Friday, April 15, 2016

Can Hillary Avoid A Contested Democratic Convention?

Recently, a friend of mine posted this particular tidbit onto Facebook:

It's an interesting argument, and I called bullshit on it when I saw it, because I'd just recently run these numbers in a recent blog post, and knew first hand that this sort of argument was just silly. But it occurs to me that many Bernie supporters might be thinking this sort of thing, and so I've taken it upon myself to evaluate just how likely it is to be true. What did I find? Well, it's still silly, but not for the reasons you might expect. Read on and learn:

First, we need to see where this post got its numbers from. They are going on the number of delegates needed to win the nomination for the Democratic Party, which is 2,383. Next, they are assuming that if Hillary does not have enough pledge delegates to win the nomination without super delegate support, it will result in a contested convention. (That's not true, but we'll ignore it for now.) So one takes the number of pledge delegates Hillary needs to get to 2,383 (which is 1,079), divide that by the number of pledge delegates yet remaining (1,667), and you get 0.64727. Multiply that by 100%, and you get 64.727%, which rounds up to 65%. (All source numbers are from

Okay, so that first number checks out. And we know from our previous calculations in earlier blog posts that Bernie does, in fact, need to win 57% of all remaining pledge delegates to catch up to Hillary's current lead. So the two main percentages quoted are spot on.

The problem is in how these numbers are structured.

Hillary currently has a lead over Bernie of 229 pledge delegates, which is why Bernie needs 57% of all the remaining ones just to catch up. By leaving out this one fact, it is easy to compare 65% to 57% and conclude that Bernie's hurdle is smaller, and therefore his path to the nomination is easier. But this is comparing apples to oranges. The numbers aren't being allowed to play fair.

To make an objective analysis, let's apply the same standard to Bernie that was applied to Hillary. We start with Bernie's current pledge delegate total, which is 1,075. Subtract that from the total he needs to win the nomination (2,383) and we get 1,308. (Again, figures from Divide that by the number of pledge delegates remaining (1,667), and we get 0.784643, or 78% rounded.

So, to avoid a contested convention, Hillary needs 65%, while Bernie needs 78%.
Hillary's goal looks a lot more achievable.

So while Hillary might need something shy of 2/3rds of the vote, Bernie needs almost 80% to avoid a convention fight.
Not looking very promising when the evaluation playing field is leveled, is it?

But let's look at it from yet another standpoint. If Bernie needs 78% percent to win the nomination outright without any super delegates, then the converse also holds true. If he falls short of 78% going forward, he will be mathematically locked out from being able to obtain enough pledge delegates.

He will also be mathematically locked out from EVER catching up to Hillary.

How many delegates can he therefore afford to lose? Well, as we said, Bernie needs 1,308 to win. With only 1,667 remaining, that's only 359 delegates!

Meaning that Hillary only needs to win 359 more delegates, and Bernie can NEVER catch up in pledge delegates!

To put that in perspective, New York has 291 delegates. Maryland has 118. Pennsylvania has 210.

Yeah, it's that bad for Bernie!

"But wait!" you may say. "Isn't catching up to Hillary and winning the nomination the same calculation?" How mathematically adroit of you! But oddly enough, no! Because the percentage that Bernie needs to catch up to Hillary is a much smaller number IF neither of them reaches 2,383 delegates! Which is entirely possible, especially if Hillary needs 65% to avoid a convention fight. However, with Bernie mathematically locked out from being able to get enough pledge delegates, and with Hillary having all the momentum after New York, all the voters in future states, including California, will know it's already over. Bernie fans just won't be able to get excited enough to go out and vote for nothing more than a contested convention. It then becomes highly likely that Hillary runs the table, wins more than 65%, and secures the nomination outright.

At current polling numbers, Bernie will lose at least 411 delegates to Hillary by April 29th! He will lose at least 160 of the 291 available delegates in New York alone! Yes, he will win some as well, but when you need 78% just to win on pledge delegates, Even if we reverse the polling numbers to give Bernie a shockingly HUGE 60% majority upset win, Hillary will still take 116 delegates away from Bernie, taking him 1/3rd of the way towards being locked out in a single swoop! If we do the same thing to Pennsylvania, and again give Bernie an overwhelming 60% majority win upset (contrary to all the polling data yet again), Hillary will still be able to take another 88 votes away from him. Give Bernie every possible advantage and big-state upset going forward, and he will be mathematically locked out by May.

In all probability, he will be locked out on April 26th, when a five-state voting block will vote with Hillary's New York victory giving her all the momentum. After that, Bernie's only hope is to try for a brokered convention, which will almost certainly never happen.

What's that? You want to play the "What if?" game regarding a contested convention with Bernie Sanders anyway? You refuse to give up after New York and Pennsylvania? You are one of those who will fight, fight, fight no matter what because this is the goddamned revolution and WE WILL NOT BE SILENT?! Okay, I'll play along. Let's say, just for funsies, that Bernie succeeds in denying Hillary a total of 2,383 pledge delegates. How big a margin can he score on her?

Just for a comparison analysis, I ran the numbers. Let's assume an exact tie going forward. A tie vote in New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and everything up to and after California. If that happens, each candidate would get 833.5 delegates, but since we can't have half a delegate, we'll give Bernie the extra delegate, leaving Hillary with 833 and Bernie with 834. That leaves an ending pledge total score of:

Hillary: 2,137
Bernie: 1,909

Given how far Hillary currently leads in the polls in New York, Pennsylvania and California, this is being more than just generous, in my estimation. I'm outright robbing Hillary to make this calculation.

There are 719 super delegates. To get to the magic number of 2,383 in a contested convention, Bernie would need 474 of them. Hillary, by virtue of her current lead carried through to the end, would need only 246. Or, to put it another way, she would need only 34.214% of the remaining super delegate totals in order to win outright! Bernie, by contrast, would need a whopping 65.925% of the super delegates in order to win.

Bernie would be VERY foolish to try to run for a brokered convention!

And that's the best Bernie can hope for! That's assuming an exact tie of everything going forward! That's assuming stunning comebacks in New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland!

True, Bernie could win all those states. He could even win them by commanding margins. But he still has to catch up first.

And that's looking very, very, very unlikely at this point.

Just imagine how unlikely it will look after Hillary wins New York. And as to the person who posted the original image above on Facebook, it's still bullshit!



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