Can Bernie Sanders Still Win the Nomination?

Bernie Sanders chances, Bernie Sanders polls, Bernie Sanders delegates

Bernie Sanders faces a daunting climb to the Democratic nomination. Getty

May 17 was a draw for Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Clinton won Kentucky’s popular vote by a nose, splitting the Bluegrass State delegates with Sanders 27-27. Meanwhile, Sanders’s double-digit Oregon win gave him 28 of Oregon’s delegates to Clinton’s 24. The net result is a 4-delegate swing for Sanders and a victory on the night.

Sanders, however, needed far more than a simple majority. Mathematically eliminated from the 2,383 delegates needed to clinch the nomination with only pledged delegates, Sanders set a new target: 2,026, or the majority of pledged delegates, in order to convince the party’s super- or unpledged delegates to back him at the convention. Sanders needed 65 percent of the remaining pledged delegates prior to Kentucky and Oregon to reach this number, but only got around 52 percent. This leaves him needing 67 percent of the remaining delegates, a number the polls suggest he may not get near.

Democratic Delegate Count (2,383 Needed)
Hillary Clinton
Bernie Sanders 1,528

Here’s a look at the state of the race:

California & New Jersey Polls: Clinton Up Big

Polls from the three most delegate-rich states, as aggregated by RealClearPolitics and Huffpost Pollster, favor Clinton by a wide margin:

California RealClearPolitics Averages 475 Delegates
Hillary Clinton 51%
Bernie Sanders 41.3%


New Jersey RealClearPolitics Averages* 126 Delegates
Hillary Clinton 55%
Bernie Sanders 38%

*Limited recent polling

Sanders has defied the polls before, winning in Michigan and Indiana despite polls showing Clinton leading comfortably. However, the larger upset of the two, Michigan, was a 1.5-point victory over Clinton’s 21.4-point polling lead. This 22.9-point victory against the spread is the largest win against the polling spread in Presidential primary history, but Sanders would need to nearly double it to get to a 67-33 win from his 9.7-point polling deficit in California, with New Jersey an even wider 17-point gap.

Projections: Major States Favor Clinton

FiveThirtyEight, which uses a polls-plus forecast utilizing factors like endorsements and previous results to give context to the polls, has Clinton as the favorite in the three biggest primaries:


FiveThirtyEight Polls-Plus Forecast: California
Hillary Clinton 93%
Bernie Sanders 7%


FiveThirtyEight Poll Tracking: New Jersey
Hillary Clinton 97%
Bernie Sanders 3%

FiveThirtyEight has correctly called 43 of 46 races when predicting winners with a chance greater than 75 percent, with a 30-for-31 record assigning chances above 95 percent.