The results of Tuesday nights six primaries shocked many, in particular Bernie Sanders supporters who were convinced that their candidate was going to take the big prize in California.
They had good reason for being optimistic, in the weeks leading up to the election Sanders criss-crossed the state, holding multiple rallies in a single day and drawing crowds in the tens of thousands. Moreover the polls showed the race tightening to within two percentage points in the final weeks, so much so that Hillary Clinton cancelled a fundraiser and headed out to California earlier than expected. Given Sanders momentum and the energy behind its campaign, the results were a blow to his fervent supporters, many of whom are still trying to make sense of what happened.
The following five numbers help explain Tuesday’s results and the state of the Democratic race today.
1. 2/3 vote early
The Field Poll predicted that roughly two-thirds of Californians cast their ballots by mail or through early voting. If that turns out to be the case, it goes a long way towards helping to explain Hillary Clinton’s sizable 12 percent victory in The Golden State. How so? Early voting times vary by county but began roughly thirty days before the election. At that time, most polls showed Clinton had a double-digit lead. Polls taken by Hoover/Golden State, KABC/Survey USA and the LA Times/USC beginning about a month prior to the election had Clinton leading Bernie Sanders by 10 to 19 percentage points. The more time Sander spent in the state and the closer we got to election day, however, her lead in most polls (Field, NBC/WSJ/Marist, CBS News/YouGov) shrank to 2 percent or well within the margin of error.
2. 18,000,000 new voters
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Last night heard a lot of references to Clinton’s 2008 statement that her former and ill-fated run for the White House hadn’t shattered the glass ceiling but instead had put 18 million cracks in it. While that is certainly worth remembering, another 18 million also worth nothing is the number of new voters who registered to vote in California’s Tuesday primary. According to state officials, 650,000 new voters registered to participate in the last two months alone. And this is not a phenomena that is unique to California by any means, it is a story that has played out in most states across the country throughout this hard fought election cycle and across both sides of the aisle as new voters have come into the process in droves.
3. 83 percent
Hillary Clinton won four states last night (California, New Jersey, New Mexico, and South Dakota) to Bernie Sanders two (Montana and North Dakota). More importantly, however, Clinton did something she has been doing throughout the primary and caucus season she won the biggest, most delegate rich states. California and New Jersey combined had 656 delegates up for grabs, Clinton not only won both those states but two others as well. Compare that with the states Sanders won which had a combined delegate count of just 37. If you want to understand why Clinton is the presumptive nominee of the party, the fact is she not only won more states (33) more votes (well over 3 million), more pledged and super delegates, but the states she won were the largest and most delegate rich. Of the 12 states with more than 100 delegates up for grabs on the Democratic side this season, she won 10 or 83 percent. If you consider the 30 states with more than 50 delegates, she won 20 of those or two-thirds. Either way, when the game is winning delegates, particularly pledged, Clinton trounced Sanders in the biggest most delegate rich states of them all.
4. 903 delegates
After Tuesday nights’ romp by Clinton, this is the number of delegates Sanders is behind. This means even if he wooed half of Clinton’s 571 super-delegates (285) to his side and won all of the remaining pledged delegates (45) – both of which are near impossible scenarios – nevertheless, even then he would still be over 200 delegates shy of reaching the 2383 delegates necessary to capture the nomination. Put another way – Sanders is much farther behind Clinton than she was trailing Obama in 2008 when she decided to end her campaign. At that time, Clinton was just 69 delegates behind Obama and actually led him by 273,000 popular votes. The math is the math and it leads to what has to be the million dollar question coming out of the contests last night, when will Sanders drop his bid? He said last night that he will fight on until at least the last contest in Washington D.C. next Tuesday. Then came word of another call with President Obama who will surely join the chorus of elected Democratic officials urging and cajoling him to get out of the race for the good of the party, as well as reports that Sanders is going to being laying off at least half of his staff. Mathematically, if the writing was on the wall for Clinton in 2008, you have to say the same is true for Sanders. The one major difference being, Clinton wanted a future in the party and planned to run again, Sanders has no such ambitions which make it harder for the party to make him a deal he cant refuse.
5. 144 years
It has been 144 years since Victoria Woodhull became the first female candidate for president of the United States. It has been 96 years since the 19th amendment was ratified giving women the right to vote. And it has been exactly 100 years since Jeannette Rankin was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, becoming the first woman to be elected to national office in the country.
There are a lot of other female “firsts” we can point to. And certainly last night, when Hillary Clinton officially became the first female to be selected as the nominee of a major party, is in keeping with these other historic moments.
The Clinton campaign did everything they could to highlight the moment, playing a moving video montage before their candidate came on to the dais to speak last night.
It may take a lot more education of this kind to remind an important sector of the electorate of the history of the moment. Ironically as Clinton bathes in this historic moment, she has to be cognizant that throughout the campaign she has struggled with one group in particular – not just young people, but young women. Throughout the primary season Sanders has beat Clinton by as much as 60 points among young voters and Clinton lost young women by about 30 percent. It is a baffling reality in a tumultuous primary that the Clinton team is going to have to address as the move into the general election.
Jeanne Zaino, Ph.D. is professor of Political Science at Iona College in New Rochelle, New York.