Almost as soon as the polls closed, the networks started calling the Wisconsin Democratic primary for Bernie Sanders. Exit-poll estimates of the final results have varied from 55/44 (NBC) to 61/39 (Decision Desk HQ). The difference could be important: In FiveThirtyEight’s pre-primary analysis, Harry Enten suggested Sanders needed a win in the neighborhood of 16 points to avoid losing ground. He seems likely to come in under that margin.
What Sanders does not seem to have done is to blaze any new paths in Wisconsin. According to CNN’s exits, only 9 percent of primary voters were African-American; Clinton won them 74/26. A robust 18 percent of voters were under 30; Sanders won them 81/17. Clinton narrowly won self-identified Democrats, while Sanders won self-identified independents 71/28. A third of primary voters wanted policies more liberal than Obama’s, and Sanders won 78 percent of them, while Clinton won a less-impressive 61 percent of the narrow majority of voters who like Obama’s policies just fine.
These are all pretty much the patterns we’ve been seeing for much of the primary season, and Sanders might end up doing about as well as anyone could have expected. After all, Wisconsin didn’t offer a rich Latino voting population for him to do better in than before.
While the delegate math from Wisconsin may not give Sanders much of a boost, there’s no question that winning the state helps maintain perceptions that he has some momentum after six wins in the last seven contests (with the only loss being Arizona). He’s likely to win a seventh contest in Wyoming’s caucuses this weekend. But he’ll need all the help he can get to score what may be a must-win in Clinton’s adopted home state, New York, two weeks from tonight.
As for Team Clinton, you can expect it to continue the drumbeat sounded by campaign manager Robby Mook yesterday in a very public memo to supporters: She’s too far ahead in pledged delegates and popular votes and too entrenched in the states just ahead for Sanders to make a move. Get ready for an awful lot of hype from both camps as they concentrate on New York.