Sanders’s Indiana Win Supports His Argument that Late Delegates Are More Important

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Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders Holds Election Night Rally
Not all delegates are created equal.Photo: Bloomberg/?? 2016 Bloomberg Finance LP

As the whole hep political world reminded us tonight, Bernie Sanders’s upset win in Indiana didn’t much matter if you measure the nomination contest by pledged delegates won. Indeed, as FiveThirtyEight’s Harry Enten noted, the percentage of remaining delegates Sanders would need to win to catch Clinton in pledged delegates has actually risen after Indiana.

But it’s important to note that Team Bernie has moved the goalposts a bit in recent days. Here’s a careful AP analysis of what Sanders and his strategist Tad Devine are now saying:

Let’s suppose that in the next six weeks, Bernie Sanders goes on a tear like he has gone on before. And let’s suppose in the 10 states and the four other contests that are out there, he wins the vast majority of them — he wins California by a huge margin, he racks up an impressive set of victories,” said Devine. “Should we then say the only benchmark is who has got more pledged delegates? Shouldn’t those superdelegates take into consideration a totality of the circumstances?”

Asked if he believed that later contests were more important than earlier ones, Devine didn’t flinch.

“I think they are,” he said, “You know why? Because they are closer to November. And what happened a year ago is not as important as what’s going to happen in June of this year.”

Indiana is exhibit A in that argument, soon to be followed by likely Sanders wins in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Oregon, and then the big batch of primaries on June 7.

To be clear, nothing about Indiana changed the dynamics of the Democratic race any more than its math. As I noted in my preview of the state, the demographics were very sunny for Sanders all along. And lest we forget, the superdelegates who now support Clinton by vast margins aren’t going to suddenly flip to Sanders on a dubious “momentum” or electability rationale, especially now that the Republican opponent is Donald Trump.

We’ll soon see if Sanders and his campaign stick with the argument that delegates chosen late are “more equal” than delegates chosen early. It’s a clever way to avoid shutting down the whole show before Philadelphia, but it’s not necessarily a good prescription for party unity.