By Jim Ellis
March 29, 2016 — Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may well be the inevitable Democratic presidential nominee but, once again, we see Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders scoring impressive wins in states without major African-American populations.
Over the weekend, Sanders posted landslide caucus victories in Alaska, Hawaii and Washington, averaging a cumulative 74.7 percent support figure among the Democratic participants in the three states. In terms of committed delegates, Sanders attracted 105 convention votes in the trio of places, while Clinton gained 54. Though Saturday was arguably Sanders’ best day in the campaign, he still managed to only dent Clinton’s national lead in the all-important delegate count.
According to the New York Times, inclusive of the voting two days ago, Clinton’s advantage between committed regular and Democratic Super Delegates is 1,712 to 1,004. The winner must commit 2,383 votes at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia beginning July 25. Therefore, the former secretary of state and First Lady needs only 671 more delegates, or 33 percent, from the remaining 22 voting entities to clinch what will almost assuredly be a first-ballot victory.
It is important to remember that the Super Delegates, unless barred from doing so by state law, are free agents and can change their votes irrespective of what they may say publicly. Right now, it appears few if any will do so, but that is possible under Democratic National Committee rules. In the Super Delegate category alone, Clinton’s advantage is a reported 469 to 29. Super Delegates are comprised of Democratic elected officials from the various states and party leaders, the latter usually a person in an elected party position such as a state or county chairman.
Thirty-five of the 57 states and territories have voted in Democratic primaries and caucuses so far. Several voting patterns continually repeat themselves. Though the state victory count stands 20-15 in Clinton’s favor, both candidates dominate in a particular venue. In primaries, the former secretary of state has won 16 of 20. But, under a caucus format, the results reverse themselves. Here, Sen. Sanders commands an 11-4 advantage.
In small and/or rural states where the population is overwhelmingly white, Sanders has won nine of 10. He lost only in Iowa, and that was by just a slim margin. Conversely, where African Americans are dominant in a state Democratic primary, Clinton is undefeated, winning six of six. Where the vote between the two contenders has been close, generally in mixed demographic states, Clinton has won five times compared to Sanders’ two victories.
After 20 primaries, the turnout figures as compared to the last open presidential race (2008) are reversed. Eight years ago, after these same 20 primaries, Democrats enjoyed a turnout advantage when compared with their Republican counterparts in all but four states. This time, it is Republicans with the overwhelming voter participation edge. Like the Democrats in 2008, the GOP has sent more voters to the polls in 16 of the 20 states.
Perhaps most troubling for the Democrats looking toward the general election is the fact that in 19 of the 20 primary states, Democratic voter participation was greater in 2008 than in the current election. In only Michigan did more people vote in 2016, but that is largely due to the fact that neither Barack Obama nor John Edwards entered the Michigan primary in 2008. The state party leadership had broken Democratic National Committee rules in terms of scheduling their primary that year, so Obama and Edwards honored the national party’s request not to participate. Clinton, on the other hand, did appear on the ballot.
As was the case for Democrats in the original Obama general election, the primary turnout edge could well signal increased energy for November in terms of increased GOP participation. This is something Republicans will have to record if they are to have any realistic chance of winning the national election this November.