The latest polls show Sanders catching up to or slightly surpassing Clinton in Iowa and New Hampshire [always "within the margin of error." How many TV bloviators could give an accurate explanation of the phase "margin of error," one wonders.] Before starting serious work on Lecture Three of my YouTube series, therefore, I thought I would take a quick look at the rules governing the Democratic primary process to get some sense of what might happen if Bernie really can close the gap with Clinton nationally. I note with something approaching incredulity that in national matchups between the Democratic candidates and three or four plausible Republican candidates [Trump, Cruz, Rubio, maybe Christie], Sanders does markedly better than Clinton! Is that really true? Be still my heart ...
Well, to the numbers. There will be 4764 delegates to the Democratic Convention this time around -- many more than to the Republican Convention. More than half of that number is, at a minimum, 2383, the number needed to win the nomination. 713 of the delegates will be genuinely unpledged -- the so-called "super-delegates." Therefore a candidate needs 58.8% of the delegates chosen in primaries and caucuses to nail down the nomination prior to the Convention.
In analysing the Republican process, I assumed that Trump would get few if any of the unpledged delegates, but it would, I am convinced, be wrong to suppose that Sanders would get only a handful of those 713.
Clinton still runs well ahead of Sanders among Democrats in national polls, and in a two-person race [forget O'Malley] the leader wins, regardless of the particularity of the rules, save under very odd circumstances. [Roughly, a candidate could win a majority of the votes and fail to gain the nomination by piling up a national majority through huge wins in a few large states in which he or she was always going to win most of that state's delegates anyway -- but never mind.]
The conventional wisdom, which in this case seems right, is that unless Sanders can dramatically improve his share of Black and Latino Democratic voters, he is toast, regardless of the outcomes in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada.
Can he? I would be a fool to predict in this chaotic year. Are there millions of Clinton supporters so weakly attached to her that dramatic early wins by Bernie could pry them loose? I just do not know.
Should Bernie somehow snatch the nomination from Clinton, he absolutely must get Elizabeth Warren as his running-mate. A presidential contest between Trump and his Veep choice versus Sanders and Warren would be the greatest political experience of my life.