After New York: Unpacking Sanders' Loss And The Future Of His Campaign

Apr 22, 2016

After his loss Tuesday night, Sen. Bernie Sanders flew back to Burlington. 

“Today we took Secretary Clinton on in her own state of New York and we lost," Sanders told reporters at the Burlington Airport. "I congratulate Secretary Clinton on her victory.”

Clinton beat Sanders handily, 63 percent to 37 percent.

Wilson Andrews, Larry Buchanan and Ford Fessenden are graphics editors for The New York Times. They spoke with VPR about exactly how Sanders lost New York, and what it could mean for his campaign going forward. 

On where Sanders did well, and where he did not: 

Sanders won pretty much every rural county in New York. Clinton took upstate counties around Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo. But how did the candidates do in New York City?

"He performed well in Brooklyn. In places where there are a fair number of young hipsters potentially, gentrifiers we call them," says Fessenden. "Those were his best areas. He underperformed in most other places even in places where we expected him to do pretty well."

"He performed well in Brooklyn [and] in places where there are a fair number of young hipsters." — Ford Fessenden, graphics editor at The New York Times

"We call them 'white liberals,'" Fessenden says. "They're sort of the heart and soul of democratic New York. They give a lot of money, they turn out in big numbers. There was some idea that Bernie might do well there."

"A lot of these voters are Jewish, but he did particularly badly I think," Fessenden said. 

"I think the African-American vote is so big in New York, especially in Brooklyn," Andrews says. "Hillary Clinton just dominated all throughout central Brooklyn where blacks are ... a major part of the population in those areas. And especially out east in Queens, east Brooklyn, and in the Bronx too. So once again, as we've seen throughout the primaries, she did very well with minorities."

On voting irregularities in Brooklyn: 

Authorities are now looking into why more than 125,000 Brooklyn voters were removed from the polls ahead of Tuesday's primary. Andrews says even if those people had been able to vote it wouldn't have made a huge impact on the overall results. 

"Well, the margin between the two candidates still ended up being over 200,000 votes so I don't think it would have swung the city or swung the state," says Andrews. "Perhaps that makes a difference in the delegate count but even still, if every single one of those people that were removed from the rolls (and we don't know how many of them might have gotten added back) were voting for Bernie Sanders he still would have lost New York City."

"If every single one of those people that were removed from the rolls ... were voting for Bernie Sanders he still would have lost New York City." — Wilson Andrews, graphics editor at The New York Times

"Even in my neighborhood, Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn, we saw a lot of pro-Bernie, "feeling the bern" Bern buttons, Bern shirts, kids yelling for Bernie the morning of primary day," adds Buchanan. "But then you went to the polls, and you actually look at the block-by-block results. Hillary cleaned up in huge swaths of those places where Bernie, it seemed, to be drawing a lot of support. So maybe you had a lot of closet Hillary people who aren't quite as vocal, who when they went into the ballot box actually filled in the little bubble for Hillary Clinton."

"Another possibility for that phenomenon which is that in the places where he did the best, those are the places that tend to have the highest number of people registered as independents," says Fessenden. "In New York, you can't cross party lines to vote. It's a closed primary. So I think a lot of his vote hadn't registered as democrats and so couldn't vote for [him]."

On the outlook for the rest of the Democratic contest: 

Leading up to the primary in New York and afterward, the narrative has been that this could be a turning point in the democratic race. Andrews, Buchanan and Fessenden have created tools to see if the numbers back that up.

"We've created a couple of online calculators ... and even if you jack Bernie Sanders up to winning like 55 percent of the vote in the remaining contests and Hillary wins about 45 percent," Buchanan says, "He still falls a little bit short of that half of all pledged delegates line. And Hillary Clinton clears that, even if she loses going forward."