The Pulse: Making delegate math great again

The Pulse: Making delegate math great again

Hello, I'm Will Jordan and welcome to The Pulse.

The primary has arrived in New York, which is in some sense the home state for around 3 of 5 remaining candidates*. Here are some things you should know:

  1. Where do things stand now?

    For the Democrats: As it stands, Hillary Clinton leads Bernie Sanders in delegates by 1,786 to 1,133 counting superdelegates, and 1,309 to 1,095 counting only pledged delegates. 2,383 are necessary to win the nomination.

    For the Republicans: Donald Trump has 749, Cruz 544 and Kasich 144. They need 1,237. 

  2. What is Donald Trump so angry about?

    So far Trump has won about 45% of the delegates given out. To reach the magic number 1,237, he needs to win almost 59% of those that remain. And he’s been losing ground. Ted Cruz won a larger than expected victory in Wisconsin on Tuesday, and scooped up all of Colorado’s remaining delegates at the state GOP’s convention. Trump reacted to both outcomes by crying foul, complaining that the system is “rigged” against him and accusing Cruz of buying delegates. In truth, Cruz has proven far more adept than Trump – or Kasich – at wooing the hardcore party activists that participate as delegates, and it really should worry Trump.

  3. What does this mean for New York?

    Probably very little. In fact, New York provides Donald Trump one of his best remaining opportunities to make up some of his recent losses. Recent polls have been very consistent, placing Trump at least 25 points ahead with between 51% and 60% support. If he gets more than 50% in the New York’s individual congressional districts he could win nearly all of the state’s 95 delegates. Add the 6 delegates Trump won in Wisconsin, and his share of delegates won since April 5th would be… 59%. Trump still has a path to 1,237, or very near it – a narrow path, but a path.

  4. What about Bernie Sanders?

    Since last week, Bernie Sanders has won two contests, in Wisconsin and Wyoming. He won both by double digits and outperformed the polls in Wisconsin. And yet, he only fell further behind. How is this possible? Before Wisconsin, he needed to win 56.5% of the remaining delegates to catch up to Clinton, not counting superdelegates (more on that below). He’s won 55%, meaning he now needs to do even better than he did a week ago. It’s like running a 4-hour marathon: if you fall even a little behind your target pace on mile one, you need to run the remaining 25.2 even faster than your original target pace to “catch up”.  Except Bernie is about to head into an uphill stretch – a series of primaries where demographics strongly favor Hillary Clinton (and the polls confirm it: Clinton leads by about 12 points in New York, 16 points in Pennsylvania and 22 points in Maryland).

  5. What about superdelegates?

    Of 500 superdelegates who have announced a preference, about 94% support Hillary Clinton. Sanders people like to argue that this should be ignored, for now. Superdelegates initially favored Clinton in 2008, too, but they switched as Obama took the lead in pledged delegates. OK. But there’s another important factor to consider: the popular vote. As Dave Wasserman has pointed out at FiveThirtyEight, Sanders’s reliance on low-turnout caucuses means he’s only won around 42% of the popular vote despite winning 46% of pledged delegates. Even if he gets to 50.1% in pledged delegates with surprise wins in California and New York, he could easily end up well short of a majority in the popular vote. In that case it seems hard to imagine Clinton’s superdelegates jumping ship en masse.  

  6. Does someone need to make America great again?

    Most Americans – including most Democrats – say yes.

*Sanders was born in Brooklyn, Trump was born in Queens and Clinton was a US Senator for New York for 8 years.


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The Pulse is a weekly newsletter YouGov has launched ahead of the 2016 primaries and general election to give readers a one-stop-shop for the latest polling-related news from the campaign. In addition to YouGov’s own extensive coverage of the election, The Pulse gives you the five things you need to know about the state of the campaign each week (and one you don't need to know but we think is worth knowing anyway!). 

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