Sen. Bernie Sanders had the best night of his presidential campaign on Saturday, dominating Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in the Washington, Hawaii and Alaska state caucuses by wide margins. He cut into Clinton's pledged-delegate lead by at least one-sixth and potentially more. It was the sort of night that he needs more of.
But which he's almost certainly not going to get.
The reason it was such a big night for Sanders was that he dominated in Washington state, beating Clinton by more than 40 points. Washington has a big delegate total, so splitting up the delegates gave Sanders a big margin. His giant wins in Alaska and Hawaii were icing on that cake.
But Alaska and Washington had two characteristics that made them very friendly terrain for Sanders: They were caucuses in predominantly non-black states. And there aren't many more of those on the calendar.At FiveThirtyEight, Harry Enten picks up the story:
So why is Sanders doing better in caucuses than primaries? The most obvious answer is that caucuses reward candidates with diehard supporters. There are often speeches, and sometimes multiple rounds of voting at caucuses. Typically, you have to stick around for a while to vote. That takes devotion, and if you’ve ever met a Sanders fan, you’ll know that many would climb over hot coals to vote for him.
Sanders’s strength in caucuses may also be, in part, coincidental. Every state that has held or will hold a Democratic caucus this year has a black population at or below 10 percent of the state’s total population, and black voters have been among Clinton’s strongest demographic groups. Without those black voters, Clinton just can’t match the enthusiasm of Sanders’s backers. (In Southern states, where Clinton romped, her voters were far more enthusiastic than Sanders’s supporters were.)