Bernie Sanders’ political revolution may be turning into a more modest uprising.
Sanders’ insurgent campaign caught fire this fall, drawing huge crowds and raising questions about the breadth of Clinton’s appeal within her own party. But as the contest has expanded past the largely white electorates of Iowa and New Hampshire, Sanders has struggled to capture support from the minority voters who make up a large piece of his party. And he’s shown no sign of changing his economic-focused message to do so — a strategy that hurt his chances in a swath of primaries held across the country on Tuesday.
The Democratic presidential candidate comes out of the Super Tuesday contest with a 167 deficit among the delegates at stake last night. Including superdelegates, the party insiders free to pick either candidate, her total delegate count is now at least 1,038, or 44 percent of the delegates needed to win the nomination. Sanders has at least 410 delegates.
Clinton carried the four largest contested states in terms of delegates — Texas, Georgia, Virginia and Massachusetts — giving her a big delegate haul that expands her advantage over Sanders. She won sweeping victories across the South and her narrow victory in Massachusetts denied the Vermont senator of a large state he had sought near his home turf.
"Hillary has shown real strength in the Super Tuesday voting, establishing an impressive foundation going forward in the delegate race," said Jeff Berman, Clinton’s delegate guru.
Beyond Vermont, Sanders wins came in Minnesota, Colorado and Oklahoma, where working-class white voters play a bigger role in Democratic contests.
The Democratic contests award delegates in proportion to the vote, meaning that even the loser wins some delegates.
With 865 delegates at stake, Clinton is assured of gaining at least 490 for Super Tuesday, having won seven states and the American Samoa. Her double-digit wins in delegate rich states in the South were able to overcome Sanders, who won four states. He picks up at least 323 delegates.
The former secretary of state’s team argues that once Sanders loses the delegate lead, it becomes very difficult to regain control of the race because delegates are awarded proportionally. By March 15, nearly half of the Democratic delegates will have been awarded, giving Clinton a chance to build a large enough lead to make it nearly impossible for Sanders to capture the nomination.
"We have no doubt that as long as Sen. Sanders remains in the primary, he will continue to win elections along the way, but it will make little difference to Hillary’s pledged delegate lead," wrote campaign manager Robby Mook, in a memo released Wednesday morning. "In order to catch up, Sen. Sanders doesn’t just have to start winning a few states, but he needs to start winning everywhere and by large margins."
There’s some historical precedent for their argument: In 2008, then Illinois Sen. Barack Obama used a post-Super Tuesday winning streak to set up a 100 delegate lead that Clinton never could surmount.
With that defeat still fresh in her mind, Clinton moved quickly to hire Obama’s team to run her delegate operation. Their plan was to use a big win on South Carolina as a springboard into the Super Tuesday contest, where they’d establish a sizeable enough advantage to push Sanders out of the race.
Her team always aspired to rebuild the coalition that twice boosted Obama to victory and helped defeat her bid in the 2008 primary: Minorities, women and young people. Exit polls showed Clinton backed by at least of 80 percent of black voters in the Southern states.
While she made inroads with voters between the ages of 30 and 44, there are signs that Clinton still has work to do, particularly with younger voters.
But her strong showing among older and minority voters looks like it will be sufficient to out maneuver Sanders in the primary, who’s staked his campaign on increasing turnout among white working class voters.
Clinton aides pointed to rural areas of Virginia, places where she performed well, as a sign that they are expanding their support into Sanders’ base.
Sanders and his team showed no signs of exiting the race, with senior strategist Tad Devine saying he sees no scenario where Sanders gets out before the party convention in July. He argued that as minority voters get to know Sanders, his standing with those voters will improve.
And Sanders has little financial incentive to end his campaign, which reported raising more than $42 million in February — enough to keep going well into the spring.
"We are going to be in this thing for the long run," he said. "We will pick states and we will have fights and if we win enough of them, we believe he will be the nominee."
(Copyright (c) 2016 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)