When Bernie Sanders proclaimed that he feels that Hillary Clinton was unqualified for president, his remarks were fueled by the frustration of a campaign that has been on a winning streak, but is losing the overall battle for the Democratic nomination.
The results in Wisconsin are a perfect example of the problem that the Sanders campaign is facing. Bernie Sanders won Wisconsin by 13 points, which was great for his campaign, but according to Nate Silver, Sanders needed a 16 point win to take 50 of the state’s 86 delegates. A sixteen point win would have kept him on pace to erase Hillary Clinton’s delegate lead. Since he fell short, Sanders is going to need to pick up a couple of extra delegates elsewhere to get back on track.
On Wednesday’s Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC, Steve Kornacki broke down how difficult it is going to be for Sanders to catch Clinton:
Kornacki’s math revealed that even if Sanders does well and wins states like New York and Pennsylvania by a few points, his margin of victory won’t be enough to overtake Clinton.
After Wyoming on Saturday, the Democratic primary calendar is going to flip to states that will demographically favorable to Hillary Clinton. Thirteen of the next sixteen contests will be closed primaries. The secret behind the recent burst of momentum for Sanders is that the contests have been open primaries and caucuses in white dominated states that lack population diversity. However, the Democratic race is about to be contested in more ethnically diverse states where only registered Democrats will be voting.
Sanders has feasted on caucuses and Independents crossing over to support him. Sanders lost Arizona’s closed primary by 15 points. He lost Florida’s closed primary by 31 points. The next five contests after Wyoming are all closed primaries.
The math and the calendar favor former Sec. of State Clinton.
The Sanders campaign finds itself in the same odd no man’s land that Clinton faced in 2008. Sanders has rattled off a bunch of wins, but he isn’t really making up much ground. This is why Sen. Sanders’ speeches are increasingly peppered with references to that magic fairy dust that every trailing candidate invokes, momentum. The Sanders campaign can’t argue the delegate math, so they are hoping for a miracle in the form of a momentum wave that will turn the Democratic race around, but the question is, does Bernie Sanders have real momentum, or did he benefit for a segment of the primary schedule that was right in his wheelhouse?
A win in New York would prove that Sanders can both beat Clinton in a closed primary and that his momentum is real. A New York victory for Hillary Clinton likely sets her up for a very strong close to April, that could all but put the Democratic primary to bed. Even after the Sanders winning streak, the percentage of remaining delegates that Clinton needs to clinch the nomination dropped from 34% to 33%.
When Sanders said at his rally in Philadelphia that, “And she has been saying lately that she thinks that I am, quote-unquote not qualified to be president,’ he said as the raucous crowd booed. ‘Well let me just say in response, to Secretary Clinton, I don’t believe that she is qualified,” his campaign shifted and for the first time showed a hint of cracking under the pressure of a math problem that only gotten more difficult even after a series of wins.
Voters have seen the frustration grow in both Democratic campaigns as the fatigue sets in, and the primary race continues to grind forward. The Clinton campaign is frustrated that they can’t put Bernie Sanders away once and for all. The Sanders campaign is frustrated by the fact that they keep winning but not getting much closer to the nomination.
The reality is that Bernie Sanders won Wisconsin but now finds the hill that he must climb even steeper if he is going to win the nomination. The Sanders campaign is frustrated, and that frustration is beginning to boil over.
Nerves are frayed, and tempers are flaring, but the truth is that the Democratic race looks to be stuck in a pattern where both candidates are going to have slog through the remaining contests engaged in a game of proportional delegate allocation Democratic trench warfare that Hillary Clinton is better positioned to win.