Bernie Sanders’ winning streak is about to end


While Bernie Sanders won a surprise victory in Michigan, according to Politico, his long-term prospects aren’t as rosy.

Jason Zappulla, Writer


To many observers, Bernie Sanders is on a roll. The 74-year old Senator from Vermont has won 7 out of the last 8 Democratic contests, according to US News and World Report. This string of victories has prompted some (including Sanders himself) to claim Sanders is on a “path to victory”, and that he is likely to win the Democratic nomination for president over the current frontrunner, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. However, this narrative is misleading, and it seems likely that Sanders’ luck will soon run out.

First, Sanders has a big advantage that has driven his recent success: he is strong in caucuses. As FiveThirtyEight explained, caucuses favor candidates with diehard, devoted supporters, something Bernie Sanders certainly has. In addition, by coincidence, all of this year’s caucus states have low numbers of minorities, and in general, Sanders has done poorly among minorities. While Sanders has performed strongly in these caucuses, as of this writing, only one caucus remains: North Dakota on June 7. While North Dakota’s 23 delegates (18 would be ‘pledged’ and would have to vote according to the North Dakota popular votes at the Democratic National Convention, while 5 would be ‘unpledged’ and can vote however they want) could help Sanders, North Dakota is fairly inconsequential compared to states like Pennsylvania (210 delegates), New York (291 delegates) and California (548 delegates). Of those states, FiveThirtyEight gives Clinton an 88% chance of beating Sanders in Pennsylvania, a 99% chance in New York, and a 77% chance in California. Though Sanders could emerge with some delegates due to Democratic primary rules, which allocate delegates proportionally (so even if Sanders loses a state to Clinton, he would still gain some delegates based on his percentage of the popular vote), Sanders’ poor polling means he will likely gain far fewer delegates than Clinton, and these states will only increase Clinton’s lead. Even if Sanders can win some of the big states, he also has to contend with the fact that he is even further behind in popular votes than in delegates, and in the event of a close race, Hillary Clinton’s super-delegates (party elites who are not tied to any vote of the people) could be the deciding factor.

While a path for Bernie Sanders to gain the Democratic nomination does exist, according to FiveThirtyEight, it would take nothing short of a miracle for Sanders to emerge victorious. Sanders would have to win big, or at least come very close to beating Clinton, in all of the large states; according to Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight, even a single major loss in a state like New York or California “could be fatal to [Sanders’] chances.” Sanders can’t afford to make any mistakes, and while events such as the Michigan primary (where Sanders won Michigan despite previous polls showing Clinton leading Sanders “by double digits”, according to Politico) show Sanders can pull off surprises, one upset won’t be enough; Sanders is going to need a lot more Michigans in order to get the nomination. A Sanders win would require a huge shift in the Democratic race, and while such a thing is possible, the numbers do not favor the Vermont Senator.