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Biden’s Overwhelming Delegate Math

Joe Biden is the presumptive Democratic nominee. Full-stop.
March 6, 2020
Biden’s Overwhelming Delegate Math
(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

1. Unstoppable

On Tuesday night I wrote that Joe Biden was now the presumptive nominee.

This claim was based on both his and Bernie Sanders’ performance with various demographic groups and the delegate math going forward.

Some people thought I was being too aggressive in this call. Others claimed that there was still a long race ahead. Still others are now making the case that Bernie Sanders “can still win it all.” Here, for instance, is Elizabeth Bruenig with the most Pollyanna reading of the results imaginable:

Super Tuesday was not the electric showing many fans of Bernie Sanders had hoped for. While some early projections forecast he would win as many as eight out of 14 states and amass a significant lead in pledged delegates, voters delivered a more modest outcome. Mr. Sanders won four states, including delegate-rich California, and ended the night nearly tied with Joe Biden in total pledged delegates. . . .Still, it isn’t over for Mr. Sanders.

Yeah, no.

First of all, Biden’s lead is about 75 delegates at the moment. That’s a couple mid-sized states’ worth.

But the issue isn’t the size of Biden’s delegate lead. It’s what the map looks like going forward.

The first half of the problem is that the proven nature of Sanders’ coalition means that there are places where he simply can’t compete. Look at the results in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. In these states, Biden was close to an outright majority while Sanders was in the 20s.

There are more places like those coming: Mississippi, Missouri, and Florida. In each of those, Biden is going to be close to doubling-up Sanders. We now know that the nature of Bernie’s coalition is that there are demographics with which he simply can’t be competitive.

Which leads us to the second half of the problem: The nature of Biden’s coalition is that he’s strong everywhere.

The single most telling result from Super Tuesday might have been Vermont. In 2016, Bernie Sanders beat Hillary Clinton 86 percent to 13 percent. This time around, Bernie beat Biden 53 percent to 23 percent. Think about it this way: Biden did about as well against Bernie in his home state as Bernie did against Biden in the battleground state of Virginia.

What this means for the math going forward is that there are going to be states where Biden pulls an overwhelming share of the delegates. But even in places where Bernie wins, the delegates are going to be split fairly evenly.

After a three-week aberration where the demographics of Iowa and New Hampshire combined with a multi-polar field gave Bernie a brief boost, this race has returned to the dynamic it exhibited with remarkable stability for an entire year: Bernie Sanders has a solid base of limited support which trails Biden’s broad coalition.

So let me say it again: Barring some very large unexpected event—by which I mean not a gaffe, but something like a health emergency—Joe Biden is the presumptive nominee. The voting will continue, but this is merely the playing out of the endgame.

2. Canon Law and Baseball

Ed Condon on why the Astros need to get beaned—for their own good—is easily a Top 10 Bulwark piece. Just drink in the awesome:

The remedy for the current situation is simple: Houston’s batters should be beaned, over and over. Until they are sorry.This isn’t a vindictive judgment. It’s actually for their own good, and the good of everyone who lives with the love of the game in their hearts.

In law, penalties come in two kinds. Expiatory (also called vindictive) punishments make the criminal pay for the sake of justice, a price is exacted for what they did. An eye for an eye.

Medicinal penalties aim for reform. Their function is to press home on the offenders the gravity of what they have done until they are moved to remorse and atonement. The idea is not to see them grovel, but to reintegrate them into the community and make society whole again.

Which is what Houston needs. Not fines, or forfeited draft picks, but 85 mph balls up between the numbers until they understand that there is no shutting the fuck up and no moving on until they acknowledge what they did, sue for pardon, and are granted it by baseball at large.

Read the whole thing. It only gets better.

3. Death on the Mountain

One of my favorite microgenres is this: Nick Paumgarten pieces about mountaineering. Here’s a new entry:

In mountain towns, an early-autumn snowstorm is a nuisance and a lure. It runs some people out of the high country but draws others in. During the first week of October, 2017, a foot or more of snow fell in the peaks south of Bozeman, Montana. Before dawn on the fifth, a group set off from a parking lot in Hyalite Canyon, a popular outdoor playground, just outside town. The man at the head of the group was spooked by the new snow. To minimize exposure to avalanches, he made sure that everyone ascended with caution, keeping to the ridgelines and bare patches, away from the loaded gullies. This was Conrad Anker, the famous American alpinist. It is often said that there are old climbers and there are bold climbers, but there are no old bold climbers. So far, Anker, at fifty-four, was an exception.

There was nothing intrepid, really, about this particular outing. It was basically a hike up a minor mountain formerly known as Peak 10031 (for its unremarkable altitude of 10,031 feet), which had been rechristened in 2005 in honor of the late climber and Bozeman idol Alex Lowe. The group was headed to Alex Lowe Peak to spread Alex Lowe’s ashes. Anker recognized that it would be cosmically stupid to kick off an avalanche on the way.

Lowe died in 1999, at the age of forty, during an ascent of Shishapangma, in the Himalayas. At the time, he was considered by many to be the world’s preëminent alpinist, and, even in a pursuit where untimely death is almost routine, his came as a shock. He was game for anything yet prudent, in his way—more dervish than daredevil. Still, snow is water, and it aims downhill. On Shishapangma, a massive avalanche entombed two climbers, Lowe and the cameraman David Bridges, under tons of frozen debris. A third, Anker, who’d fled in another direction, got flattened and engulfed by the blast, but after the air cleared he found himself stumbling through an altered landscape, alive and alone.

Read the whole thing.

Jonathan V. Last

Jonathan V. Last is editor of The Bulwark.