The rules that make it tough for Bernie to catch up & difficult to stop Trump

Bernie Sanders and his supporters were feeling good about their upset victory in Michigan on the 8th. Nevertheless, in spite of his victory, Bernie ended the evening further behind Hillary Clinton than he was at the beginning of the night. Clinton won 90 delegates between the contests in Michigan and Mississippi, which she won by an overwhelming margin while Bernie ended the night winning only 60 delegates.

One reason Bernie’s campaign keeps falling further behind in the delegate count lies in the concept of proportionality that governs how Democrats allocate delegates in the primaries. The Democratic Party requires that all state primaries be proportional. If things were easy, that would mean that if Bernie won 51% of the vote, he would get 51% of the delegates. Of course, Democrats never do things the easy way, so there are a variety of conditions that affect the outcome such as winning Congressional districts or gaining at least 15% of the vote within a county (or precinct). If you want a more detailed explanation, The Washington Post that gives a very readable explanation of how the whole deal works. The argument for proportionality is that it more fairly reflects the wishes of the voters and thus is more democratic. 

The Republicans do it differently

The GOP allows each state to determine if its primary will be winner-take-all or proportional. The first of the winner-take-all primaries were Florida and Ohio last week. These two states had a total of 357 delegates between them—big wins for Trump and Kasich.


Ironically, the Republican Party changed the rules on winner-take-all primaries after the 2012 campaign in order to give the Party a leg up by choosing the nominee earlier in the cycle and thus have a longer time to prepare for the general election. Under the new rules, states that hold primaries prior to March 14 will award their delegates on a proportional basis. However, states voting after March 14 can award delegates on a winner-take-all basis, proportionally, or some combination thereof.

Today, GOP insiders may be wishing they had left things alone as the new rules make it harder to stop Donald Trump, who is unpalatable to old line Republicans like previous standard-bearers Mitt Romney and John McCain. The Washington Post has a great article here that details how each state will choose its delegates.

Today, GOP insiders may be wishing they had left things alone as the new rules make it harder to stop Donald Trump

The goal of both Parties was to provide for an orderly and early selection of their nominee. The hope was that this would allow for a longer general election campaign that would give their respective Party an advantage over the other. The unexpected appearance and appeal of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump in this election cycle have completely upended this scenario.

The Democrat Party rules on proportionality favor Hillary Clinton. As of March 12, the delegate count stands at 1,614 for Hillary Clinton and 856 for Bernie Sanders. It takes 2,383 delegates to win the Democratic nomination. Now more than half of the primaries will have been completed. Recent polls suggest that in the larger states with more delegates, Hillary is ahead by large margins. At the same time, where Bernie has been winning it has generally been by smaller margins. Where Hillary wins, she gets a lion’s share of the delegates, while where Bernie wins, he often ends up with only a few more than Hillary gets.

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