Sanders Wins West Virginia, Continues To Fall Behind In Delegate Race

Bernie Sanders won another primary last night, but he continues to fall behind in the race for delegates nonetheless.

Bernie Sanders Victory

As the limited polling had been predicting, Bernie Sanders ended up pulling off another win over Hillary Clinton in Tuesday’s West Virginia primary, but in an echo of a recurring theme throughout this race, his victory puts him no closer to the Democratic nomination and does little to impede Hillary Clinton’s progress toward that goal:

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont captured the West Virginia primary on Tuesday, forcing Hillary Clinton to continue a costly and distracting two-front battle: to lock down the Democratic nomination and to take on Donald J. Trump in the general election.

Mrs. Clinton has a nearly insurmountable lead in delegates, which Mr. Sanders’s victory, one week after he won Indiana, did little to narrow. But by staying in the race, as he has vowed to do until the Democratic convention in Philadelphia in July, Mr. Sanders continues to tug Mrs. Clinton to the left.

This week, after long resisting Mr. Sanders’s call for a single-payer health care system, Mrs. Clinton embraced allowing people as young as 50 to buy into Medicare.

In Oregon, which votes next week, Mr. Sanders appealed to unpledged superdelegates, who can cast votes as they please at the convention, to rally behind him as the stronger opponent to Mr. Trump.

“If you look over the last month or six weeks, at every national poll, Bernie Sanders defeats Donald Trump by big numbers,” he said.

With Mr. Trump aggressively attacking Mrs. Clinton as he focuses on the general election, Mrs. Clinton’s potential vulnerability was exposed in her defeats in West Virginia and Indiana, states with many white, working-class voters.

(…)

Mrs. Clinton was haunted throughout her visits to West Virginia and Kentucky last week by a comment she made in March that her climate change policies would “put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.” She made the remark in the context of pledging money to coal communities, but the sound bite trailed her, and she found herself repeatedly on the defensive.

Mr. Sanders’s victory was less about policy differences with Mrs. Clinton (his environmental plans would phase out coal more rapidly) than about the state’s demographics. He beat Mrs. Clinton in a largely white, rural state, as he has throughout the primaries.

Eight years ago, when Mrs. Clinton defeated Mr. Obama in West Virginia’s primary, one in five voters said in exit polls that race had been a factor.

In the end, Sanders victory over Clinton was much bigger than polling had been indicating, which is something that we’ve seen on both sides of the aisle this primary season with regard to both the Sanders and Trump campaigns. In both campaigns, it appears that pollsters missed the surge in new voters that these insurgent campaigns were bringing to the campaign, but in West Virginia’s case there was also the added factor of very limited polling to begin with and the fact that the last poll conducted there ended on May 2nd, a full week before the primary. In any case, while the size of Sanders’ victory was unanticipated, the fact of it was not. As I noted on Monday, Clinton was already quite vulnerable in the state notwithstanding her victory there in 2008 due in no small part to her recent comments regarding the fate of the coal industry under existing and anticipated regulations aimed at combating carbon emissions and global climate change. The fact that she lost the primary really isn’t surprising to anyone, including the campaign itself which apparently conceded the state to Sanders several weeks ago in favor of a strategy aimed at the end of the primary season in June and refocusing the campaign on the General Election campaign against Donald Trump.

As Sanders noted in his speech last night, this is the nineteenth state primary or caucus that Sanders has won, and the fact that he continues to give Clinton something of a contest this late in the cycle is quite impressive. Notwithstanding all of that, though, Sanders is not succeeding sufficiently well to win the either catch up to Clinton in the delegate count, or walk into the Philadelphia convention with a majority of pledged delegates, as he claims to supporters he will be able to do. Of the 29 delegates at issue in West Virginia yesterday, Sanders won 16 and Clinton won 11, giving Sanders a paltry +5 advantage that does nothing to undercut his deficit in the delegate count. As things stand now, there are roughly 1,057 Democratic delegates yet to be chosen, which includes both 897 as yet unallocated pledged delegates and roughly 150 Superdelegates who have yet to announce who they are supporting. Clinton has a grand total of 2,239 pledged and Super delegates, meaning she only needs 146 more delegates, or 13.81% of the outstanding delegates. Sanders, on the other hand, has a grand total of 1,469 pledged and Super delegates, meaning that he needs another 86.38% of the outstanding delegates to get a majority, something that quite simply isn’t going to happen. Indeed, if things go the way most analysts expect Clinton may well clinch the nomination next Tuesday after the primaries in Kentucky and Oregon, or after the Puerto Rico primary on June 5th. How Sanders reacts after that, and especially during the run-up to the convention will be up to him. However, if he wants to have a voice at the convention and in the party going forward, he will need to make peace with the nominee notwithstanding his current rhetoric.

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. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. An Interested Party says:

    …Mrs. Clinton’s potential vulnerability was exposed in her defeats in West Virginia and Indiana, states with many white, working-class voters.

    Also, states that Democrats don’t win anymore on the presidential level, so no great loss…

    Eight years ago, when Mrs. Clinton defeated Mr. Obama in West Virginia’s primary, one in five voters said in exit polls that race had been a factor.

    And I’m sure gender was a factor this time…

  2. HarvardLaw92 says:

    Sanders needed to post 66.36% in WV to be on track to tie Clinton in pledged delegates by the convention. He posted 51.4%.

    That increases his must perform minimum in the remaining states to 66.61%.

  3. charon says:

    Sanders needs to reduce Clinton’s pledged delegate lead by about 30% of the number to be awarded. In a “neutral” state, that would be about 9 for every 29 delegates.

    WV is a Bernie-favorable state, but Bernie only reduced HRC’s lead by perhaps 5 or maybe 7 delegates.

    The press is describing WV as a Bernie victory, but this “victory” has Bernie falling farther behind.

  4. charon says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    He posted 51.4%.

    That percent is not based on 100% though, as 51.4+35.9= 87.3.

    His percent of the BS vote plus HRC vote is more.

  5. al-Ameda says:

    I think the deal is done. Even if Bernie won the majority of the next primaries, it’s not going to happen. in 2008 Barack Obama lost 7 of the final 8 primaries to Hillary Clinton.

    About the only thing (excepting Hillary being arrested in the next 5 weeks) that could cause Democrats to stop and reconsider the ‘inevitability’ of her nomination, is if Sanders crushed her in California – say, by 60% to 40%. That might … might … open things up for Bernie, maybe.

  6. charon says:

    This spreadsheet for tracking this stuff keeps getting updated:

    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1RpUaU-R54tyREcKC6wiUQ3trGyVBXb5h5Zpu4A7CMS4/edit#gid=0

  7. Jeremy says:

    This week, after long resisting Mr. Sanders’s call for a single-payer health care system, Mrs. Clinton embraced allowing people as young as 50 to buy into Medicare.

    Hey look, Doug, Hillary said you’re young.

  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    However, if he wants to have a voice at the convention and in the party going forward, he will need to make peace with the nominee notwithstanding his current rhetoric.

    I get the feeling that Bernie wants to have a say, an outsized say, at the convention, but beyond that he won’t give anymore of a rat’s a$$ what happens within the Dem party than he did before this run.

  9. stonetools says:

    I confess I don’t understand why Bernie Sanders is still running, unless as a sort of vanity project. Give Ted Cruz his props: when he saw that winning was impossible after Indiana, he threw in the towel. Bernie , apparently, still believes he can win , if you go by the rhetoric of his surrogates, despite the absurdly low odds of this happening. IMO, Sanders should be negotiating for a role at the convention, while looking for a time and a place to make a graceful exit. But there is no hint of any of this happening.
    There is still time for this to happen, I guess. If Bernie wants to be a good Democrat, Sanders should do this. The question is, Does Sanders want to be a good Democrat? Or does he want to follow the importuning of his most rabid followers and try to “BERN it all down” by attacking Clinton and the nominating process as being irredeemably corrupt?

    The pundits are all saying that he’ll in the end be a good Democrat, but I’m not so sure, based on my reading of his supporters on Twitter. I guess we will see.

  10. stonetools says:

    One other thing: WV is an open primary and a lot of people who voted for Sanders said-

    1. They wanted less liberal policies than Obama is pursuing.
    2. They would vote for Sanders over Trump in the general election.

    Seems to me that Sanders won because of a lot of Obama hate by voters who are Democrat in name only, but who vote Republican at the national level.
    As such Sander’s win last night is hardly a harbinger of the liberal political revolution he wants to start.

    Despite all that, I do believe Bernie is a good man, who is sincerely committed to progressive causes. My hope is that he will eventually do the right thing, and not the self aggrandizing thing.

  11. MikeSJ says:

    I am curious how Bernie wraps this up. Will he be supportive of Hillary and the party or will he be a cantankerous old prick? Hmm.

    Based on how he’s handling his tax return disclosures I think I know the answer.

  12. Pch101 says:

    @stonetools:

    Sanders’ presence in the race makes the Democrats more interesting. If he ultimately supports the nominee, then the party will have been better off for having him. (It’s easy to get bored of a presumptive nominee who isn’t currently in office.)

    I can only presume that Cruz dropped out for the sake of his brand. Particularly if he wants to have a career as a media pundit, then he needs to manage his brand as a voice for the base, which includes avoiding too many conspicuous losses. Indiana was a bad omen — it’s a state where he should have done well — and it would become increasingly difficult for him to claim the mantle as a movement leader if he continued to lose.

  13. charon says:

    @Pch101:

    I can only presume that Cruz dropped out for the sake of his brand.

    Cruz dropped out because it was the right move if he intends to try again in 2020. (I think he does.)

  14. PJ says:

    The latest FEC letter to the Sanders campaign contains 639 pages (yes, 639) of campaign finance violations. PDF Link.

    Quite an increase, last month there were 270 pages… Last month the FEC report sent to the Clinton campaign had 2 pages…

    I wonder if Sanders ideas for campaign finance reforms include increasing the amount allowed to donate, donations from foreigners, and not caring about any actual rules? Maybe Sanders should take a good look at his own campaign before attacking other campaigns?

  15. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @charon:

    Actually, it is based on 100%, although WV has slightly decreased Sanders percentage to 51.22%. There were 6 Democratic candidates on the primary ballot in WV:

    Sanders – 51.22%
    Clinton – 35.43%
    Paul T Farrell, Jr. – 9.39%
    Keith Judd – 1.98%
    Martin O’Malley – 1.53%
    Rocky De La Fuente ( 🙄 ) – 0.44%

    (yes, I’m aware that it adds up to 99.99% – blame rounding …)

  16. MikeSJ says:

    @PJ:
    …and not caring about any actual rules?

    My personal suspicion is Bernie hasn’t released his past taxes because they’ve been so sloppily done.

    My guess is there isn’t any smoking guns but just significant discrepancies, mistakes and failures to include all his income that he and jane don’t want to explain.

  17. Tyrell says:

    Sanders could be ahead now, but at the start he kept going light on Hillary, giving her free passes on e-mails and other scandals. Hillary could have ended this a while back with the big opening Sanders gave her on his socialism and heavy spending proposals that would mean big tax hikes on everyone. He also appears weak on foreign policy.

  18. C. Clavin says:

    @Tyrell:

    e-mails and other scandals

    You mean he went light on Republican conspiracy theories? Shocked that he didn’t hammer away at her with complete fiction.
    Dude…decades and millions spent on investigations to find, essentially, bubkis.
    You gotta stop listening to the right wing echo chamber. Everything they tell you to think is wrong.

  19. Jen says:

    @charon: I think this is exactly right. He’s decided that he wants to run against Clinton in 2020, and didn’t want to be the one to alienate the Trump supporters at the convention by pulling the rabbit out of the hat delegate math trick.

    Speaking of tax returns, Trump has stated to the AP he won’t release his before the November election. Hm. For someone who is a bit fanatical about privacy and gets prickly when subjected to even a minor amount of scrutiny, he sure has picked a funny job to go after.

  20. charon says:

    @HarvardLaw92: @HarvardLaw92:

    Actually, it is based on 100%,

    You ignore that 4 of the 6 candidates did not meet the 15% threshhold for awarding delegates. Thus, 51.22% needs to be divided by .8665 to get the percentage number that is actually applicable to delegate awarding, 51.22% means nothing.

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2016/04/17/1515822/-West-Virginia-Delegate-Mathematics-29-Dels

  21. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @charon:

    I said nothing about delegates. I merely stated the electoral results – accurately. How they choose to manipulate those after the fact in order to award delegates isn’t my concern – primarily because he will fall short of the number he needed to obtain and thus the “win” doesn’t help him – it helps Clinton. You’re being pedantic to no real purpose.

    The broader picture here is that Sanders came nowhere close to obtaining the win margin he needed.

  22. charon says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    You’re being pedantic to no real purpose.

    That would be you, as the only significance the percent has is the effect on delegate awards. Why else even bring it up?

  23. Pch101 says:

    @charon:

    I agree with this edited comment:

    Cruz dropped out because it was the right move if he intends to try again in 2020 have a talk show on Fox News. (I think he does.)

  24. charon says:

    @Pch101:

    Neither I nor you is a mind reader, but Cruz Daddy claims he is an “annointed Christian King.” If Cruz Son believes his Dad (I think he behaves as if he does), I don’t see how Fox Talking Head really gets him where he wants to go.

  25. PJ says:

    @HarvardLaw92:
    @charon:

    In the end, Sanders got 51.4% of the votes cast, 58.9% of the votes that mattered (for delegate allocation), and 62% of the pledged delegates.

    But most importantly, he failed to get at least 65.8% of the delegates, and now Sanders is going to need 65.9% of the remaining pledged delegates.

    Sanders is clearly winning by losing! Maybe it all makes sense by looking at it backwards?

  26. JKB says:

    Of course, this is the Democrat’s primary system. The whole thing can flip on the whim of whomever really owns the Super delegates. They are not bound by anything.

    So Sanders staying in, keeps any potential last minute swap from being completely open to a last minute white knight.

  27. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @PJ: @charon:

    This was my broader point. Whatever the eventual effective percentage turns out to be, it was less than what he required to be on track to tie her in pledged delegates, therefore he falls further behind and his must perform level increases for the remaining states.

    His “win” helped Clinton, not himself.

  28. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @stonetools:

    One other thing: WV is an open primary and a lot of people who voted for Sanders said-

    1. They wanted less liberal policies than Obama is pursuing.

    WTF?

  29. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @Jen: on tax returns….
    How would anyone know if a candidate publicly releases a fraudulent tax return?
    Anyway to authenticate a return that is released to the public?

  30. Jen says:

    @Bob@Youngstown: That’s an interesting question, since candidates are permitted to redact personally identifying information.

    My hunch is that there are more than enough forensic accountants out there who would be able to determine if a return made sense or not based on publicly available information–especially in Trump’s case.

  31. al-Ameda says:

    @Tyrell:

    Sanders could be ahead now, but at the start he kept going light on Hillary, giving her free passes on e-mails and other scandals. Hillary could have ended this a while back with the big opening Sanders gave her on his socialism and heavy spending proposals that would mean big tax hikes on everyone. He also appears weak on foreign policy.

    Scandals? These are Republican manufactured talking points, designed to bring Hillary Clinton down.

    Congressional Republicans have run 8 or 9 investigations of these “scandals” and they’re still trying to fix the result. I’m assuming that the latest Committee investigation will result in the release of a report (in July) following the Democratic Convention, with the direct intent to severely damaging Clinton as the final campaign stretch gets underway.

  32. Tyrell says:

    “Sanders wins…continues to fall behind” there’s a lesson there somewhere.

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