To win the Democratic nomination for president, Bernie Sanders has to prevail on the first ballot at the national convention. Superdelegates are eligible to vote on the second ballot and few of them will vote for Bernie. The only way for us to win is with the people’s votes. Put another way, Bernie will have to win more pledged delegates than all the other candidates combined to get the nomination. This is the only way.
3,979 pledged delegates will vote on the first ballot. A candidate needs 1,990 pledged delegates to become the nominee on the first ballot. I’d like to have a bit of a safety margin for feckless delegates or other perfidy. So my target for Bernie is 2,000 delegates.
Bernie’s road to the Democratic presidential nomination is a hard one. It’s likely harder than the general election contest would be for him. The institutional levers of the Democratic party are controlled by people who see Sanders as a threat to their power and control of the party. These individuals and institutions will not easily release their grip on the institution.
The odds are stacked against Bernie. When the media isn’t ignoring Bernie, they ricochet between skepticism and outright scorn. Billionaires are funneling money into super-pacs supporting Pete Buttigieg and Joe Biden. As if that wasn’t enough, two billionaires are running in the primary and another awaits in the general. Bloomberg has virtually limitless funding and is carpet-bombing TV stations in super Tuesday states. Several candidates have the funding to stay in the race till super Tuesday, potentially reducing the number of delegates we can win on that day.
To add to it all, millions of voters who consider Bernie their second choice are supporting other candidates, splintering his coalition. For example, Bernie won 69,452 Iowa caucus goers in 2016. This cycle, he had 43,671. Over 25,000 Iowans who voted for Bernie in 2016 switched to one of the other candidates in the wide field we have this year. Despite the fact that 35,000 more people turned up to caucus this year than in 2016.
Worst of all, the result in Iowa has already put us behind. By my calculation, to be on track to win 2,000 delegates, Bernie should have won 15 delegates in Iowa. He won 12, maybe 13 once the dust settles. We are already down two. In New Hampshire I believe Bernie needs to win 11 of 24 delegates to stay on track towards 2,000.
Every day, every hour, every minute is going to count. Every phone call, text message and knock on a voters door will matter. If we are to win this, we need a convincing victory, with Bernie leaving every other candidate in the dust.
With that in mind, I’m sharing my delegate targets for 2020. The calculation factors in Bernie’s relative under/over performance in each state in 2016, assumes some of that effect will be visible in 2020. It also factors in the impact of minor candidates who fail to meet the 15% threshold for delegates. That effect fades as we get later in the calendar. I assume as we get into March, this will look more like a two candidate race. By that point, the center-right wing of the Democratic party will be aiming all its attacks on Bernie.
The wild card here is Bloomberg, who has the financial resources to continue running till the bitter end, even if he is third. His impact on the race depends on whether you believe his supporters overlap with Bernie’s at all and whether he reaches the 15% viability threshold consistently. If he remains below 15% and most of his voters would otherwise align with Buttigieg, Warren or Biden, then he helps Bernie by being in the race.
The Bernie campaign must remain laser focused on collecting delegates at a pace necessary to win an outright majority. It almost doesn’t matter what the other candidates are doing at some point, as long as Bernie is collecting delegates at the required pace. That’s the only thing this table below focuses on.
To win this primary, Bernie will have to start winning 50% or more of delegates awarded in each contest. Results like Iowa, 13 out of 41 delegates, simply won’t cut it. That means we need to redouble our efforts. Phonebank, Call, Canvass for Bernie.
|Date||STATE||DELEGATES||TYPE||Needed to Win||20 Actual||20 Gap|
|2/22/2020||NV||36||Closed Caucus (del)||14|
|3/3/2020||ME||24||Closed Primary (del)||15|
|3/10/2020||ND||14||Open Caucus (del)||8|