Way back in 1980, when Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush were running for president, Bush heralded his Iowa victory by declaring he had “the Big Mo” — momentum — that would carry him to the presidency.
Other states and the math intervened, and he became Reagan’s vice president instead.
Bernie Sanders is talking a lot about the Big Mo after his victories in five western states. If I were in his position, I would probably be doing the same thing. It helps him raise money and continue the battle for the next several months.
But Hillary’s sweep of five major states on March 15th wasn’t exactly chopped liver either, nor were her overwhelming wins in southern states. The difference is that Hillary has been racking up the delegates. The math is on her side.
Right now, according to RealClearPolitics, she has 1,712 delegates and Sanders has 1,004 (including superdelegates). For Hillary to reach the magic number of 2,382, she needs 670 more. Sanders will need 1,378 – over twice as many as Clinton.
There are over 1,700 delegates in upcoming states still to be chosen, plus over 200 superdelegates yet to declare whom they will support. Of those superdelegates who have declared, Clinton has 469, and Sanders has 29. That is a big math problem unless, somehow, delegates change their mind and support Sanders. Clearly, that is his hope.
But here is his problem: Even if he wins a number of states and scores some upsets, these are likely to be close races, and delegates will be split fairly evenly. From April 6 in Wisconsin until April 26 (with New York in between), there will be 710 delegates chosen. Other states include Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Wyoming. Clinton is likely to win at least half of these delegates, if not more. None of the major states should be blowout races for Sanders, like the caucus states in the West. Or, for that matter, blowout states for Clinton, like the deep South.
So for the sake of argument, let’s give Hillary Clinton 350 delegates between now and April 26; that brings her total up to 2,062, without additional superdelegates who may come over to her side. She will be 320 votes from the magic number of 2,382. If she wins 400 delegates in the next month, she will be only 270 votes short.
The pressure on the other 214 superdelegates to go over to the Clinton side will mount. Funny how politicians like to be the ones to put a candidate over the top or close to over the top.
The next big day with six states, June 7, has 694 delegates, with California selecting 475 and New Jersey 126. Again, assuming Clinton and Sanders are going back and forth winning states, Clinton will need only a portion of those delegates to secure the nomination.
If Clinton wins out in most of these states, pressure will mount on Sanders to unify the party after April 26, though he could easily choose to keep on until June 7. He will probably have the money, and he has focused a lot of energy on California. That is, rightly, his choice.
Clinton’s path to the nomination may have a few more curves and bumps, but it looks pretty straightforward. The delegate math is the delegate math. Barring a catastrophe for Clinton and superdelegates leaving her en masse, it is doubtful the trajectory of this race will change.
Despite talk of the Big Mo, it really is about the Big Math.