As the Democratic primary in Kentucky last night went down to the wire, a nailbiter — but with nothing real at stake. Late last night, Hillary Clinton declared victory in the state with a lead of less than 3,000 votes, as Bernie Sanders easily won Oregon’s primary by nine points. And yet, the grand difference in combined delegates last night came down to five, in Hillary’s favor.
Sanders lost by winning, as it turns out:
Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton declared victory in the Kentucky primary on Tuesday, potentially disrupting a string of expected primary losses this month that had threatened to weaken her even as she turned her focus to her likely matchup against Republican Donald Trump in the general election.
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, meanwhile, was declared the winner of Oregon’s Democratic primary.
The outcomes will do little to change the dynamics in the race. In Kentucky, Sanders had hoped to continue a state winning streak that began in Indiana and West Virginia this month.
Before last night, Bernie trailed Hillary by 283 pledged delegates, let alone the 480-superdelegate edge she enjoys. Now he trails her by 276 pledged delegates, with 791 delegates left to allocate. Even if Sanders won every single one of those 791 delegates, he’d still come up short of the 2,383 delegates needed for a majority. Thanks to the straightforward proportional allocation method used by Democrats, that would now require Bernie to win 100% of the vote in every state left on the calendar. And it would still put him short of the mark.
Of course, Sanders wants to argue that the superdelegates will flip to his side if he can demonstrate that he’s uniting the party behind him. Unfortunately, even with the number of wins he’s piling up in the past two months, they don’t actually show him uniting anything. Bernie was favored to win Kentucky at one point, but appears to have lost some steam in the last few days. The 54/45 win in Oregon looks nice on the ledger, but that gap was far too small for Sanders to get any traction in the delegate gap, and it still shows superdelegates that there isn’t the kind of party unity that would mandate that they should abandon their commitment to Hillary.
Will Sanders finally get the hint — or at least do the math — and graciously concede? Doubtful. This is the most relevant that Bernie and his “democratic socialism” has been in his 73 years, and he’s not about to let that go with the finish line just three weeks away. He’s going to milk it for all it’s worth, and then try using his delegates to leverage the party platform and speaking time at the convention. Why jump off the greatest ride of his life before it comes to a complete stop?
However, those who fantasize that Bernie will run as an independent and somehow hand the GOP the White House should wake up and smell the commune-grown coffee. Bernie’s only remaining relevance will be within the Democratic Party, and he knows it. That’s why he’s been caucusing with Democrats for years in Congress, and now he’s aiming to integrate his followers into the party structure in order to increase that influence. That’s the main reason why he wants to keep campaigning — to build his army for Philadelphia and beyond. He’s not about to demand a walkout and go the full-crank route.