Bernie Sanders has gotten farther in this presidential race than anyone this side of Tad Devine ever believed. I am among the happy throng that has tried to glass-ceiling the Bernie Insurgency, only to see him smash right through. And I’m prepared to be wrong again, but I firmly believe what I’m about to write.
Bernie Sanders has reached his high point.
And I have the numbers to back that up.
Yes, he finished a strong second to Hillary Clinton in Nevada. Yes, he has one strong win and two narrow losses so far. But when I look at the upcoming primary calendar, I see a lot of bad news in Bernie’s future.
Let’s start with South Carolina, where Clinton has a decisive edge — and Bernie’s own campaign appears to be waving the white flag. They deny it, naturally; but his schedule argues otherwise. South Carolina Democrats vote on Saturday, but Sanders is spending almost the entire week in states that vote on Super Tuesday and beyond.
When asked about his Palmetto prospects, Bernie put on a happy face.
“We came to South Carolina, and, if you look at the polls, we were at 7, 8, 9 percent in the polls. We were 50, 60, 70 points behind. We have waged a very vigorous campaign. We have closed the gap very significantly,” he said.
He said the same thing after losing in Nevada. And it’s true; but it sounds a lot like Marco Rubio claiming victory after the latest loss. At some point, you have to start winning.
Beyond South Carolina, you look at the upcoming contests, and the odds against Bernie become crystal clear. (Like a glass ceiling, heh.)
March 1: He’ll win Vermont. He’s narrowly ahead in Massachusetts. As for the rest (aggregate polling numbers from RealClearPolitics):
Texas: Clinton up by 16 percent
Virginia: Clinton by 17
Georgia: Clinton by 38
Tennessee: Clinton by 23
Arkansas: Clinton by 29
Alabama: Clinton by 28
Oklahoma: Clinton by 14
The caucus states of Minnesota and Colorado haven’t seen any recent polling, but the latest figures show Clinton with leads of 26 and 28 percent.
In states where Clinton is leading, there are 865 delegates at stake.
In states where Sanders leads, there are 142 delegates up for grabs.
It doesn’t get any better on Saturday, March 5, when two states vote by caucus and there’s one primary.
Kansas: Clinton by 48 (very old poll)
Louisiana: Clinton by 41
Nebraska: Can’t find any poll data, but it doesn’t seem like Bernie Country
Kansas and Louisiana combined will choose 84 delegates. Nebraska, another 25.
Maine holds caucuses on March 6; let’s give Bernie the edge for its 25 delegates. That balances out Nebraska.
On March 8 we get two more Clinton states with a total of 184 delegates.
Michigan: Clinton by 19
Mississippi: Clinton by 34
Then comes March 15, and more places where Bernie trails badly.
Florida: Clinton by 39
Illinois: Clinton by 19
Missouri: Clinton by 28 (old poll)
North Carolina: Clinton by 19
Ohio: Clinton by 15
Those five states combine for 751 delegates.
So, between March 1 and March 15:
States where Clinton is ahead by double digits (plus Nebraska): 1799 delegates
States where Sanders leads (plus Maine): 208 delegates
Now, Clinton isn’t winning all 1799 — but she’s poised to roll up solid majorities in each state. Bernie is far behind in every state outside New England.
Even without the superdelegates, Clinton is likely to have an insurmountable lead by the morning of March 16.
Bernie Sanders will be playing catch-up almost everywhere he goes. He’s running short of time.
Can he do it? He’s outperformed expectations so far, but the climb just got a lot steeper. We shall see.