Bernie Sanders' Potential Path to the White House: What the Vermont Senator Needs to Do to Win the Democratic Nomination

Can Bernie Sanders Beat Hillary Clinton to Win Democratic Nomination?
Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders
USA TODAY NETWORK/Sipa USA; Joshua Lott/Getty

03/09/2016 AT 07:15 PM EST

Bernie Sanders' surprise triumph over rival Hillary Clinton in the Michigan primary Tuesday night was without a doubt his most important win to date.

But with Clinton leading Sanders by nine points in a new national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, the real question is: Does the democratic socialist from Vermont still have a shot at winning the nomination?

For one thing, the NBC/WSJ poll shows that Clinton's advantage over Sanders has dipped two points since last month, into the single digits. In the current poll, Clinton earned the support of 53 percent of Democratic primary voters, while Sanders took 44 percent. In last month's NBC/WSJ survey, Clinton had 53 percent support to Sanders' 42 percent. The change, however, is still within the poll's margin of error.

Clinton has been pulling ahead of Sanders in the delegate count over the past few weeks – even in Sanders' Michigan upset, the former secretary of state effectively split the delegates with the senator, and she also won big in Mississippi. On Wednesday night, the two will face off in a debate in Miami before Florida Democrats vote next week. Clinton is currently leading Sanders 61 percent to 34 percent in Florida, and 63 percent to 33 percent in Ohio, new CNN/ORC polls show.





According to FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver, we are the middle of what is "probably the most important eight-day stretch on the Democratic calendar." Florida, Ohio, Illinois, North Carolina and Missouri voters will cast their ballots on March 15, with a total of 857 pledged delegates at stake, more than 20 percent of the total Democratic delegates up for grabs. Most polls in these states show Clinton leading Sanders either narrowly or significantly, so the senator "will have to make up ground, perhaps enough to win a couple of them outright," Silver explains.

Beyond March 15, there are "a stretch of states that look quite strong" for Sanders, Silver writes: Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Alaska, Washington, Hawaii, Wisconsin and Wyoming, all of which vote from March 22 to April 9.

Says ABC News' Rick Klein, "For Sanders to catch up with Clinton, he still needs to win big and in lots of places he's not expected to come in first. That doesn't even take into account the superdelegates who amount to the Clinton security blanket."

But the senator's big win in Michigan has others, like The Nation's D.D. Guttenplan, feeling more confident in Sanders' potential path to the nomination: "Those polls that put Illinois and Ohio out of Sanders' reach look a lot less reliable today. And if Sanders wins in those states, it won't be his viability as a candidate that is in question."

The senator himself is still optimistic about his chances. He has vowed to continue his campaign until all 50 states have voted, and he has the money to hang in for months.

After Clinton beat Sanders by almost 50 points in South Carolina on Feb. 27, the Vermont senator told CBS, "I think we still have a path to victory. I would tell you that we did get beaten and beaten very badly. But I think that will be as bad as it gets."
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