Hillary Clinton Beats Bernie Sanders In Missouri's Primary, Another Blow To His Campaign

The results are finally in: Hillary Clinton defeated Bernie Sanders in Missouri in a razor-thin victory. For days, the race was too close to call, but Clinton won in a squeaker, beating Sanders by less than 2,000 votes. This is a symbolic blow to Sanders' campaign, but from a delegate standpoint, the difference between a narrow Clinton victory and a narrow Sanders one is pretty minimal, and the outcome doesn't significantly change the state of the race.

Missouri is worth 71 delegates, but it allocates its delegates proportionally. Because the race was so close, Sanders and Clinton will both receive 32 pledged delegates from the state. Clinton already has a sizable lead in delegates over Sanders, and so a contest that ends in a delegate tie benefits her, because it preserves the status quo.

This is emblematic of a pattern that's arisen in the Democratic race. The problem for Sanders isn't that Clinton has won more states. It's that she has won more states by huge margins than he has, and because of proportional allocation, the only way to actually build a lead in delegates is to win by big margins. Otherwise, the result is a tie, and because Sanders fell behind in delegates early on, he needs to close the delegate gap, not simply keep it from getting bigger.

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That's what happened in Michigan, where Sanders defied expectations and polls by defeating Clinton by a hair. But that same night, Clinton won in a landslide in Mississippi. The result was that Sanders got 67 delegates from Michigan and 4 from Mississippi, for a total of 71. Clinton, on the other hand, walked away with 60 Michigan delegates and 30 from Mississippi, giving her a total of 90 delegates. At the end of the night, then, Clinton grew her lead over Sanders, even though she won the smaller state of the two. Again, it's all about the margins.

But that's not to say that Sanders is wasting his time. By continuing to accumulate delegates, he's making it abundantly clear to Clinton and the rest of the Democratic Party that, if they want to win in November, they'll need his supporters. This, in turn, will give him tremendous leverage over crucial decisions this cycle, including Clinton's vice presidential pick, the official Democratic Party policy plank that's decided upon at the convention, and possibly members of Clinton's cabinet.

Make no mistake: Sanders would have rather won than lost in Missouri. But even though he lost, he still has plenty of reasons to stay in the race.