Every week, we say the next race is pivotal, perhaps decisive even. Every week, it's... true, but in different ways.
This week really could be decisive for Donald Trump and potentially the last stand for the #NeverTrump movement. That's because if Trump sweeps all 57 Indiana delegates Tuesday (the second most delegates in any remaining GOP contest behind California), his path to the nomination would be very clear. He would have crossed the 1,000-delegate threshold and be 85 percent of the way to the magic number of 1,237 needed for the Republican nomination with nine contests remaining.
For the Democrats, even a Bernie Sanders win in Indiana, which is possible, won't do much to change the reality of the trajectory of the race. Sanders would likely wake up the next day with a steeper hill to climb and needing two-thirds of all remaining pledged delegates just for a majority of pledged delegates (and that's to say nothing of superdelegates).
Here's how this week's primary — Indiana — could shift things, by the numbers:
Republicans – 57 delegates up for grabs
-Delegate allocation: Hybrid — winner-take-all by statewide vote (30) and congressional district (27)
Ted Cruz 565
John Kasich 153
-The background: Trump has had a very good two weeks, and he's almost certainly going to cross the 1,000 threshold Tuesday night. Between the six Northeastern primaries that he swept beginning in New York April 19, Trump has picked up a whopping 240 delegates to Kasich's 9 and Cruz's 6.
-How close is Trump to the nomination? Trump is now 81 percent of the way to the magic number of 1,237. That means he made up an astounding 20 percentage points in two weeks and six contests. (He was only 61 percent of the way there before New York.) If he sweeps Indiana's delegates, which is possible given polls are showing him up by double digits, he will be 85 percent of the way there. (That's almost as far along as Clinton, who is now 91 percent of the way to the 2,383 Democratic magic number.)
-What does Trump need of what's remaining? Trump needs just 42 percent of all remaining unallocated delegates. If he sweeps all of Indiana's delegates, he will need just 36 percent with nine contests remaining. (NOTE: Many other outlets show higher percentages needed of what's remaining than we do. That's because we are calculating everything that's available, including unbound delegates that are still available — and anything that hasn't been assigned yet from previous contests.)
-When could Trump clinch? June 7. It is mathematically impossible for Trump to clinch before then, but he is now on track to get it that day. Everyone's watching California. (NOTE: Remember, Trump is the only Republican who can get a majority by the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Cruz and Kasich are mathematically eliminated.)
Democrats – 83 pledged delegates at stake
-Delegate allocation: Proportional (as always)
Overall (including superdelegates):
(808 lead for Clinton)
(327 lead for Clinton)
(481 lead for Clinton)
-The background: Barring something unforeseen, Hillary Clinton is going to be the Democratic nominee for president in 2016. No matter what happens in Indiana on Tuesday — and polls show Sanders in striking distance — that won't change. Even if Sanders scores a narrow win, it won't be enough to chip much into her delegate lead. In fact, Sanders, who now needs 65 percent of all remaining pledged delegates for a pledged majority, will almost certainly wake up Wednesday worse off. That's because he will need an even higher percentage of remaining delegates.
Clinton being the likely nominee, frankly, has been pretty evident mathematically since Super Tuesday, March 1, when she had a 191-pledged delegate lead. And it was certainly clearer after Mega Tuesday, March 15, when she expanded that lead to 319. And it was essentially ensured after her four of five big wins last Tuesday in contests in the Northeast, as she now holds a 327-pledged delegate lead. (And that's, again, to say nothing of superdelegates).
For perspective: Barack Obama's biggest pledged-delegate lead in 2008 over Clinton was 114. He wound up with a 69-pledged delegate lead in the end and a 238.5 overall delegate lead with superdelegates included. (The 0.5 comes from the punishment of Florida and Michigan, whose delegates only counted for half because they decided to hold their contests earlier than the national party allowed.) Clinton currently has more than double the pledged-delegate lead Obama ever had — and that pledged-delegate lead is bigger than Obama's overall margin over Clinton in 2008. Clinton's four wins last Tuesday punctuated her lead, as she netted more than 50 pledged delegates that day.
-How close is Clinton to the nomination? With superdelegates, Clinton is 91 percent of the way to the magic number of 2,383. Yes, superdelegates can choose to vote however they want at the convention, but without Sanders winning a pledged majority, there is very little rationale for them to switch. Even if all superdelegates went the way their states voted, as NPR's Arnie Seipel has crunched, Clinton would still have over 200 more superdelegate votes. Her total delegate lead over Sanders would still be well over 500. When she does cross that number with superdelegates, she will be called the "apparent nominee" by NPR and others. (We are using the AP's pledged and superdelegate numbers. You can track those by state with NPR's delegate tracker here.)
-What percentage of remaining delegates do Clinton, Sanders need? Clinton could lose every single one of the dozen Democratic contests remaining by more than 20 or more points and still win a majority of pledged delegates.
The numbers ... for a pledged majority:
Clinton needs 35 percent
Sanders needs 65 percent
Clinton needs 18 percent
Sanders needs 82 percent
-When could Clinton clinch? Watch the margins — and the superdelegates — between now and May 17. It's possible Clinton clinches that day. She would likely need about 100 superdelegates to come forward to be able to do it. But she will almost certainly surpass the number she needs June 7 when California, New Jersey and others vote.