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The Ides of March: Will Bernie Sanders Survive?

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Bernie Sanders needs around a 320 delegate haul in today’s Ides of March contests in Ohio, Missouri, Florida, North Carolina, and Illinois to stay viable as a candidate at least through New York in late April, if not all the way through to California.

In the six contests since Super Tuesday, Sanders will have garnered about 141 or 142 delegates (five are still to be assigned) where my Narrow Path to Victory in CounterPunch suggested he would need about 144 in that time frame to stay viable. That same map suggests that Sanders should get 330 delegates today to continue along the Narrow Path. If Sanders falls below 300 delegates today, I will begin agreeing publicly with the insistence that the math is nearly impossible for Sanders to overcome. Above 320 and there is little doubt in my mind that Sanders could very well find his way to a final show down in the Golden State. The no-man’s-land between 300 and 320 will be more difficult.

My record of seeing things accurately in advance since the blowout in South Carolina is fairly good, particularly over the last week and a half where I nailed Michigan and only really missed just how big Sanders would win in Kansas (see note below for more detail).

So how do I see today going down?

I’ve had a bit less time for in-depth detail, but have given some initial thoughts on Ohio, Florida, and Illinois. Sanders has very much created Michigan Magic in Illinois, and I am predicting that he will win there even bigger than in Michigan. Ohio and especially Florida are very difficult to call. For Florida, I will be giving ranges and what they would mean. The basics (??? next to Florida because I have used close to the lower end of my larger predictive range as a placeholder in order to see a reasonably possible delegate count):

BS = Bernie Sanders

HC = Hillary Clinton

sanders-clinton-ides-of-march

Illinois The Sanders campaign waited until nearly the last possible moment then unleashed a blizzard of almost perfectly timed and coordinated advertising, visits, and viral moments like his visit with Jesse Jackson Sr. (where Jackson did not endorse Sanders or Clinton). That Sanders’ supporters played a critical part (though not the only one) in shutting down Trump in Chicago only added to the magic I said was needed. Sanders should win Illinois by around 5.75 points, as I see it, and I am predicting that he will take 44% or more of Cook County (Chicago). Adjusted numbers from the Facebook Primary suggest that Chicago is more favorable to Sanders than Atlanta, Detroit, and even Boston (Clinton took just under 58% of Suffolk County in Massachusetts). Two factors make a Sanders win in Cook County within the realm of possibility: 1) the campaign has successfully hung the Rahm Emanuel albatross around the Clinton campaign’s neck 2) Chuy Garcia, who ran so well against Emanuel in the Fall, has been the kind of energetic campaign surrogate that delivers big enough to earn perhaps a cabinet level spot should Sanders win in November. NBC/WSJ/Marist polling suggests the Latina and Latino vote in Illinois could go for Sanders nearly 2-1. The magnitude of such a win simply cannot be overstated. Polls close:  7 cst/8est.

North Carolina Well-attended campaign events in Raleigh and Clinton’s Bank of America stronghold in Charlotte along with a bold advertising strategy from the anti-NAFTA playbook will pay big dividends in my view. Instead of losing North Carolina by 30 points as Narrow Path suggested or by 24 percent as the RealClearPolitics (RCP) average currently suggests, Sanders appears headed to a loss of less than 15 points (I am calling 13.8%). We’ll know more if the networks do not call the state immediately for Clinton when the polls close at 7:30 pm est.

Missouri Sanders was primed to do well here, per my adjusted Facebook Primary model, from the outset and touched the right bases in the whirlwind week leading up to today. (Sanders visited a whopping five cities in four states yesterday alone.) The St. Louis area, where Michael Brown’s death has centered criminal justice issues for the African American community and the U.S. as a whole, received two Sanders visits in the last three days. Before Super Tuesday, it was already looking more favorable to Sanders than many big U.S. cities with large African American populations per Facebook Primary adjusted to UPSD. The same was true of Kansas City. The polls are off here as widely as in North Carolina, if I am on target. Missouri has the 40th worst economy in the U.S., and I see Sanders winning by 9.4% points or more. Polls close 7cst/8est.

Ohio This is the state where, in my view, Sanders is most likely to under perform his RCP average which went as high as a 3 point loss predicted in the middle of the day yesterday, but has since dropped back down to 8 points. After my discussion of Sander’s Kasich Problem in Ohio, Public Policy Polling’s release yesterday for Missouri, Illinois, and Ohio confirmed that he is gathering 10-15% less support with Independents in Ohio. They aren’t going to Clinton; her 37-39% support from Independents remains constant. A reasonable guess is they are instead flowing to Kasich. Anecdotal evidence from phone banking friends does suggest Ohio is not as favorable to Sanders as Michigan or perhaps even Nevada.  I am forecasting a race too close to call with Clinton having a 1.75% edge, but a 10 or even 12 point loss in Ohio would not surprise me. If Clinton wins decisively in Ohio, Sanders will need to bat well above his weight in Florida to stay viable. Polls close 7:30 est.

Florida I will not belabor the points I made yesterday. Florida has too many moving parts for me to accurately forecast the percentage. If the Facebook Primary (last updated Feb. 29) model were strictly correct, Sanders could lose by 35 or 40 points. But if the four factors I outlined yesterday all flowed maximally in his favor, a loss of only five points would be just as conceivable. I do not think either the upper range of a Clinton victory here or the lower range are at all reasonable. A ten point loss and nearly 100 delegates for Sanders would be phenomenal, but is likely still too good to hope for. The thirty point loss I forecast if Sanders had totally abandoned the state as in Texas seems unlikely given the two and a half days he spent there this week and the buzz he seems to have created in Florida’s Latinx community. (NBC/WSJ/Marist suggests he is within five points of winning the Hispanic vote in Florida.) Early voting has 18-29 year olds out at over 12% where they made up only 9% of the vote in 2008’s Democratic Primary. 25 points is the worst Sanders could do, if my other forecasts are correct, and still stay viable. I’m pegging it at a 24.3% victory for Clinton with hopes that he can actually close it to 16 or 17%, giving him some breathing room in Ohio and elsewhere. If the networks call neither Florida or North Carolina immediately on poll closing this evening, it is going to be an extremely bad night for the former Secretary of State. I expect Florida to go Clinton immediately at 7pm est when polls close. Age breakdown and how the Latino and African American vote breaks down in exit polls will give strong clues to the final margin.

Note: Since my disastrous prediction for South Carolina, my forecasting has gone quite well, particularly in contests such as Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Michigan that other forecasters and most pollsters missed badly or did not call at all. Overall, my forecasting bias in favor of Sanders in the 17 contests since has been just 0.8%; it is almost nil at 0.12% if you eliminate Minnesota and Arkansas. I signaled in the post on Super Tuesday that I was severely underplaying where I thought Minnesota would be so as not to get my hopes up and made up for it with a wild Arkansas upset pick.

Doug Johnson Hatlem is best known for his work as a street pastor and advocate with Toronto’s homeless population from 2005-2013. He is now a film producer and free-lance writer based in Chicago.

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