he treads water only in both or loses either, it looks like you were right.

    We’ll know starting tomorrow.

  18. An Interested Party says:

    The question is, what do c and other supporters of Sanders do when Hillary wins the nomination? Do they support her in the fall? Or do they allow Trump or some other hideous clown to win the presidency…

  19. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @c:

    He will have to win about 57% of the remaining votes

    He has to win, at present, 57.16% of the remaining votes ON AVERAGE. That number is a moving target, and every time that he doesn’t achieve it, it goes up moving forward in subsequent contests.

    but my interpretation is that as people have had more of a chance to get to know him, he has become more and more popular.

    LOL, no, your interpretation is that, despite the two valid electoral trends you cited (Sanders does well in caucuses and does well in white electorates), he will somehow magically do well in closed primaries (which, by and large, he never has) and among minority demographics (which , by and large, he never has).

    Fully 42% of the remaining delegates will be awarded in closed primaries in just 7 states, all of which are currently polling +Clinton by double digits and consistently have for months now. Even allowing for a 10 point deviation from performance to polling in Sanders favor (which is being generous), he’s still left with your required 57% figure having risen to a required 70.55% by the time we get through the Northeastern bloc on April 26th. You’re like the guy on the beach in the hurricane who insists that it’s not raining.

    There are five stages of grief. You appear to be stuck in denial. Pretty soon I suspect you’ll find that moving to anger (probably around April 26th …). Many of your classmates have already moved on to bargaining (i.e. “well, those superdelegates we’ve been excoriating for months as being undemocratic tools of the establishment are ok now if they switch their support away from Clinton, because despite all of our bloviating about principles, we really just want to win. Yay Sanders!” …) In the end, it won’t matter much. This race is essentially already over.

    Best of luck. You’ll definitely need it.

  20. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @An Interested Party:

    The question is, what do c and other supporters of Sanders do when Hillary wins the nomination? Do they support her in the fall? Or do they allow Trump or some other hideous clown to win the presidency…

    See above about stages of grief. How they react will largely depend, IMO, on how far they make it through the grieving process. That having been said, we all know the historical facts about low turnout among youth demographics, so how much potential impact they’ll have in November is probably being magnified beyond what it will actually turn out to be. PUMAs, anyone?

  21. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @SKI:

    We’re sort of saying the same thing in different ways. I was stating that Sanders will need to post 9 percentage points above a tie. Silver is saying that Sanders will need a 16 point margin of victory.

    Interesting, though, if we look at the margin that the required performance calculation model produces (Sanders 58.16% to Clinton 41.84%), we end up with slightly over a 16 point required margin of victory for Sanders in Wisconsin. I lump that whopper of a fantasy in with “unicorns are real” and “the Illuminati blew up the World Trade Center”.

  22. c says:

    @HarvardLaw92: He did just fine with the minority voters out west in 3 of the most diverse states in the country. That is just one of the many false narratives of the election that seems to not die, despite new evidence to the contrary.

    The second wrong assumption is what I think you are assuming by the reference to “my classmates”. My first presidential election vote was to vote for BILL Clinton in ’92, so i’ve been around the block a few times and your assumption that only starry-eyed students are voting for him is another false narrative.

    I think you are the one who is watching the tide roll out and saying “it was higher just a while back, so it will definitely turn back around any minute”. You are looking at performance in Mississippi and trying to project that into performance in NY and Pennsylvania, as if those states share anything in common.

    As to polling, the polls have been wildly inaccurate in this cycle (unless you think, for example, that 30% of NY’ers changed their minds in 7 days, or 20% of michiganders, 30% of Washingtonites (not sure what you call someone from washington) changed their minds between the polls and the election. I suspect the pollsters are having trouble modelling the demographic that is actually voting and, with the sharp differences in preference, it is skewing all the results, generally with a 5-10 point bias towards clinton.

    If the race were tied in delegates at this point, I think Bernie wins hands down. The only major question in my head is whether he can make up enough ground to dig out of the hole he is in.

    As for the question on the general election, I’m supporting the only progressive in the race in the primary. If the progressive loses, we’ve either got 4 or 8 years until there is a chance at another progressive (having watched her as my senator, I believe that Clinton will revert to her usual center-right positions the moment the primary is done), so I will likely go third party in the general (to try to get one of them above the state cutoff for viability) or some other protest vote.

  23. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @c:

    He did just fine with the minority voters out west in 3 of the most diverse states in the country.

    Which three states are you referring to?

    Nevada? No joy. The racial demographics of the PARTICIPATING population were 59% white / 41% non-white. You’re extrapolating again.

    Your ball …

  24. HarvardLaw92 says:

    The second wrong assumption is what I think you are assuming by the reference to “my classmates”. My first presidential election vote was to vote for BILL Clinton in ’92, so i’ve been around the block a few times and your assumption that only starry-eyed students are voting for him is another false narrative.

    Classmates refers to your fellow starry eyed believers, not your age. Try to keep up.

  25. HarvardLaw92 says:

    The only major question in my head is whether he can make up enough ground to dig out of the hole he is in.

    Which is why we have been presenting evidence to you ad nauseum demonstrating that he can’t. Like I said, you’re in denial.

    For Sanders to meet his required performance target in NY (and even this assumes that he performs to target in every state leading up to NY), just as an example, he will have to swing the predicted (at present) 11 point +Clinton margin to a 23 point -Clinton. You actually expect New York to swing by 34 points in the space of 2 weeks?

    I take it back. You aren’t in denial. You’re full fledged delusional. Best of luck, I’m done with you.

  26. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @c:

    so I will likely go third party in the general (to try to get one of them above the state cutoff for viability)

    Oops, not quite done …

    Good g-d, who do you think you’re talking to? I live in New York, my good man. In 2012, both the Libertarians and the Greens made it onto the NY general election ballot. Hell man, the fricking (self-identified) communist PSL’ers made it onto the 2012 general election ballot in NY. When the Communist Party makes it onto the ballot, your problem isn’t ballot access. It’s message.

    Just how much more evidence do you need to grasp this simple fact – this country does not elect the far left.

    By all means cast your meaningless protest vote. The Democrats will (overwhelmingly) carry New York regardless.

    🙄

  27. Grewgills says:

    @HarvardLaw92:
    I’m pretty sure he’s referring to Washington (71% white non-hispanic), Alaska (71% white non-hispanic), and Hawai’i (24% white non-hispanic). Hawai’i is arguably the most diverse US state religiously and ethnically, but has a small population and like Alaska and Washington is less than 10% African American and Hispanic combined. When people talk about Clinton’s strength with minorities they tend to actually mean African American and Hispanic communities rather than being inclusive of Asians, Native Americans, or Pacific Islanders. Sanders doesn’t seem to suffer the same demographic weakness with these populations. Unfortunately for him they don’t amount to many votes overall.

  28. Todd says:

    The Democratic party’s condescending attitude towards Independents and young people probably won’t cost them the Presidency … fortunately the Republicans are even more divided. However, with Hillary Clinton at the top of the ticket, the trend of Republicans doing well in Senate, House, State and Local races is much more likely to continue. This is the legacy of third-way centrist “business friendly” Democrats such as Clinton, and yes Barack Obama too; they can win the Presidency, but at virtually every other level their (timid) approach to electoral politics has been disastrous.

    I’m happy that I was able to change my registration back to Independent now that the Arizona primary is over. I find it disgusting that I had to register with one of the parties to participate, but that’s kind of another debate topic. If parties wish to hold “private” elections, then they should have to pay for it themselves. If my taxes are paying for an election, I should not be barred from participating simply because I don’t wish to join a political party.

  29. Pch101 says:

    @Todd:

    This is Teahadism of the left, and you need to get over yourself. (And I say that as a political independent who has never registered with any political party.)

  30. Pch101 says:

    @c:

    Have you figured out yet that if you are in a swing state that a “protest vote” helps the candidate who you like the least?

  31. Tyrell says:

    @c: Hillary will need to avoid trying to move left or appear to move left to get votes from Sanders supporters. If she gets to the left, she will be passed on the center right like it is the last lap of a Daytona race. She needs to keep a far distance from the Obama administration* and its policies.
    See “Obama’s Fantasy Trip” by Charles Krauthammer.

  32. MikeSJ says:

    Well finally. Bernie was asked real questions by the NY Daily News and to no ones surprise…nada. He has no idea what he’s talking about.

    The man, once you get past his platitudes and talking points, has nothing. No plan, no idea, no clue.

    I wish the press had done 5 minutes of real questions with him months ago and not accepted “Revolution” as an answer to banking and regulatory questions.

  33. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @MikeSJ:

    That interview was an unmitigated disaster for Sanders.

    Of course it won’t deter his starry eyed acolytes in the slightest, but it’ll certainly give everybody else pause. Long, LONG overdue …

  34. An Interested Party says:

    Hmm…this Sanders interview comes too late to have any effect on today’s primary…but I’ll bet it plays a big role in the New York primary…

  35. Todd says:

    Flipping through the news programs this morning, the Sanders interview is not more than a footnote, if it’s mentioned at all. Clinton’s continuing weakness, despite the “mathematical lock” she continues to have on the nomination, is a more interesting story.

    Oh, and as far as news stories goes, it should be interesting over the next couple of days/weeks as more comes out about the Panama papers.