Sanders Wins Indiana Primary, But Hillary Clinton Continues To Advance In Delegate Fight

Bernie Sanders won the Indiana Primary last night, but Hillary Clinton continues to accrue the delegates she needs to become the Democratic nominee.

Bernie Sanders Hillary Clinton 3616 Debate

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders scored something of a surprise victory in last night’s Indiana Primary, but as we’ve seen so many times in the past, his actual victory in the race for delegates was negligable at best and unlikely to slow Hillary Clinton’s momentum toward a majority at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia:

In the Democratic contest, Senator Bernie Sanders rebounded from a string of defeats to prevail in Indiana over Hillary Clinton, who largely abandoned the state after polls showed her faring poorly with the predominantly white electorate. But the outcome was not expected to significantly change Mrs. Clinton’s sizable lead in delegates needed to win the Democratic nomination.


Only slightly more than half of Democrats voting Tuesday called Mrs. Clinton honest and trustworthy, according to early exit polls, a remarkably shaky assessment for the party’s likely nominee. After closing the gap with blue-collar white voters in parts of the Northeast last week, Mrs. Clinton lost them by 30 points in Indiana. She also again suffered with self-identified independents casting ballots in the Democratic contest: 73 percent backed Mr. Sanders.

Mr. Sanders, speaking to reporters after winning Indiana, had some tough words for Mrs. Clinton after a week when he toned down criticisms of her and shifted his focus to their policy differences.

“I understand that Secretary Clinton thinks that this campaign is over,” Mr. Sanders said. “I’ve got some bad news for her. Tonight we won a great victory in Indiana. Next week we are going to be in West Virginia. We think we have a real shot to win in that great state. And then we’re going to Kentucky, and we’re going to Oregon. And we think we have a pretty good chance to win there as well.”

“We feel great about tonight not only in winning here in Indiana and accumulating some more delegates but also gaining the momentum we need to take us to the finish line,” he said, adding the he realized he faced an “uphill battle.”

While Mr. Sanders devoted three days to campaigning in Indiana and spent more than $1 million on television advertisements, Mrs. Clinton did not run any ads and spent only a day campaigning in the state, visiting the Indianapolis area.

Clinton advisers said they saw no point in spending a couple of million dollars on television advertising and campaign travel when Mrs. Clinton was likely to lose the state anyway: Its Democratic primary electorate includes a healthy share of independents and newly registered voters, demographics that have repeatedly favored Mr. Sanders. And the two Democrats are expected to divide the state’s 83 delegates given the close outcome.

Tad Devine, a senior adviser on the Sanders campaign, said that the Indiana results would not reshape the Democratic race markedly, given Mrs. Clinton’s sizable delegate lead.

Hillary Clinton was leading in the recent polls coming out of Indiana prior to yesterday’s primary, but there were also indications that this was a state where Sanders had a chance of pulling off a win even though it was likely to be a narrow one that didn’t have much of an impact on the race for delegates. Of the 83 Democratic delegates at stake last night, Sanders is estimated to have won 43 while Clinton has won 37. That advantage of six delegates is hardly the advantage that Sanders would need to make this race competitive, of course, and even getting the minority of delegates out of the Hoosier State is just making Hillary Clinton’s nomination even more inevitable. As the delegate count stands today, Clinton stands at 2,202 delegates, which puts her just 180 delegates short of the 2,382 she needs to clinch the nomination. Sanders, on the other hand, stands at 1, 400 delegates, putting him 982 delegates short of the nomination, meaning that Sanders would need to win more than 92%  of the outstanding delegates to get to a majority while Clinton only needs to win just under 18% of the remaining delegates. Even if Sanders manages to pull of wins in some of the forthcoming states, such as West Virginia and Nebraska, it’s likely that Clinton will easily be able to pick up the remaining delegates she needs to go over the top. Sanders will point out, inevitably, that part of this total includes the party insiders known as “Superdelegates,” but these delegates have been part of Democratic Party politics for more than a generation now so Sanders can hardly claim to be surprised at the role they are playing here.

Despite Clinton’s seeming inevitability, a victory like this is likely to keep Sanders in the race right to the convention. This would seem to be especially true given the fact that Sanders also seems likely to score wins in states such as West Virginia, Oregon, and Nebraska, At this point, though, Sanders seems to be more interested in talking about using his delegate power to have a powerful voice in how the convention plays out and the issues that have been at the center of his campaign. In his recent speeches, for example, his rheotic has shifted away from the idea of a contested convention and toward the idea of demanding that there be floor votes on including certain issues in the platform. Given what the ideological makeup of the delegates to the Democratic Convention is likely to be, it shouldn’t be that hard for Sanders to get what he wants in this regard, and Clinton has already hinted at a willingness to work with him on the party platform. It’s in this respect that Sanders is likely to have the biggest impact in 2016, but the obvious concern for Democrats will be to ensure that he doesn’t pull the party too far to the left in advance of what is shaping up to be a very favorable election cycle.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held 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. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. MikeSJ says:

    I’d love to see Hillary run some commercials asking Bernie where his promised tax returns are, or questioning him on why he was working with a party that supported the Iranians during the hostage crisis.

    He’s had a free ride so far, it’d be nice to make him pay up for once. I suspect he’d fold like a cheap suit.

  2. CSK says:

    OT, but Kasich just bailed.

  3. Jen says:

    @MikeSJ: Yeah, I suspect she’s holding her fire because she doesn’t want to alienate his supporters. I’m mildly irritated that she didn’t spend any money on advertising in Indiana and let the lead slip. She needs to put a nail in this and be done with it, and that means winning from here on out. There’s an argument that can be made for hanging on to as much cash as possible, but my Facebook feed is peppered with the remaining Bernie stalwart supporters fussing about “it’s not over!” and “on to the convention!” no matter what the math. With the Republican field cleared, it’s well past time for Sanders to moderate his tone and start making the necessary noises to build party unity.

  4. al-Ameda says:

    Hillary: “So Bern, how do you propose to pay for “free” higher education and a “free single-payer health care health care system?”
    Bernie: “Please … that doesn’t matter, my campaign is aspirational – a lot people want it”

  5. C. Clavin says:

    Bernie’s supporters are risking handing Trump the Presidency thru a fractured Democratic Party.
    We don’t need him to do a replay of Nader, changing the course of history by being obstinate.

  6. Pch101 says:


    it’s well past time for Sanders to moderate his tone and start making the necessary noises to build party unity.

    It’s unclear whether Sanders cares about unifying a party to which he does not belong.

  7. stonetools says:


    Yeah, I was inclined to give Bernie and his supporters some time and space to go through the 5 stages of grief, but the quick end to the the Republican campaign means the bickering among Democrats has to stop. The battle with the real enemy is about to begin.
    Bernie needs to make a quick & graceful exit, maybe next week after the WV primary. At this point , those who aren’t for us are against us, and you can be sure that any critical thing Bernie says is going to be used by Trump against Clinton and the Democrats.
    It’s time to close ranks, fix bayonets, and start marching towards the enemy line. There’s just no time to assuage the fee-fees and nitpicks of Bernie and his supporters.

  8. PJ says:

    Sanders supporters are now putting their hopes on GOP supporters voting for Sanders since the GOP primary is over.

    This is why primaries (there shouldn’t be any caucauses, but for a different reason) should be closed and you shouldn’t be able to switch party after the first primary.

  9. Tillman says:

    Now that the political press doesn’t have a salacious Republican slugfest to focus on, it’s time for the Democrats to wrap it up before they get wind of the dirty laundry? Is that seriously what I’m reading?

  10. Jen says:


    it’s time for the Democrats to wrap it up before they get wind of the dirty laundry?

    That wasn’t my point. My point is that as long as Sanders is in the race, she needs to spend time/money/energy on continuing the “there is a Democratic primary race still going on” farce.

    He cannot win the primary without FAR outperforming his typical wins. She needs to be focused on the general election and can’t do so at 100% while he’s still buzzing around. Dirty laundry has little to do with it–other than, of course, allowing Donald Trump to continue his “I didn’t say it–HE did” attacks, only this time using Bernie instead of the National Enquirer or whatever.

  11. KM says:


    Is that seriously what I’m reading?

    In-fighting amongst the ranks while the enemy is uniting is great way to get curb-stomped in war. And it is war – Trump represents a serious problem for this country on par with W or beyond.

    I said it on the other thread, I cannot believe Ted Cruz was the bigger man then Sanders and bowed out first. It’s personally cost me a lot of respect for the man. Divided we fall.

  12. Jenos Idanian says:

    It looks to me like Trump saw something about Sanders’ campaign a while ago, and has been quietly taking advantage of that something. And hoo boy, could it be entertaining when if it’s true and it ripens…

  13. PJ says:

    What a victory for Sanders!
    Before Indiana, he needed 64.47% of the remaining delegates.
    After Indiana, he needs 65.49% of the remaining delegates.

    The only way that would be possible would have to include a massive, organised, ratf*ckery in the remaining states orchastrated by the GOP.

    And if that actually happened, we would have a situation where the superdelegates would and should pick the candidate with fewer pledged delegates.

  14. HarvardLaw92 says:

    He gained 6 delegates in Indiana,and it only cost him roughly $2 million, while Clinton spent exactly zero.

  15. Jen says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Yeah, the only bummer with her spending zero (and him winning) is that it give the “we live to fight another day!” crowd something to carry on about for the next week or two. If he manages to eek out a win in WV and/or KY, the bleating and carrying on will increase. I’m sort of over it at this point, and I do wish he would do the right thing and bow out.

  16. stonetools says:


    Dude! Way to miss the point.
    The point is that Bernie has said everything he’s ever going to say. He’s made his case on the issues to the Democrats-and lost. It’s time to call in the dogs, put out the fire, and load up the truck. The hunt is over.To persist from here on out is a vanity project-for him and his supporters.
    Now we could indulge this-if the Republicans were going to continue fighting among themselves. But they aren’t doing that. They are going to unite and consolidate, and then the real war will begin. (Heck, it’s already begun, really).
    The Democrats need no distractions, now. Bernie has done his gadfly thing, and did it ably. His next role is be a uniter and a good soldier in the general election campaign. He should begin that now.

  17. stonetools says:


    Every dollar spent on Bernie’s primary campaign is a dollar that would be better spent on funding a down-ticket candidate. If Bernie was serious about advancing progressive causes, he would realize that.

  18. HarvardLaw92 says:


    Agreed, which was sort of my unspoken point – he’s throwing money at a lost cause, at this point for no other reason than ego as far as I can tell.

    He’s in this for himself, has no party loyalty at all and is generally toxic. We never should have allowed him to run as a Democrat in the first place, but the sooner he goes down in flames, the better for us as a party.

  19. HarvardLaw92 says:


    Kentucky is a closed primary. I don’t see him winning there. WV he’ll probably pick up, but at this point it’s too little too late. She’s literally 183 delegates away from having a lock on the first convention ballot.

  20. Roger says:

    Bernie Sanders has been saying the same things for the past 30 years. Listen to what he is saying. Bernie Sanders knows what he is talking about. He’s one of the few real politicians that actually fight against corruption in our government, and who want to make this country better.

  21. MikeSJ says:


    Bernie Sanders knows what he is talking about.

    You should read his interview with the NY Daily News. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He spews slogans and talking points. That’s it.

  22. Todd says:


    We never should have allowed him to run as a Democrat in the first place, but the sooner he goes down in flames, the better for us as a party.

    And this kind of attitude is why Democrats are very unlikely to get their “unity” anywhere near as soon as they would like.

    Sanders is not staying in the race because of “ego”. He’s staying the race because most democratic leaning voters (including a large percentage who didn’t vote for him) don’t want him to drop out yet.

    Should Bernie Sanders leave the race? New poll points to stay

    You want to talk about potentially hurting down ballot Democrats … let there even be the appearance that the DNC “forced” Sanders to drop out before the convention, and Democratic turnout in November might end up looking more like a midterm than a Presidential year.