March 15 is a crucial day for us Vermont Political Observers, capitalized and otherwise. Not only is it a potential make-or-break for Bernie Sanders, but it’s a deadline day for campaign finance reports from state candidates. And because of Vermont’s relaxed campaign finance law, it’s the first deadline since last July — an eternity in politics, especially in a campaign season that started so darn early.
We will, of course, be watching the primary returns from Florida, Ohio, Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina. I expect Bernie to do better than predicted, as he almost always does; but not well enough to close the delegate gap with Hillary Clinton. The Michigan win, nice as it was, did virtually nothing to close that gap. Hillary’s won a bunch of states by one-sided margins, thanks largely to her yooooge advantage with the black electorate; in order to catch up, Bernie has to not only win a bunch of states — he has to dominate them. That would require some kind of massive unforced error by Clinton, or some kind of unexpected and decisive bad news that would hurt Clinton and help Sanders.
The statistical website FiveThirtyEight has a formula for keeping track of how candidates are faring in the hunt for delegates. It sets a delegate target for each candidate in each state. Right now, it shows Clinton beating her target by nearly a hundred delegates — not including superdelegates. Bernie’s almost a hundred below his target.
Bernie’s Michigan victory netted him a mere seven delegates. He’ll have to pick up that pace substantially and very quickly.