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Delegates Are Piling Up, But There's No End In Sight For The Primary Race

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 10/03/2016 Janie Velencia
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If this year's presidential primaries already feel endless, here's some bad news: We're barely halfway through.

Sure, more than 20 states have held caucuses or primaries. About 40 percent of the available delegates have been doled out. But no clear winner has emerged in either contest. 

Democrats

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) are still in a competitive heat. Without superdelegates taken into account, Clinton has a slight edge over Sanders. She is 32 percent of the way to a nomination. Sanders is just 9 percentage points behind and is 23 percent of the way to a nomination. 

Adding superdelegates more than doubles Clinton's advantage and places her halfway (51 percent) to a nomination. Superdelegates only boost Sanders to 24 percent of the way to a nomination. 

Superdelegates won't matter in the end if Clinton manages to advance past Sanders by a significant margin. If the race is close, then superdelegates could put Clinton over the edge and hand her the nomination. If that happens, things could get interesting as superdelegates may realign, since they're allowed to switch their vote at any point during the primary. 

Sanders' unexpected win in Michigan on Tuesday has given him a desperately needed boost, but he still faces a difficult road ahead. Clinton is more than 200 delegates ahead of him (again, not counting superdelegates). In order for him to make headway, he'll need to win big in upcoming delegate-rich states -- Florida, Illinois and Ohio -- where polls show him trailing Clinton by large margins. It's a feat many analysts think will be difficult to achieve

Republicans

Professional entertainer and business mogul Donald Trump has racked up the most delegates in the Republican race. But he faces some challenges ahead, primarily from his closest rival, Texas Sen.Ted Cruz. 

With 458 delegates in the bag, Trump is only 37 percent of the way to obtaining enough delegates for a nomination. With 359 delegates, Cruz is about 29 percent on his way to a nomination. 

Things look dimmer for Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Gov. John Kasich (Ohio). Rubio took a huge hit on Tuesday night when he failed to meet a 15 percent threshold in Michigan and Mississippi and took home zero delegates.

Realistically, Rubio doesn't have much of a path going forward. His only hope at this point is hanging on for a brokered convention, where he and another candidate can consolidate enough delegates between them to defeat Trump. 

Kasich has not yet won a state, but he hopes to hang on by winning his home state of Ohio, and is also holding out for a brokered convention. 

Trump stands a good chance of opening up his lead and reaching the 1,237 delegates he needs to win as the primary enters more winner-take-all states in the following weeks. But his success relies on capturing Florida and Ohio. If he loses Ohio but wins Florida, he could still reach the nomination -- but it's a murkier path. If he loses both, then the race is destined for a brokered convention. 

If Rubio and Kasich drop out of the race, then it will come down to a one-on-one match between Trump and Cruz. A recent ABC News/Washington Post national poll finds that Trump would lose if the field winnows to just him and another candidate. 

Alternatively, if the race reaches a brokered convention -- as the Republican establishment hopes -- then a select number of Republican delegates who are committed to vote for a certain candidate will be free to change their vote. 

The race should be clearer by March 15, when another set of delegate-heavy states -- which include Florida, Illinois, North Carolina and Ohio -- takes to the polls.

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