Bernie Sanders' (Nate) Silver Lining Is Still Grim

If you're a Bernie Sanders supporter, let me start with the obvious: sorry. Tonight was a very, very rough night for the Vermont senator, and no matter how you slice it, there's really no positive spin to be found — Clinton bested Sanders by double-digits in Ohio, Florida, and North Carolina, and she's running out ahead in Illinois. Missouri is currently narrowly going to Sanders, and that's good news for him, but even if he pulls it out it's been a devastating night. So, looking for some good news for Bernie Sanders?

Here's a desperate trace of a positive development, even though it wasn't enough to halt the bleeding on Tuesday night. As virtuoso poll-watcher Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight fame noted in his live coverage of the Democratic contests, Sanders' huge deficits against Clinton in one key area actually looked a little rosier this time around than they have in the past — his performance with black voters, specifically in the Midwest.

While Sanders has been getting drubbed by wide margins among black voters in the South, his campaign's claim that they'd perform better with black voters outside the South appears to have been validated. As Silver noted, while Sanders won just 20 percent of black voters in Florida, his numbers in places like Ohio, Illinois, and Missouri looked considerably better, at about 30 percent.


You may have detected the problem here, though: some good news is slim and scant enough that it's barely good news at all. On the whole, Tuesday night was a downright nightmare for the Sanders camp, all the more so because his wins are often narrow and hard-fought, while Clinton's tallied some epic blowouts. The Democrats use a proportional system of delegate allocation, which means that big, lopsided wins — even in smaller states — matter a lot more than the nail-biters do, even in bigger states.

That's why his massive deficits among black voters across the South have been so devastating. Despite winning one of the biggest upsets in modern American political history in Michigan last week, Sanders' delegate deficit increased thanks to the magnitude of his blowout loss in Mississippi. That same distinction is now on display on Tuesday night, too — even if he manages to pull it out in Missouri, his lost to Clinton in Florida, Ohio and North Carolina so badly that he's going to exit Tuesday night trailing Clinton in delegates by even more than the polls suggested he would.