There's a difference between what's mathematically possible and what's realistically probable. After Hillary Clinton won five of the six primaries in late April, it was still technically possible for Bernie Sanders to catch his rival among pledged delegates, but he'd need lopsided landslides in the May contests.
That hasn't happened. Narrow wins in Indiana and West Virginia helped Team Sanders with morale and fundraising, but they actually left him further from his goal. The same was true in yesterday's primaries, as MSNBC's Alex Seitz-Wald reported.
Bernie Sanders mini-winning streak ended Tuesday night in Kentucky, a state analysts expected he could win. The loss could take some wind out of supporters' sails at a critical time as they face increasing pressure to unify the Democratic Party behind likely nominee Hillary Clinton.
But it was a mixed night for the candidates. Sanders pulled out a comfortable single-digit win in Oregon, where he is likely to walk away with a solid block of delegates.
In practical terms, the Kentucky results, while incredibly close, are about bragging rights: the difference between a narrow win and a narrow loss is negligible. Sanders needed a landslide victory to keep pace, and his apparent defeat pushed his goal that much further away. Similarly, while the senator's success in Oregon was no doubt satisfying, Sanders' margin of victory was actually quite a bit smaller than Barack Obama's 2008 win in the same state, and to keep up with Clinton, it needed to be more than four times larger.
Yesterday, in other words, represented another major setback for the Sanders campaign: his win was too narrow, his loss was a step backwards, and the number of remaining opportunities he’ll have to close the gap continues to shrink.
The Vermonter continues to tell supporters that he might win the Democratic nomination. In remarks last night, Sanders said he faced a "steep climb," but he nevertheless believes he can wrap up the primary process with a majority of pledged delegates.
Which brings us back to the "mathematically possible" vs. "realistically probable" problem.