Quick Tuesday Night Recap, 3/23/16
Because apparently now I’ve made it a thing to write something about the Tuesday night primaries on Wednesday.
1. Hey, hey, Bernie Sanders fans! You had a good night last night, with Sanders thumping Clinton in Utah and Idaho by roughly 80/20 in both states and overall winning more pledged delegates than Hillary Clinton for the first time in a long time (62 to Clinton’s 55). That’s good stuff, and makes the argument that Sanders should stay in it for the long haul.
But is it enough? Fivethirtyeight’s delegate tracker suggested that in order for Sanders to be on track to win the nomination, he needed to win 74 delegates last night; he fell a dozen short of that, even with the comically lopsided caucus wins in Utah and Idaho. Clinton, on the other hand, needed to win 57 to hit her target; she got 55. Which is to say, apparently by fivethirtyeight’s calculus, both Clinton and Sanders failed to hit their marks last night — and Sanders failed more.
(Those are CNN’s current numbers, I should note. Associated Press’ numbers are better for Sanders: 67 to 51. Which means Sanders was seven delegates off his target, while Clinton was six off of hers. Smaller margin, same result.)
This doesn’t mean Sanders is overall in a worse position than he was yesterday, since two big wins can give him momentum in future contests. But it’s a reminder that Sanders at this point not only has to win, and win big, but he has to keep Clinton from hitting her numbers, or at least make sure she misses her numbers by wider margins than he does. He’s got a complicated job, he does.
Personally, I’m interested in seeing how the Washington state caucuses go this Saturday; I think they’ll give some indication on whether Clinton’s going to put this away fairly easy (even if Sanders stays in until June) or whether she’s going to have to scrape out the win one delegate at a time, 2008 Obama-style (or, you know, lose, which could happen, as unlikely as I think that is at this point).
2. Neither Sanders nor Clinton hit their Fivethirtyeight delegate numbers last night, but they can take heart in knowing that on the other side of the fence, neither Donald Trump nor Ted Cruz got close to their numbers either (and Kasich got a big fat goose egg, so there’s that). Trump, who won Arizona, was off his delegate number by a dozen; Cruz, who slammed Trump in Utah, was off by three times that number.
But then it’s pretty clear the plan now is not for Cruz to get enough delegates to win the nomination outright; it’s to deny Trump enough delegates to do the same. And it worked last night, but the question now is whether it’ll keep working. Utah is filled with LDS church members who for various reasons dislike Trump as a candidate, which made it easier for Cruz to rack up a lopsided victory over Trump (and Kasich, who actually looks to have finished ahead of Trump in Utah).
But Cruz can’t count on that same advantage in Wisconsin, the next GOP state to go to the polls, which is winner-take-all and where Trump holds the lead; he can’t count on it in New York, which is after that, where the most recent poll has Trump up over Cruz by a ridiculous 52 points. There’s not much on the map that looks friendly to Cruz until May, if you ask me, and most of the contests until May are winner-take-all or winner-take-most (Kasich is likely an also-ran in these contests too). Cruz can’t win, but it’s not clear he can make Trump lose, either.
(And then there’s the problem for the GOP that even if Cruz beats Trump, he’s still friggin’ Ted Cruz, who has even less of a chance in the general than Trump.)
Let me put it this way: My political crystal ball is notoriously cloudy, but even so, at this point I would give Bernie Sanders a better chance of winning the Democratic nomination than Trump not getting the GOP nomination outright. Both could happen; both seem to me unlikely.
3. Oh, and Jeb Bush has endorsed Ted Cruz. Yeah, that’ll help.