2nd Place? Nobody.
That’s after Sanders’ huge victory in the Nevada Caucus this weekend. Based on calculations by fivethirtyeight, which has been pretty accurate so far. (If anything they’ve overestimated Biden’s strength and underestimated Sanders’, although Biden also outperformed a bit in Nevada.)
2nd place being held now by “nobody”, means no candidate would go into the party’s national convention with enough delegates to win outright on the first ballot. Which probably means Bernie would lose. Which definitely means it would get really really ugly. (Something one of Bernie’s biggest boosters these days: Donald Trump, keeps reminding everybody in Tweets.)
Because Superdelegates (who are now called “automatic delegates”), would come in on the second and subsequent ballots. They are elected Democrats and party officials. And say what you want, but we can’t blame them for not supporting Bernie at that point, for no other reason than they’re Democrats and he’s pointedly and vocally not.
But it wouldn’t come to that if Sanders has an insurmountable pledged delegate lead by then. He doesn’t have to in order to win, but it would be difficult for him to win without it.
And that underscores the absurdity of the situation no matter whose side you’re on. Because:
- Bernie could capture as little as 15% of the overall vote and have the nomination totally locked down.
- Bernie could go in with the largest number of overall votes and lose the nomination.
It’s like a crazy see-saw.
So what does this all mean going forward? Right now only a few percent of pledged Democratic delegates have been won by anyone. In just a little over a week: after Super Tuesday, March 3rd, it’ll be 34%.
Between now and then is only South Carolina. This Saturday. Which is crucially important this year. Because if Sanders can solidify his lead there, it’s probably virtually over. And it’s the last chance for anyone else to prove they’re a viable enough competitor to pick up a head of steam going in to Super Tuesday.
This little chart from Nate Silver and fivethirtyeight is a little confusing, but shows you all you need to know:
As we said, Bernie’s slightly less than even money, Biden’s longer than 10-1 to sail into the convention with an insurmountable delegate lead. Nobody else is even close to those long odds. (We have to consider Bloomberg an anomaly on this chart, since he hasn’t been on any ballot yet). Except for “nobody”, which right now is giving Sanders a run for his money at 40%.
Bottom line: if Biden (or anybody else) wins in South Carolina, it’s a whole new ballgame. If Bernie wins by an impressive margin, he’ll prove he’s got the secret sauce, and he becomes the Trump of this election cycle.
So in order for someone else to have a shot, they can’t wait for Super Tuesday. They’ve got to pick up the pace in South Carolina. Sanders realizes this too, and is working hard to shut everybody else down there.
But South Carolina’s not just about Bernie. Because Biden or anyone else also would have to distance themselves significantly from the rest of the pack of Democrats. So that it’ll compel others to drop out. And it might not even then. Regardless, somebody from that group has gotta really crush it in South Carolina or Bernie’s probabilities go shooting through the roof).
And don’t forget: Bloomberg’s still not on the ballot yet! Frankly, if he really wants to beat Trump with a moderate, the best thing for him to do right now is drop out and hand his ad budget to Biden. Or half his ad budget. Throwing support behind Biden was Bloomberg’s instinct in the first place. It’s only recently he’s had second thoughts.
Why is it so important for someone else break out of the pack right now in order to have a shot? Wouldn’t Klobuchar delegates for instance invariably eventually go to somebody who’s not Bernie were she to drop out? Probably. But the way these primaries work where if you don’t get 15% of the vote in a given state, you’ve got nothing in terms of delegates. So the larger the number of candidates insisting they stay in the race, the larger the number of wasted votes that end up on the floor and don’t convert to delegates for anybody.
And momentum, my friends…