Friday, May 15, 2020

When Will Biden Clinch? It Depends.

There is certainly an argument out there that Biden wrapped up the Democratic presidential nomination back on April 8 -- the day after the Wisconsin primary -- when Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign. The former vice president shifted from being the presumptive presumptive nominee to the presumptive nominee then.

And an argument can be made that the trajectory of Biden's delegate math made that obvious on many of the Tuesdays throughout March. But trajectory is one thing as is the fact that all of the remaining viable candidates other than Biden pulled out of the race for the Democratic nomination. However, crossing over the requisite 1991 pledged delegates to become the nominee is another thing altogether. As of now, Biden is just shy of 1500 delegates and needs around 38 percent of the delegates available in the remaining states with contests to surpass that threshold. Given how the primaries and caucuses have gone since Sanders dropped out of the race and endorsed Biden, that will not prove to be too heavy a lift.

But when will Biden hit and pass 1991?

It depends.

One thing that can be said is that it will not be in May. There are just two more contests -- Oregon and Hawaii next week -- and just 95 delegates to be allocated before the end of the month. June 2 offers both more contests and 479 more delegates. But even then, it would be a bit of a stretch for Biden to get to 1991 by then.

Again, it depends. If one looks at the contests that there are results for since April 8 when Sanders suspended his campaign -- Alaska, Wyoming, Ohio, Kansas and Nebraska -- they paint a certain picture, one where Biden gets almost 74 percent of the qualified vote on average. And if Biden receives around three-quarters of the delegates in future primaries and caucuses, then he will just barely eclipse the 1991 delegate barrier on June 9 when Georgia and West Virginia hold primaries.

Yet, that is something of a rough estimate. It assumes that congressional district delegate allocation will mirror statewide delegate allocation and that may or may not be the case. But that potential variation across congressional districts may end up pushing Biden's magic number clinching point deeper into the delayed primary calendar.

Another variable that may influence when that point occurs is the nature of the small sample of contests that have happened since Sanders's exit from the race. Three of those five contests were in party-run primary or caucus states (Alaska, Wyoming and Kansas). No, that party-run part does not matter to the math going forward, but that all three used ranked-choice voting does. The redistribution of votes in those contests inflates the qualified share of support that both Biden and Sanders received. As a result, the average qualified share used in arriving at the June 9 target date for clinching cited above may be a bit more generous to Sanders than to Biden. After all, much of the voting in the April 10 Alaska party-run primary took place by mail before Sanders dropped out on April 8. The 45 percent Sanders received may not exactly be representative of the share he has gotten and will get in future contests.

If one looks at the other two contests -- Ohio and Nebraska -- then it is clear that Sanders is very much flirting with the threshold to qualify for delegates. And if Nebraska is the new normal -- a state where Sanders failed to qualify for delegates either statewide or in any of the three congressional districts -- then that would speed up Biden's journey to 1991. Were Biden to receive all of the delegates available -- assuming he is the only candidate qualifying for delegates -- then he would easily surpass 1991 on Super Junesday, June 2.

But how the allocation goes between now and the end of primary season will likely be something in between those two extremes: 1) Sanders receiving about a quarter of the qualified vote and 2) Biden being the only qualifying candidate. Of course, there are not that many contests nor delegates at stake between June 2 and June 9. The caucuses in the Virgin Islands fall on June 6, but there are just seven delegates on the line there.

Look, the bottom line is the one where this discussion started: Biden will be the nominee. The question is when he more officially becomes the presumptive nominee in the delegate count. The above is a rough guide. One thing that can be said is that even if one follows the Sanders-generous extreme above -- the one where the Vermont senator receives about a quarter of the delegates -- then Biden will by the end of primary season have enough pledged delegates in his column to allow superdelegates participate on the first ballot roll call vote at the national convention. That is, of course, assuming the current rules remain the same when the convention Rules Committee adopts rules for the convention.

No comments: