This Is a Blog: Numbers Time: A Glimmer is Still Hope

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Numbers Time: A Glimmer is Still Hope

Here we are again. Around this time four years ago, I decided to stop focusing on the insane partisan divide, even within my own party, and focus solely on math. We are now faced with two questions going into the back half of this way-too-long primary season:

1) Will Joe Biden earn 1,991 pledged delegates to win on the first ballot? (superdelegates are a completely different topic, and i won't be getting into them again)

2) Does Bernie Sanders have a chance to win?

In most years, the first question wouldn't even come up. When two candidates are winning delegates, all they need is more than half. This year, though, five other candidates won 168 delegates. That's a lot more than the normal handful, and definitely enough to result in neither the top two candidates breaking the barrier.

Currently standing at 1,180 delegates, Biden needs 811 delegates to cross the threshold. As of the time I'm writing this, 2,233 delegates have been apportioned, meaning 1,749 are still in play, and Biden needs only 46% of them. For reference, Biden has been averaging 46% of delegates per race, 50% if you exclude states where he won no delegates, 52% since Super Tuesday.

Nine states who have already voted still have 65 delegates to apportion, plus 1,684 in the remaining races. Of those 65 delegates, roughly half are from states Bernie won. In all likelihood, Biden will get more than half, but to make it interesting, let's say Biden only gets 33, bringing him up to 1,213. That means he needs 778 to hit 1,991, or 46% of the remaining 1,684. In essence, if Biden wins half of the remaining races, he will not only get more delegates than Bernie, but he will more than cross the 1,991 threshold.

But on to Bernie.

Unlike last time, we have something to compare this race to. Since voting wasn't in the exact same order in 2016, we're not talking calendar, I'm comparing the races we've completed with those same states' results in 2016 (including California and not including Georgia). In 2016, at this same point, Bernie was down 227 delegates. Bernie is currently down 295. Short answer, I didn't think he had a shot at this point in 2016, and he has even worse chances now. But if I stopped at short answers, we wouldn't be here.

If you'll recall last time, the key to democratic primary victory is strength of victory, not just states won. It's how after narrow victories in Iowa and New Hampshire, Bernie was able to pull way ahead with a huge +15 win in Nevada, and then Biden was able to almost complete erase that lead with a +24 win in South Carolina. It's also why Bernie's loss in Texas is important. He lost Texas by 72 delegates in 2016, and only lost by 9 in 2020. Combined with a (so far) +51 victory in California, keeping it close in Texas can be just as important as winning.

So in the remaining races, can Bernie pull out enough big wins and keep Biden’s wins small enough to make up the difference? He can if he wins big in the biggest states, right? Let’s test that theory.

There are 28 remaining races, and a 295 delegate gap to close, that’s 10.5 delegates per race. Let’s be nice and say Bernie only needs 10 per race (even though 10 per race will only be 280 delegates). Ten delegates per race doesn’t sound like a lot. Biden won four races by over 30. But Bernie needs to average 10 per race. He needs to win EVERY contest and win it by a 10 delegate margin. Biden didn’t even win every race. And every race Bernie loses raises the margin he needs.

Right off the bat, The Virgin Islands and Guam only have 7 delegates each, so let’s give all 14 delegates to Bernie and recalculate. A 281 delegate gap in 26 races averages to 11. And there is no way in hell Bernie is going to win Georgia, Louisiana, or DC, but let’s be nice and say it will be close. Bernie finishes one delegate behind in Georgia and splits Louisiana and DC evenly. That’s 282 in 23 races, an average of 12.

StateDelegatesNeeded for +12+12 Lead %60% of Delegates60% Lead
Dems. Abroad1313100%8+3
South Dakota161487.5%10+4
Rhode Island261973.1%16+6
West Virginia282071.4%17+6
New Mexico342367.6%20+6
Puerto Rico513261.8%31+11

In the above races, a +12 delegate lead would mean winning over 60% of delegates. He has yet to do that, so it’s safe to say he’s not going to AVERAGE more than 60%. Again, Biden, who has been beating him worse than in 2016, averages, at best 52%. What’s that you say? He did get more than 60% in Democrats Abroad in 2016. Why, yes, he did, but we’re talking averages here, so remember that for every expectation he exceeds, there will be one he falls short. So by capping delegates at 60%, instead of closing 168 delegates in 14 states, he closes 75. Leaving 207 in 9 races, an average of 23.

StateDelegatesNeeded for +23+23 Lead %60% of Delegates60% Lead

Now, in the above states, +23 puts them over 60%, so we adjust again. Instead of closing 115, he closes 77, leaving 130 in 4 races. Even if Bernie has a couple spectacular wins, far exceeding expectations, he will still be relying on the four largest races to close most of the gap. So far that’s 32.5 per remaining four races, give or take.

StateDelegatesNeeded for +32+32 Lead %60% of Delegates60% Lead
New Jersey1267962.7%76+26

Let’s be nice and give +32 to the smaller states, 33 to the larger. In New Jersey and Ohio, that’s over 60%, so instead of closing the gap 64, they only close the gap 54, leaving 76 in just two states, +38 per state. That puts Pennsylvania slightly over 60% and New York slightly under.

StateDelegatesNeeded for +38+38 Lead %
New York27415656.9%

So there’s your glimmer of hope. If Bernie averages 60% delegate leads in all remaining races, he can still win. But if he gets blown out in one more race, it’s over.

Compare that to Biden, though. Who only needs 46% of remaining delegates and just thwomped Bernie by a margin of over 90 in Florida, a bigger victory than Hillary won in any 2016 primary.

Does this mean Bernie should drop out? No. He should stay in as long as he has money to force Biden to run further to the left. On the other hand, if you hear whispers of the DNC trying to force him out of the race, that is not a bad thing. Their job isn’t to push Bernie’s agenda. That’s his job. Their job is to protect and strengthen the presumptive candidate, and right now, it’s clearly Biden.

We need Bernie to help turn Biden into a more appealing candidate, a candidate more in line with our values, not just “not the president.” His best chance to do that is to keep running. But we all need to be careful to make sure we’re pushing Biden the way we want, not tearing him down.

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Blogger Nulla Lex Ink. said...

I'm sure you've heard by now, but Bernie's out. Sort of wish he'd have stayed in a bit longer, especially considering how this race is turning out to be so different from any others due to the crisis. But I get why he dropped.

On another note, do you watch other races, like senate, gubernatorial ones? Do you have a take on the Massachusetts one?

April 8, 2020 at 2:26 PM  

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