Elections

Clinton builds sizable advantage over Sanders in March

March has seen some major shifts in the Democratic Presidential Primary. With thousands of delegates awarded, it has been a busy time in the presidential primary sphere.Without further ado, let’s get caught up.

The month started with Super Tuesday, on March 1, the day where the most pledged delegates were awarded. Participating states included Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, and Virginia, with a Republican caucus in Alaska and a matching caucus for Democrats in Colorado.

Super Tuesday was a pivotal day for Democrats. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had hopes of shutting Senator Bernie Sanders (I – VT) out of the nomination. In her victory speech after a substantial victory in South Carolina on Feb. 27, Clinton announced, “Tomorrow, this campaign goes national,” marking a shift in her view of the race from a state-by-state primary brawl to a national presidential campaign. Meanwhile, Sanders invested heavily in Colorado, Minnesota, Oklahoma, and Massachusetts, hoping to build some momentum after a bumpy week in Nevada and South Carolina. He laid out his expectations, saying “I think we’re going to win here in Minnesota, I think we’re going to win in Colorado, I think we’re going to win in Oklahoma, I think we’re going to do really well in Massachusetts and I think we’re going to win in Vermont.” According to Politico, Sanders planned to use wins in those states to prove that he can gain widespread support across the country as the true ideological leader of the Democratic Party.

Of course, neither candidate could get everything they wanted. Sanders got his wins in Oklahoma, Minnesota, Colorado, and a blowout in Vermont, picking up a total of 361 delegates throughout the day. He did, however, narrowly lose Massachusetts. Although Clinton only gained 46 delegates to his 45, the Clinton victory showed that she could build support among white liberals, which is usually Sanders’ demographic. Clinton won the remaining states and 518 delegates. She continued her streak of Southern successes with the help of African American voters. Clinton has been matching or exceeding President Barack Obama’s historic numbers with African American voters in 2008, with over 80 percent of African American voters supporting Clinton in Arkansas, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, and Virginia. She also snagged the biggest prize of the night, Texas, finding support among Hispanic voters.

With a solid Super Tuesday under her belt, Clinton looked beyond Sanders to Trump and the general election. She played off of Trump’s slogan, saying “We know we’ve got work to do. But that work is not to make America great again. America never stopped being great. We need to make America whole again.”

March 5, dubbed Super Saturday, showed that Clinton may have called the primary preemptively. Sanders won Kansas and Nebraska to Clinton’s Louisiana, and followed it up with Maine the next day. The difference in delegates was small, 65 for Clinton and 69 for Sanders, but the day gave what Sanders described as, “a lot of momentum behind us as we continue forward.” With her 2 hundred-delegate lead, Clinton didn’t break a sweat and continued to focus on the general election, telling voters in Michigan, the next major state up for grabs, “The Republicans like to divide us. You are proving when we work together, we can rise together.”

Despite Clinton’s confidence, Sanders scored the biggest surprise of the 2016 race in Michigan on March 8. All the polls in the month leading up to the vote had Clinton winning by at least 5 percent, but Sanders won the “Showdown in Motown,” as his top aides referred to is as, by 50 percent to 48 percent in what FiveThirtyEight called, “one of the greatest upsets in modern political history.” The victory proved that Sanders was still relevant in big, demographically diverse contest in a campaign that has mostly been supported by white, young, or rural liberals. However, Clinton won Mississippi the same day by a substantial margin thanks to her continued success with the African American vote with a large enough margin to swamp Sanders’ Michigan delegates. The day ended with 71 delegates for Sanders and 90 for Clinton.
The major shift in the primary landscape took place on March 15 in this race’s second Super Tuesday. The day featured elections in Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina, and Ohio. Clinton cleaned up with victories in every state, and further expanded her already large delegate lead. Currently Clinton has 1,614 delegates including superdelegates, while Sanders has 856. Even without superdelegates, Sanders is over 300 delegates behind.

Even with the long odds, Sanders has decided to stay in the contest until the Democratic National Convention in July. There is an argument to be made that the next round of primaries will be more favorable to Sanders. The southern, heavily African American states that have made up Clinton’s untouchable firewall have voted, and the upcoming votes in Arizona, Wisconsin, and Washington are more similar to states Sanders has won. However, upcoming urban, costal states like California and New Jersey seem likely to lean towards Clinton, and her adoptive home state New York is delegate rich.
Even Sanders’ top aids seem to feel the need to justify their continued participation in the race.

After the sweep on March 15, the Sanders campaign seems to be beating a dead horse. Even his most impressive victory in Michigan was swallowed by Clinton’s unyielding advance. At this point Sanders would need 66 percent of the remaining pledged delegates to win, which is realistically impossible. His campaign has fallen back on some uncomfortable speculation, with a Sanders strategist noting that “pledged delegates are not always obligated to vote as pledged.”

However, the Sanders campaign has come up with one good reason to stay in the race. Sanders’ campaign manager Jeff Weaver pointed out, “Not even half the delegates have been picked and I think it is not good for a media drumbeat to essentially disenfranchise half the Democratic voters in the Democratic primary and caucus system. We believe voters should have a chance to articulate which candidate they would support.” Sanders, a practical nobody when he first announced his campaign, managed to turn Clinton’s sure fire primary into a historic rollercoaster of a race. In that spirit, it’s still worth going to the polls on April 26 as a Democrat.