Emily Kowalik ’18
Assistant Opinions Editor
Sen. Bernie Sanders recently won the Democratic caucuses in Washington, Alaska and Hawaii. This came as no surprise, however. The contests in these three Pacific states, all of which are characterized by largely white and liberal electorates, were ones which Sanders had been favored to win.
Sanders continues to exude confidence in public about the possibility of his victory. Sanders rattles off statements, such as “Don’t let anybody tell you we can’t win the nomination or win the general election … We’re going to do both those things.” However, at this point, it is evident that Sanders’ winning the Democratic nomination is still a long-shot.
Some might say that this latest run of victories in the West against Hillary Clinton provides Sanders’s dark horse campaign with much needed energy and drive, supporting his argument that the result of the race for the nomination doesn’t have an inevitable conclusion.
I’d point out, however, that the delegates he won in this round do little damage to the lead Clinton has maintained, which still stands roughly 300 delegates ahead of Sanders. Washington, Sanders’s biggest prize in the sweep, represented a much-needed win for the candidate who suffered large losses to Clinton across the South, but still a weaker achievement than hoped-for results in Ohio, Florida and North Carolina — all states rich in delegates.
Looking forward, there are several states Clinton could and is likely to win, any one of which would knock out gains Sanders made in winning Washington, Alaska, Idaho, Utah and Hawaii. These wins did, however, help significantly to keep Sanders’s underdog challenge alive, and provide his campaign with hope as the contest moves on to larger, more delegate-heavy states in the Midwest and Northeast.
All in all, these results provide little hope that a general change in public sentiment provided by Sanders’ construction of a grass-roots movement will occur to change the tide of a primary contest Clinton has been favored to win for a long time. Though Sanders motivates his supporters with statements such as “We are making significant inroads into Secretary Clinton’s lead,” he’s in fact only slightly dented Clinton’s lead. For Sanders, catching up to Clinton at this stage of the game is problematic.
Sanders’ best hope as the race moves forward is that the momentum of these recent wins will continue on and produce a win in the highly anticipated contest on April 5 in Wisconsin. There are 22 states left to go with roughly 45 percent of the total pledged candidates still in play. Next week’s contest will prove to be a major test of Sanders’ weight in the race. While Wisconsin shares a border with two states that Sanders won in previous contests, Michigan and Minnesota, Wisconsin itself has economic and demographic characteristics which are more in line with Midwestern states that have gone to Clinton, such as Ohio and Illinois.
Other big wins that Sanders and Clinton are looking ahead to will occur in the next few weeks, including New York with its 247 delegates on April 19 and Pennsylvania with its 189 delegates on April 26. New York will be an especially looked-to race. It is there that Sanders hopes to gain a large number of delegates. It would be significant if Sanders could win in New York, as this would likely mortify Clinton, who served as a Senator from New York for eight years.
Another batch of eastern states follow New York, which vote on April 26: Maryland, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Delaware. These states, when taken together, account for a total of 195 delegates.
In spite of all these opportunities to gain delegates, I view Sanders’s chance of winning as a long shot. Sure, Sanders has positive momentum in the remaining 22 states and the enthusiasm for his campaign continues to grow. Also, no one can deny that Sanders is outpacing Clinton in fundraising — in February alone he raised $42 million, compared to Clinton’s $30 million. But Clinton’s current lead means that Sanders would have to win most of the upcoming primaries and caucuses by a significant margin in order to best Clinton.
Nevertheless, even if Sanders’s presence in the race is unlikely to produce a win, his continued struggle has already been a tremendous positive force in the presidential campaign. Sanders keeps Clinton on her toes and challenges her to confront relevant issues, engage the voters and debate vigorously.