He still faces a tough task to catch up with Democratic party frontrunner Hillary Clinton, remaining 687 delegates behind.
Bernie Sanders won the Wisconsin primary on Tuesday (April 5) but does that mean it is time for the world to take him more seriously as a candidate for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination?
By winning in Wisconsin by a significant margin, Sanders has complicated Clinton’s path to winning the party’s nomination for president. However, Sanders still faces a tough competition to catch up with the party’s forerunner, remaining 687 delegates behind the former Secretary of State.
The gap is a difficult one to bridge because although Sanders is just 252 behind Clinton in terms of elected delegates, the Democratic party machine’s ‘super delegates’ are overwhelmingly backing Clinton.
As polls closed at 8 pm, Tuesday, the result of the Midwestern primary was a clear win for Sanders, marking his fourth consecutive win. It also means that the Vermont senator’s campaign has been successful in six of the last seven contests, adding to his wins in Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Utah and Washington.
Speaking to supporters at an event in Wyoming ahead of the caucus on Saturday, Sanders said that the result has given his campaign “momentum” – a commodity that should not be underestimated. His victory speech continued to attack the elites and billionaires of America, emphasising that “real change” was coming:
“What momentum is about is that all across this country the American people are looking all around them, and they understand that real change in our country’s history whether it is the trade union movement, whether it is the civil rights movement, whether it is the women’s movement, whether it is the gay rights movement, they understand that real change never ever takes place from the top on down. It always takes place from the bottom on up.”
The mathematical problem
However, analysts have pointed out that, although significant, Wisconsin is not a “swing state” and will not make or break any campaign. Key races in New York and Pennsylvania, scheduled in the coming weeks, will hold more sway on the nomination outcome. According to recent polls, Clinton is likely to recover her sizeable lead in her delegate rich home state of New York, where she leads by 11 percentage points.
Following the result, a BBC headline read “For Bernie Sanders, it’s momentum versus maths”. Given that Wisconsin was not the most significant state in terms of numbers of delegates to be won, Sanders must maintain his winning streak if he is to upset frontrunner Clinton, who also benefits from the support of a higher percentage of super-delegates. To do so, Sanders will have to have more success in attracting the black and Hispanic votes as well as winning over New Yorkers in the state where he grew up.
According to Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager, the problem facing Bernie is also one of numbers:
“Clinton has a lead of nearly 230 pledged delegates — and with each passing week, it’s becoming increasingly unlikely that Senator Sanders will be able to catch up. In order to do so, Sanders has to win the four remaining delegate-rich primaries — New York, Pennsylvania, California, and New Jersey — with roughly 60 percent of the vote. To put that in perspective: Sanders has thus far won only two primaries with that margin: Vermont and New Hampshire. Needless to say, the size and demographic makeups of New York, Pennsylvania, California, and New Jersey are decidedly different than Vermont and New Hampshire. And these figures don’t even include superdelegates, where Clinton has an overwhelming lead.”
The slump of Trump?
Although Clinton’s defeat at Wisconsin may have only stalled her march towards the Democratic nomination, the loss for Donald Trump’s campaign is more damaging.
Ted Cruz, pitting himself as the only alternative to Trump, won the Republican contest on Tuesday, sparking concerns that Trump may not reach the threshold of 1,237 delegates needed to secure a nomination. Although the win still leaves Cruz 200 delegates behind Trump, in his victory speech the Texas senator said: “Tonight is a turning point [in the Republican primary]. It is a rallying cry … We have a choice, a real choice.”
In his so-called “stop Trump” campaign, Cruz hopes to rally Republican supporters around him to reach the 1,237 delegate mark. Failing that, his campaign hopes to force Trump to a contested party convention where party leaders, not voters, choose the nominee.
Note: This story has been edited to make explicit the share of ‘super delegates’ in Hillary Clinton’s pledged delegates count