Over the weekend, the Washington Post published a clip-and-save paragraph that established Bernie Sanders’ expectations for Super Tuesday: “Sanders’ strategists think he can win in five of the 11 states that vote Tuesday: Minnesota, Massachusetts, Vermont, Oklahoma and Colorado. Minorities will make up a relatively small percentage of the electorate in all but one of them.”
By this metric, yesterday’s round of primaries and caucuses were a relative success for the Vermont senator. He hoped to win five states – including his own home state – and Sanders ended up prevailing in four of them. The narrow loss in Massachusetts has to sting – he had a demographic and geographic advantage in the Bay State – but all things considered, Super Tuesday was hardly a disaster for the independent lawmaker.
The problem, however, is the standard for success. When Team Bernie projected five victories, it effectively conceded before the voting even began that Sanders would lose most of the Super Tuesday contests – which he did – and despite the decent showing, it’s Hillary Clinton who strengthened her position yesterday as the Democrats’ likely nominee.
Hillary Clinton took a decisive step toward locking down the Democratic presidential nomination on Super Tuesday, winning seven of the 11 states up for grabs, including the biggest prize – Texas – and likely racking up enough delegates to greatly foreclose Bernie Sanders’ path to the presidential nomination.While it was not quite a blowout for Clinton, the front-runner won by decisive margins in the three biggest states state by delegate count – Texas, Georgia and Virginia – and cleaned up in the remaining Southern states.
For Clinton, it wasn’t just the number of victories that mattered. She won big states by big margins – including landslide victories in delegate-rich states like Texas, where she won by a nearly two-to-one margin; Virginia, where Clinton won by 29 points; and Georgia, where Clinton won by 43 points.
The point is not that Sanders suffered some kind of Rubio-like embarrassment last night. He clearly did not. But last night’s successes were more along the lines of moral victories that will help with bragging rights and fundraising, not the kind of wins that leave Sanders well positioned to compete for the nomination.
What’s more, the Vermonter continues to struggle badly to win African-American voters, and in the modern Democratic Party, that’s a recipe for failure on a national level.
The race, to be sure, isn’t over, and Sanders’ jaw-dropping fundraising successes will empower him to compete for quite a while. But his path to the Democratic nomination remains elusive.