Bernie Sanders’ campaign has been outperforming all expectations and will continue to do so. The Democratic nomination is still an open question.
To see why, let’s appreciate what Bernie has accomplished so far. He has faced tremendous obstacles: a massive lack of name recognition, an extraordinary deficit of corporate media coverage and an intransigent Democratic National Committee that refused to increase the number of primary debates. A December 2015 Tyndall Report showed an 81:1 ratio of Trump-related coverage to Bernie-related coverage on ABC; Bernie won Time’s Person of the Year online vote, but Time’s editorial board refused to pick him.
Despite this, Bernie has drawn gigantic crowds to his rallies (28,000 in Portland and 27,500 in Los Angeles). His pledges to refuse corporate contributions notwithstanding, Bernie has been wildly successful at fundraising. His campaign raised $42.7 million from 1.4 million contributions in February alone, raising a stunning $6 million in the last day before Super Tuesday. That’s far more than former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton LAW ’73, who only raised $30 million last month. As of Feb. 22, Bernie had raised almost $95 million from individual contributions; the average contribution was only around $30. He has garnered endorsements from nearly all progressive groups that have allowed their membership to determine whom to endorse, with Bernie usually winning around 80 percent of the vote.
He fought the vaunted Clinton juggernaut to a near tie in Iowa, won New Hampshire by 22 percent and lost Nevada by only 5 percent after being down 20 percent just a few months ago. And in the past week, Bernie received endorsements from big names: Robert Reich LAW ’73, Bill Clinton’s former labor secretary, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who stepped down from her position as vice-chair of the Democratic National Committee to do so. All of this doesn’t sound like a campaign that’s losing momentum.
Now let’s turn to Super Tuesday’s results. Clinton won Southern states and won big — there’s no denying that. But in its fixation on Clinton’s supposed “domination,” the media has conveniently forgotten that she was always expected to win the South. The more interesting story is the states Bernie won (or nearly won, in the case of Massachusetts). Where he won, Bernie prevailed by hefty margins: in Oklahoma by 10.4 percent, in Vermont by 72 percent, Colorado by almost 20 percent and in Minnesota by over 20 percent. In Massachusetts, he lost by around 1.5 percent, but he won voters making below $100,000 and won 41 percent of nonwhite voters. As of Wednesday night, with some delegates outstanding, he won 334 delegates on Super Tuesday – a very respectable total.
Demographically, the states Bernie carried resemble the states that have yet to vote. Colorado and Minnesota are far more similar to Ohio, Illinois and Missouri than states like Alabama or Georgia. The Sanders coalition is diverse. Contrary to reports that paint Sanders supporters as all white men, Bernie beat Hillary among women in New Hampshire and Iowa, and he appeared to have tied her among Latinx voters in Nevada. Bernie has also excelled among demographics that will be key in the general election: young voters, first-time voters, independents, liberals and working-class voters.
It’s true that Hillary has received enormous support from African-Americans across the South. Bernie’s difficulty with African-American voters is worrisome, and he must broaden his coalition and improve his racial justice platform. However, it’s also possible, as political theorist Corey Robin suggests, that this support reflects regional differences and a Southern African-American electorate that skewed older more than it does a deep, race-based difference in voting patterns. Time will tell.
With that caveat, the Sanders coalition looks good going forward. Bernie has won or nearly tied in six of the eight states that are Democratic or swing states, while Clinton has prevailed primarily in states that vote Republican in general elections. After mid-March, the calendar becomes more favorable for Sanders, featuring states like Wisconsin, California, Arizona and Oregon.
Stories about Clinton’s momentum miss all of the above, and also ignore the following statistics: Clinton has won 596 pledged delegates. Bernie has won 399. That’s a gap of fewer than 200 delegates — not inconsiderable, but not insurmountable. There are 4,051 pledged delegates, meaning either candidate needs 2,026 to receive a majority. Over 75 percent of pledged delegates are still up for grabs. Clinton has racked up superdelegates, but the media has forgotten a crucial point in its rush to anoint her: superdelegates can change their minds at any time. Not only can they switch to the candidate who wins the popular vote, but they must, unless they want to divide the Democratic Party.
It took Obama until June 3 to secure the nomination. Hillary didn’t concede until June 7. Reports of the Sanders campaign’s demise are premature. We’ve got a long way to go before we have a nominee.
Scott Remer is a senior in Pierson College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org