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Nevada. Where distractions from empirical realities are an art form. We have real numbers for you. The context makes them more meaningful.

hillary wins nevada

Running the Numbers in Nevada—Larry Wines

This weekend brought the Democratic bout — and with it, crucial underreported facts — in the desert's adult-disneyland, the place that flies its big blue flag 'longside the 'Murican Flag over its rural counties' legal cathouses, and you go in the glitzy Vegas casinos with the Coliseum-size lobbies so you can visit your money. In a moment of honesty, they erected a pharaohnic pyramid topped by a laser shooting into infinite space. It costs more to go up in their fake Eiffel Tower than the real one. Even Trump hasn't been able to name everything here for himself — yet.

Area 51 consumes a vast region doing whatever it does where "deadly force is authorized." And mystery and fantasy make money for writers who don't know a damn thing about the place, but prolifically feed the fact that you're a hungry market because you don't, either.

Battle Born, the Silver State — Nevada's mottos — and they make a bigger deal that it's Nah-VADD-uh, say the "add," not the touristy dentist's "say ahhh" Knee-vahh-duh. That, of course, is to distract you from its scandalously unjustifiable water wastage in a harsh desert where sewage gushes to pollute Lake Mead, and an electric lighting bill that equals the GDP of several nations.

Hillary barked like a dog last week in show-biz-loving Nevada and won. Jeb did it in South Carolina, notorious for its nasty politics, where he subsequently lost and finally, mercifully, dropped out.

Ah, Nevada. Where grandiose distraction is the norm. Nevada seems a ready poster child for the model of Republican excess for the rich, and because they take it all, austerity for everyone else they allow to live their because somebody needs to take out the trash and mow the lush expanses of green lawns.

Nevada, with its decadent excesses, so starkly contrasting with the nation's highest current home foreclosure rate, epitomizes end-game capitalism.

Yet, the bread and circuses, Caesar's thumb up or down, Republican demolition derby wasn't in town. It was out on the circuit, simultaneously somewhere else, in South Carolina, where the Vegas elite all have places on Hilton Head Island. In the desert, it was a different show. Not the endless hours spent trackside, watching bloviating demagogues race their engines and the talking heads, goading them to make more throttle noise, in frantic quests for tv ratings. Those weren't about Nevada at all. Well...

Instead, Nevada was able to momentarily surprise us. Partly with Saturday's event, because, uncharacteristically, casino baron culture gave way, and it was the people rather than the money talking. And that ran counter to everything about Nevada's public face. And more surprisingly, it surprised us because of the hidden outcome: Nevada just updated the all-important real numbers, including the hidden numbers, in the nation's Democratic presidential contest.

For those overly acclimatized to our narrive: we're not talking about the numbers as the odds you get in Vegas when you bet on a likely nominee, or when somebody drops-out, or the eventual next Chief Executive. And not the endless, overhyped opinion poll numbers. Nope. Vegas uses better numbers than those, anyway. Surprising as it is, especially in Nevada, we are talking about THE numbers that matter.

First, the basics. The earned and pledged delegates resulting from primaries and caucuses, to date, since Saturday's outcome in Nevada, updated:

Clinton has 51 to Bernie's 51.

But wait. The roulette wheels and slot machines hadn't stop spinning. The Nevada caucus results and delegate counts seemed to come in quickly. Including the story of Team Clinton targeting the one precinct with an odd number of delegates, so they could pick-up a one-delegate margin in a tie. But hang on. Borrowing the latenight tv setup line, "You mean there's MORE?" Yes, _____ — er, uh, let's just say, "Yes."

Immediately following the Nevada caucuses, the ongoing superdegate count was figured, behind closed doors. Superdelegates: those entitled party insiders and office-holders who get to pick the presidential nominee, but their votes are unaccountable all the ordinary voters or caucus-goers who participated in the process.

Add-in the Democrat's post-Nevada superdelegate counts to those little 51-51 numbers, and it will shock you:

Clinton already has 496 to Bernie's 69.

Wow.

You can view that two ways. Other than stunned outrage. One is, "Bernie's right. The oligarchs control everything and it's rigged. I'm walking."

The other is, "With 47 of 50 states to go, it's still a very long way from the total needed to win at the Democratic convention. Don't walk!"

The number needed to become the Democratic nominee is 2383.

Hillary has yet to score a lopsided win that compares to Bernie's. But that didn't humble her "Triumph in Nevada" speech.

Clinton already has nearly one-fifth of that total, after decisively losing one state and winning — with just better than a tie — in two others. One-fifth the winning total. With 47 of 50 states to go. Bernie has less than one thirty-fifth of the needed total.

It's even crazier than that. When the Democratic convention is held, the total number of delegates of both kinds, the earned (from voting booths and caucuses), and the unearned (kissy-kissy-where's-my-insider's-reward)? The latter is comprises almost one-third of the total number.

One-third. There are far more superdelegates in the Democratic Party than in the GOP. The Dems put the superdelegate provision in place to get elected officials and its most energetic (or otherwise paid) activists and staffers engaged at Party conventions. Granted, GOP convention delegates are nearly all extreme insiders, anyway — making the whole Trump thing even weirder — but a far greater proportion are sent on behalf of a candidate picked by their party's rank-and-file registrants in the states that send them.

Back to the Democrats. During the gaggle of Sunday morning shows, CNN ran the numbers with a simple postulation of all the upcoming contests to pick the nominee in the remaining 47 states. It was a useful exercise, which probably sounds ludicrous, but it's not, because it allowed extrapolation of the already observable trend.

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The result? If Clinton continues to barely edge-out Bernie in each state, but she continues never (or rarely) to win decisively anywhere, indeed she CANNOT amass enough earned delegates to win the nomination. That's true even if she wins 55%-45% in every remaining primary state. She still would not have enough elected delegates for the nomination.

BUT — whether she wins all those states 55%-45%, or by the NARROWEST of margins, she WILL capture the nomination anyway, rather handily, based on her cadre of party hack superdelegates.

But nothing operates in isolation. The ripples would be tidal waves.

It invites, even demands, critical long-range prognostication. Supreme Court at stake or not, can you imagine anything more certain to alienate all those idealistic young voters than someone:

  • in an anachronistic '80s pantsuit whose pontifications just don't reach them?
  • with an authenticity problem?
  • with message-adjustment issues?
  • who pulls kings and queens off the bottom of the deck?

Remember that those young Bernie-supporting voters are, historically demonstrable by age cohort, non-voters when they are disillusioned or just uninspired.

That makes these key questions for the summer and fall. As for assessing the immediate impacts? Here's one to factor in since Saturday night in Nevada: Clinton seized upon her barely-eeked-it-out win in Nevada like, well, DeGaulle rolling-in to liberate Paris.

She did that to avoid the "almost a tie" narrative of Iowa — not because this one balances Bernie's decisive New Hampshire numbers, because it doesn't.

She has yet to score a lopsided win that compares to Bernie's. But that didn't humble her "Triumph in Nevada" speech. It doesn't take a boxing fan to know that you don't brag about your split decision as your "triumph."

Perhaps she was concerned it wouldn't have been used had it been kept in waiting for an appropriate occasion.

That, and she sought to fuel the "Clinton expectations game." In terms of the media, it appears she did. Her speech was ratified with proclamations of "a degree of momentum and inevitability" as a common theme on the Sunday shows. But will it pass the smell test with young voters after just two squeakers and one thrashing loss?

A companion theme credited Clinton for that grandiose Nevada victory speech, citing it for "changing the narrative" away from her incessant "I, I, I," and away from "the Hillary story narrative," to "a sudden 'we.'" To hear the sabbath gasbags, it seems her "we need to go forward together" was Alexander after flattening the opposing army, sweeping the steppes. Not Henry V before "We few, we happy few" face tough odds battling on St. Crispin's Day.

Her Nevada victory, despite its dubious premise, clearly seduced the media. Another reason: it was couched in a vintage Bill-Clintonesque "here's-what's-in-it-for-you-if-we're-together!" message.

As for seducing those who worked hard for Bernie in Nevada, or into the field for jousts ahead? Her tone took a gamble. And one easily seen as hubris. One that harkens to that annoyed demeanor, that entitled-to-it thing that she has, that you always knew could be scratched to the surface from beneath a very thin veneer.

The big question is how young voters see it. Not just because they can be the margin of difference in individual primaries and perhaps the general election — but whether their experience taking part in 2016 determines whether they will want to participate for years to come. It is very much at stake.

Idealistic young Bernie voters are, in phenomenal numbers, devoted to their candidate's credibe outrage, determination to end hard-wired piracy, all the way to his harried professor's hair and authentically unintentional grandfatherliness.

Every bit as important as the numbers that will determine who will win the nomination, the general election is based on myriad intangibles that emphasize image over substance, that often come down to how a candidate makes you feel. (In that, the woefully inexperienced Donald Trump is not a singular phenomenon.)

Clinton's Nevada victory speech affords opportunity to assess a crucial intangible while there's still time to determine who will be able to amass the bigger numbers to become president.

How will these young devotees to Bernie respond to seeing things portrayed with Nevada's outcomes, and the characterizations applied there, when they have their own knowledge, assessments and expections developed from the just-completed contest in which they worked? Will Hillary's victory speech trend on their phones on YouTube? Will they feel an instant embrace or a disgusted alienation following her second narrow win and the change in posture she has chosen to characterize it?

Is some numerically unquantifiable, but no less important level, whether she is acceptable as the right kind of Bernieesque oldster, a universal grandmother figure, wise, comforting, someone you want around? Or will all her constantly searching to define herself for them, and for all of us, never allow her to lose the awkward authenticity problem that keeps them from wanting to get close?

Nevada should give us a good idea as the factors and experience-based feelings shake-out there. With the revelry over at the gaming tables, those youthful activists are probably still at the bar. Just watch for their mood as they come out the door, and whether they seem ready to go back in, or even receptive to the idea.

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Larry Wines