Can Bernie Sanders Still Win The Democratic Nomination?

Photo: Julie Jacobson/AP Images.
Update: Bernie Sanders won the Indiana primary on Tuesday, defeating Hillary Clinton with 52% of the vote. He told reporters he sees a "path to victory, although it is a narrow path." "I sense a great deal of momentum," Sanders said. "We understand -- and I do not deny it for one second -- that we have an uphill battle in front of us." Clinton maintains a lead in the overall pledged delegate count, however, with 1,682 to Sanders' 1,361. That means the Vermont senator needs big wins in the upcoming states in order to try to close that gap.

Update 4/27/17:
Hillary Clinton won four of the five states up for grabs in Tuesday's primaries, expanding her delegate lead over Bernie Sanders. The former secretary of state now has 90% of the delegates needed to secure the nomination, according to an analysis by The Associated Press. Sanders, who won Rhode Island, issued a statement Tuesday saying he aims to enter the July Democratic National Convention “with as many delegates as possible to fight for a progressive party platform."

This story was originally published on April 25, 2016.

With just three months until the Democratic National Convention, presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders remain locked in a fierce fight for the party's nomination.

But as we enter the final weeks of the primary contests, the likelihood that Sanders will emerge as the nominee appears to be getting slimmer.

Sanders' campaign and supporters were buoyed by a string of victories in late March and early April. And he continues to draw large crowds at campaign events — including an estimated 27,000 fans who packed into a park near New York University early this month.

Yet the Vermont senator has failed to score wins big enough to surpass Clinton's lead. A double-digits loss in New York's high-stakes primary last week didn't help.

Sanders himself acknowledged this weekend that he faces a "narrow path to victory," though he pledged to continue to fight in the remaining primary contests.

The main hurdle for Sanders? Math.

Clinton leads among pledged delegates, 1,446 to 1,200, based on the primary and caucus results so far. She also has commitments from more than 500 superdelegates; fewer than 40 are openly backing Sanders. A candidate needs 2,383 delegate votes in order to win the Democratic nomination.
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Even if Sanders can't clinch the nomination, he and his supporters can still have a major impact on the election — and the future of national politics.

At this point, Clinton could lose every remaining contest and still win the nomination, according to an analysis by The Associated Press. Sanders would have to take more than three-quarters of the remaining delegates up for grabs in order to block her victory. And, as NPR notes, that would mean winning the remaining states by 20-point margins.

That's no easy feat, especially given the contests left on the primary calendar. The five states voting this Tuesday, for example, are expected to deliver strong results for Clinton. One reason is that most hold closed primaries, meaning independent voters can't participate.

Without picking up most of the remaining pledged delegates, Sanders would need to win over enough superdelegates to swing the vote in his favor at the convention in Philadelphia this July. As Vox wrote last week, the race "has seen little movement toward Sanders and no sign that a majority of superdelegates will switch allegiances based on the conclusion of the race."

"The Sanders campaign is projecting optimism to raise hopes among supporters, but there are not enough uncommitted superdelegates to make up his deficit," the site reported.

Of course, in politics, almost anything is possible. Sanders could exceed expectations in delegate-rich states, such as California, and take his case — and courting of superdelegates — all the way to the convention floor.

But even if Sanders can't clinch the nomination, he and his supporters can still have a major impact on the election — and the future of national politics. He has proved to be a prolific fundraiser, and his message has clearly energized a big chunk of voters.

Those are powerful forces heading into November.

“There is a greater goal here,” Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva of Arizona, a co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told The New York Times. “The contribution of Bernie that will be lasting for us is that we will coalesce around an agenda.”
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