In an interview with late-night host Seth Meyers, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders argued that while his chances of beating former Vice President Joe Biden for the Democratic nomination aren’t great that chance still does exist.
“There is a path,” Sanders said. “It is admittedly a narrow path.”
Which got me to thinking: Just how narrow is Sanders’ path?
Let’s start with the delegate count as of today. Biden has 1,180 pledged delegates to Sanders’ 863, according to CNN’s official count. That’s a difference of 317 delegates.
In the entire primary season, a total of 3,979 delegates will be awarded. CNN’s tally has 2,171 delegates who have been awarded so far to all the Democratic candidates. To secure the nomination, a candidate needs 1,991 pledged delegates, meaning — because, uh, subtraction — that Biden is 811 delegates away while Sanders is 1,128 away.
Between April 1 and June 23, 23 states as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the US Virgin Islands will vote. Some of this is moving around due to the coronavirus crisis in the US, but CNN’s tally shows that 1,668 pledged delegates will be awarded in those contests.
Now, there are still more delegates from states that have already voted that CNN has not yet assigned to a candidate, so an important caveat is that these numbers can shift before more votes are cast. But doing some rough math, to get to 1,991 delegates before Biden, Sanders would need to win more than 60% of the delegates remaining. Biden, on the other hand, needs to win less than 50% — a much more manageable win rate.
Sanders, to date, has won under 40% of delegates CNN has assigned so far. So, in the face of a totally frozen primary campaign and with most people operating under the assumption that Biden is already effectively the nominee, Sanders would have to find a way to essentially flip his winning percentage with Biden’s in order to overcome this lead.
The Point: Nothing is impossible in politics. (Heck, Donald Trump is in the White House!) But when Sanders says he has a narrow path, he’s underselling just how incredibly, unbelievably, startlingly narrow that path actually is.