Beware the Ides of March.
So said a fortune teller to Julius Caesar in William Shakespeare’s play, predicting Caesar’s impending doom.
While Hillary Clinton supporters and media pundits may view the results of the March 15, 2016, primaries as predicting doom for Bernie Sanders, events will likely play out quite differently.
Last night Sanders lost Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio by large margins, and lost Illinois by 2% and Missouri by 0.2% (about 1,600 votes). The delegate count now stands at Clinton’s 1,132 to Sanders’ 818. About half the states have yet to vote, and plenty of delegates are up for grabs.
Bernie Sanders fans can take heart: Clinton’s lead is not insurmountable, particularly since the states where Sanders is most likely to win come in the last half of this race — and offer huge delegate counts. One telling fact: most of the 10 largest cities in the U.S. that gave the most money to Sanders per capita thus far are in states about to vote, like Washington State, Oregon, New Mexico, California, and Arizona.
Sanders crushed Hillary by 20 percentage points in two-thirds of his victories: New Hampshire, Minnesota, Colorado, Vermont, Kansas, and Maine. This was not a fluke. He will likely have more big wins if young people, independents, and Latino voters register and cast their ballots.
Southwest and Western states with large Latino populations will likely flock to Sanders. He barely lost Illinois, but surveys the week before saw him with 64% of Latino support in the state, compared to 30% for Clinton. (Nearly half of Latino voters are millennials.) Of the 20 Iowa counties that have the largest Latino population, Sanders won 15 of them. He also may have won the Latino vote in Nevada, far better than expected, and Democracy Now reported after Colorado: “Latino vote helps Bernie Sanders surge to victory in massive Democratic caucus turnout.”
Upcoming states like New Mexico, Washington, Arizona, and California (with its whopping 546 delegates) with big Hispanic populations could cause Clinton’s lead to evaporate.
Now consider independent voters. 43% of Americans are independents, a steadily rising voting bloc.
Sanders is hugely favored by independents, for example winning 71% of the independent vote in Michigan, 73% in New Hampshire. He doubled Clinton’s support from independents in Massachusetts. He even won the majority of independent votes in states he lost: “Sanders captured independent voters by 16 points in both Texas and Virginia, 3 points in Georgia, 13 points in Tennessee, and 17 points in Arkansas.” Of the first 15 states that voted, 30-50% of the people who voted for Sanders were independents, according to The Washington Post, and of those contests it is likely Sanders won New Hampshire, Michigan, and Oklahoma because independent liberals swarmed the polls.
Many of the remaining states have large independent voting blocs. In two states that have more registered independents than registered Republicans or Democrats, Iowa and Massachusetts, Bernie lost by just 0.3% and 2%, respectively, but in Colorado, Maine, and New Hampshire, which also have more independents, Sanders had resounding victories. The remaining states with this registration pattern — Alaska, Idaho, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Rhode Island — are coming up fast.
Finally, it should be no surprise to anyone that younger voters support Sanders over Clinton. On Super Tuesday,
Even in the states where Clinton won handily, like Texas, Virginia, and Georgia, Sanders still won handily with his core constituencies — voters aged 18 to 29, first-time primary voters, and independents. According to NBC News’ exit polls, Sanders won young voters by a 30-point margin in Texas, 39 points in Virginia, 13 points in Georgia, and even captured the youth vote in Clinton’s home state of Arkansas, where Bill Clinton served as governor, by 24 points.
Among first-time primary voters, Sanders won by, again, 30 points in Texas and 8 points in Virginia.
Voters under 45 certainly propelled Sanders to victory in New Hampshire (83% of 18-29 year olds, 66% of 30-44 year olds), helped him tie in Iowa (84% of 18-29 year olds, 58% of 30-44 year olds), and so on. In Illinois last night, Sanders won an astonishing 70% of Democratic voters under 45.
The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University pointed to 10 states this year that would have a “disproportionately high electoral impact in 2016.” While Clinton has won 6 of these and Sanders only 2, young voters could still deliver Pennsylvania and Wisconsin to Sanders, fairly significant prizes. Voters under 45 will have an impact in every contest, however, and may make more of an impact on certain states than others. Some key upcoming contests in the Southwest and West have younger populations.
What will be key for Bernie Sanders is not only that likely Latino, independent, or 18-44 year old Americans will vote in their states when the time comes, but also the ability to increase the number of likely voters — to turn unlikely voters into likely ones. Latinos make up only 16% of the U.S. population, many states have more party voters than independents, and younger citizens are still less likely to vote than older folks. Mobilizing those not planning to register and cast a ballot is necessary to strengthen Sanders’ advantages with those groups.
According to a respected pollster whose calculations have proven fairly accurate thus far, Sanders is poised to see a long stretch of victories.
A New York Times writer points out Sanders has had enormous success in caucus states:
He’s a strong favorite in the caucuses in Idaho, Alaska, Hawaii, Washington and Wyoming. Barack Obama won an average of 72 percent of the vote in these contests in 2008, and so far Mr. Sanders is running an average of four points behind Mr. Obama’s showing in caucus states. Mr. Sanders is also a strong favorite in the Utah primary.
Further, “He could win big in North Dakota, Oregon and Montana, or maybe in a few mostly white working-class states like Indiana, West Virginia and Kentucky.” But Wisconsin, Arizona, and New Mexico will be close, while California, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and the District of Columbia will be challenges.