After the first three primary contests, a tight race between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders looked to be breaking in Clinton’s favor. Clinton narrowly won the Iowa caucus and lost the New Hampshire primary by a wide margin, but regained steam following a victory in the Nevada caucus and won convincingly in the majority of Super Tuesday states. However, a big win in Michigan put Bernie back within striking distance. Meanwhile, the unpledged delegates, colloquially known as “superdelegates”, swing massively in Clinton’s favor.
|Delegate Count||2,382 Needed to Win|
Here’s a look at the state of the race:
Pledged Delegates: Clinton Ahead, but Bernie’s Not Out
Clinton is ahead in the count of “pledged” delegates, or those required to vote for a candidate as a result of their state primary or caucus. Here’s how it got that way:
Iowa delegates are distributed by county, not according to the popular vote, meaning that Clinton got a roughly 2.5 percent higher share of delegates than the popular vote might suggest.
|New Hampshire||Popular Vote||Delegates|
Sanders’s decisive win in New Hampshire briefly gave him a 4-delegate edge in pledged delegates and added momentum to his campaign. Because New Hampshire allocates delegates more closely to the total state vote, the vote totals are roughly in line with the popular results.
Clinton’s result in Nevada evened out the race:
Then came Super Tuesday, a huge swing in Clinton’s favor:
|American Samoa||Popular Vote||Delegates|
“Super Saturday” and the next day’s Maine caucus gave the majority of delegates to Sanders, but not by enough to make a deep cut in Clinton’s lead:
Then, on a night that was supposed to put Sanders on the ropes, he responded with a historic upset on March 8 (though Hillary still increased her lead):
‘Superdelegates’ Give Clinton Wide Lead in Controversial Process
The Democratic party allows some veteran party officials to sit at the Democratic National Convention without being selected by their state party committee and regardless of who voters in that state’s primary or caucus voted for. These unpledged delegates, or “superdelegates,” are free to choose whomever they want for the party’s Presidential nominee. So far, Hillary has the endorsement of 449 of the Democratic Party’s 712 superdelegates, putting her more than 18 percent of the way to the 2,382 delegates needed to secure the nomination:
|Unpledged Delegate Count||712 Total|
It’s important to note, however, that superdelegate endorsements are not secure until they become votes at the convention, before which the delegates are free to change their minds. Superdelegates from New Hampshire, where the total delegate count is tied despite Sanders’s runaway win, may do just that in the face of a massive public outcry, including from the state’s Republicans. Moreover, if Sanders can pull out more upsets like he did in Michigan, he may be able to sway more superdelegates.
Looking Ahead: Will the Polls Hold Out?
Sanders had a historic upset in Michigan, which adds a lot of hope to his campaign; unfortunately, he’ll need to do what no one else has ever done over and over again to win the nomination. Clinton has huge leads in neighboring states, including 37 points in Illinois and 20 in Ohio. She’s also leading California by 13.5 and Florida by 29.3. That’s just to stem the Clinton lead, not to actually shrink it; the Democrats have no winner-take-all states, so winning a state doesn’t necessarily mean threatening Clinton’s 220-pledged-delegate advantage.
There’s a ray of hope in the Sanders campaign, though: the South, which heavily favored Clinton, has already voted, and the remaining states are demographically more friendly.
Democratic Primary & Caucus Schedule
Democratic Primary & Debate Schedule
Florida: March 9, Univision
South Carolina: February 27
Super Tuesday (Alabama, American Samoa, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma,
Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia): March 1
Kansas, Louisiana: March 5
Maine: March 6
Michigan, Mississippi, Democrats Abroad: March 8
Northern Mariana Islands: March 12
Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio: March 15
Arizona, Idaho, Utah: March 22
Alaska, Hawaii, Washington: March 26
Wisconsin: April 5
Wyoming: April 9
New York: April 19
Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island: April 26
Indiana: May 3
West Virginia: May 10
Kentucky, Oregon: May 17
California, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota: June 7
Washington, D.C.: June 14