“Bernie Sanders in all likelihood is the nominee, unless it gets taken away from him at the convention,” predicted David Plouffe
, who managed Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, Thursday morning on MSNBC.
Here’s why: Sanders went into Wednesday’s debate having come in just shy of first in the Iowa caucuses, the winner of the New Hampshire primary and the polling front-runner in advance of Nevada’s caucuses set for Saturday.
He left it in the exact
same position. Which is tremendously good news for his campaign. Because Sanders is now the likely winner in Nevada and, if polling is to believed, will be competitive (or better) with former Vice President Joe Biden
in South Carolina, which will vote a week from Saturday.
Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that Sanders wins Nevada and comes in second in South Carolina. He will have won or finished a very narrow second in every single one of the first four states — a record that seems unlikely to be matched by anyone else in the field. (Pete Buttigieg
, who won Iowa and placed second in New Hampshire, is the only one who can potentially match Sanders’ showing, but it seems very unlikely given the former South Bend, Indiana, mayor’s difficulty so far in winning over non-white voters.)
The race will then move to March 3, aka Super Tuesday, when 14 states (and American Samoa!) are set to vote. Those 14 states, which include delegate behemoths like California and Texas, will dole out roughly 1/3 of ALL available delegates in the race. And more than 70% of the 1,991 a candidate would need to secure the nomination.
Guess who is already winning in California? Yup, it’s Sanders, who had more than double the support of his closest rival in a Public Policy Institute of California poll
released earlier this week. Any idea who is winning in Texas? Also, Sanders
. In fact, if you look at the (admittedly limited) polling data in the other 12 Super Tuesday states, you will find Sanders in first or second in virtually every one.
Now, because Democrats give delegates in a proportional manner — any candidate getting 15% statewide or 15% in a congressional district qualifies to receive delegates — no one candidate will come close to winning a majority of all delegates on Super Tuesday.
But that same proportional allocation — when coupled with the fact that Sanders has a built-in 25(ish)% in every single state that will vote between now and when the primary process ends in June — means that the Vermont senator is just going to keep piling up delegates.
Will he get to the magic number of 1,991? That’s not clear just yet. But what seems much more clear after Wednesday’s debate is that Sanders is perfectly positioned to end the primary season with the most delegates of anyone in the field. Which is a very good place to be.