Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign has been gaining momentum over recent weeks.
He’s won seven of the previous nine primaries, and he has closed the gap with frontrunner Hillary Clinton to just a few points in national polls of Democratic voters.
But he will not win here on Tuesday.
Pennsylvania is Clinton country.
While the former Secretary of State may have seen her support erode in other, more liberal states, such as Washington and Hawaii, she has a firm base of support in Pennsylvania that helped her win the 2008 primary by nine points over Barack Obama, at a point when he had the nomination all but sewn up.
Many of those same voters are expected to turn out for Clinton on Tuesday.
But African-American voters may prove to be Clinton’s difference-maker. Eight years ago, 92 percent of black primary voters went for Obama, who later became the first African American to be elected president. Clinton is expected to take the black vote handily this year.
“She won the state against Obama when he was doing well almost everywhere else, and that suggests fertile ground for her this year,” says Dr. Michael Young, former professor of politics and public affairs at Penn State University.
Winner takes all
There are 189 delegates available in Pennsylvania. It’s not winner take all — the statewide victor will receive a slice of those delegates, but they’ll also be divvied up according to who wins each of the state’s 18 congressional districts.
Still, Clinton could take most of those delegates. She won all but seven counties in 2008, including Cumberland County.
Clinton has roots in Pennsylvania. Her father, Hugh Rodham, was born in Scranton and played football for Penn State, as did one of Clinton’s brothers, Hugh.
Polls show Clinton with a 10- to 15-point lead on Sanders entering Tuesday’s primary.
Young says that if Sanders had beaten or come close to beating Clinton in New York, he might have carried some momentum into the state. Instead, Clinton claimed a firm victory and increased her delegate total to 1930.
To win the Democratic nomination requires 2,383 delegates. Sanders trails with 1,189.
Still in it
The Sanders campaign insists it still has a path to a win at the Democratic National Convention, which takes place in Philadelphia July 25 to 28. There the Democratic presidential nominee will be chosen, a week after the Republicans have designated their candidate.
The primaries will be over in early June. At that point, it’s conceivable Clinton won’t have the requisite number of delegates unless you count super delegates, essentially free agents who can change their votes any time before the DNC convenes.
The Sanders campaign will be wooing those super delegates in the hopes of convincing them to switch sides.
That makes Pennsylvania’s delegates all the more important, since there are only a handful of states voting after PA and none with the large number of delegates.
“Of the two candidates, I’d rather be in Clinton’s shoes, but it’s not over,” says Sarah Niebler, assistant professor in the department of political science at Dickinson College. “Clinton doesn’t have the race wrapped up. Sanders has made a play by winning many of the past few primaries and making a case that he can win a general election.”