Can Bernie Sanders Still Win The Nomination? His Chances Are Getting Slimmer And Slimmer

On Monday, the Associated Press announced that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had reached the delegate and superdelegate count to secure the Democratic nomination at the party convention this summer. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is hearing none of it though, saying that Tuesday’s primaries still matter (which is true! They do! Every go vote, goddamnit!). He’s not planning on dropping out, but whether Sanders can still win the nomination is looking less and less likely. He’s not delusional about the numbers — he could technically still win the nomination, especially if he manages to win California’s and New Jersey’s primaries Tuesday, since they have the most delegates up for grabs.

It all comes down to this delegate math. After tallying up the results from the weekend primaries in Guam and Puerto Rico Monday, the Associated Press and NBC News discovered that Clinton had secured 1,812 pledged delegates and 571 superdelegates, which adds up to the necessary 2,383 delegates to take the convention, easy peasy.

Sanders, by contrast, has 1,521 pledged delegates and about 48 superdelegates. But the superdelegates can go either way at the convention July 25, as they aren’t tied to any particular candidate. That’s a long time from now. Sanders believes that if he takes California’s 400-some pledged delegates and New Jersey’s 125 pledged delegates this week, he could make the case to the unbound superdelegates that he should be the nominee. But, he would have to win pretty much all of the remaining pledged delegates to get close enough to 2,383 delegates, and that is almost impossible at this point.

Bernie Sanders Campaigns In California Ahead Of State Primary
CREDIT: Ramin Talaie /Getty Images

It’s this hope for the remaining delegates that’s inspired his campaign to blame the media and the Clinton campaign for prematurely calling the primary Monday night, right before Tuesday’s big votes. However, it’s not likely there’s some big conspiracy to stop the votein six states on Tuesday considering the primaries will still take place.

In a statement posted on his website Monday night, Sanders said:

“It is unfortunate that the media, in a rush to judgment, are ignoring the Democratic National Committee’s clear statement that it is wrong to count the votes of superdelegates before they actually vote at the convention this summer.”

He added, “Our job from now until the convention is to convince those superdelegates that Bernie is by far the strongest candidate against Donald Trump.”

What he’s hoping for is a contested convention. And that’s fair — rules are rules after all. It’s not like the Republican convention where Trump was able to hit the magic number and be presumed to win the nomination, because Republicans, for all of their problems, are actually smart enough to not have these wild card superdelegates to deal with. But, if Sanders doesn’t take all of Tuesday’s primaries, he is going to have a very hard time convincing superdelegates (and the rest of the country) that he should be the nominee. At the risk of “rushing to judgement,” Clinton also has 13.5 million popular votes, compared to Sanders’ 10.5 million, according to FiveThirtyEight. The system isn’t really rigged, it’s just complicated, and Sanders is behind fair and square. But also to be fair and square, the race is genuinely not over. It’s why we use the word “presumptive.”

The fact is, you can be behind by delegates and popular votes and still run for the presidential nomination at a contested convention. Sanders is promising to head to Philadelphia no matter what the numbers suggest. A contested convention is like Super Bowl Sunday for political junkies. In the case of a contested convention, the Democratic National Committee will hold a round of votes according to rules they’ll establish at the beginning of the four-day convention. All of those pledged delegates will have to vote for their respective candidate in the first round and the superdelegates can vote for anyone they like — this is why Sanders is saying that Clinton’s delegate count isn’t really set in stone.

If the first round of voting doesn’t declare a clear winner, they’ll vote again, and again, and again (sounds like a fun party). In those subsequent rounds of voting, pledged delegates can switch sides. In between votes, there will be politicking, ass kissing, and wheeling and dealing with the delegates, House of Cards-style. Sanders is hoping to win in the primaries on Tuesday so he has a better case to persuade those delegates in Philly over martinis and cigars (that’s just how I imagine it) that they should vote for him.

Even if it’s mathematically possible for Sanders to win, there are two reasons why one might argue the senator should just call it quits. The first is that this man has been running on principles and the democratic process. He fought hard about the “closed primaries” where Independents who might have voted for him couldn’t. And now he’s holding out to play around with the superdelegates at the convention this summer, when he’s previously spoken about how the delegate system at the convention is flawed. You can’t have it both ways, Bern!

The second reason is obviously Trump. Neither of the Democratic candidates are ideal. Bernie supporters are threatening to not vote for Clinton if she wins the nomination, and this refusal to concede could already be hurting the fight against Trump. Listen, Clinton is not perfect. I like to look at her (despite her party affiliation) like President Fitzgerald Grant from Scandal — he’s terrible, corrupt, and whiny, but he’s not like, a buffoon. Trump is a buffoon. A scary, bigoted, and misogynistic one. It’s surprising that he made it this far, but he did. Technically, both Clinton and Sanders poll well against Trump, but if Clinton is leading in the Democratic popular vote and the delegate count, she might be the better candidate, even if you don’t like her politics.

It’s a bummer that we’re basically faced with picking “the best person to keep Trump from winning” instead of “the best actual President of the United States” but that’s completely where we’re at.

So yes, anything can happen at the convention, even if we have a “presumptive” nominee. Regardless, Democrats need to focus on ensuring there is no possible way Trump can get close to the White House.