Now that the primaries are underway, votes and delegates matter more than polls. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders would need to win 2,382 of Democrats' 4,763 delegates to the Philadelphia convention to clinch the nomination. To help you keep track of who's ahead, the Cook Political Report has devised a delegate scorecard estimating how many delegates Clinton and Sanders would need to win in each primary, caucus, and convention to become the nominee.
Unlike on the Republican side, about 15 percent of DNC delegates are unpledged "superdelegates" - a total of 712 elected officials and party leaders - who can support whomever they want at the convention. According to the Associated Press, Clinton began the primary season leading Sanders 362 to 8 among this group. That's a huge head start for Clinton, and it means Sanders would need to win roughly 54 percent of all 4,393 other delegates to reach a bare majority, while Clinton would only need to win 46 percent.
Who's Ahead? Pledged Delegates vs. Cook Targets
Following Iowa and New Hampshire, Sanders leads Clinton in pledged delegates, 36 to 32. However, according to our targets, Sanders would have needed to win at least 43 of 68 pledged delegates so far to be "on track" for the nomination. He won exactly the 15 delegates he needed in New Hampshire, but fell seven delegates short of the 28 we estimate he needed in Iowa. As a result, so far Clinton is at 128 percent of her pledged delegate target, while Sanders is only at 84 percent of his.
Next up on the calendar: Nevada on February 20 and South Carolina on February 27. In Nevada, we estimate Clinton would need to win 16 delegates to keep pace for the nomination, while Sanders would need 19 delegates. In South Carolina, we estimate Clinton would need to capture 28 delegates, while Sanders would need 25 delegates.
How did we arrive at these targets? In each state, we have based them on Clinton and Sanders' demographic patterns of support, gleaned from both the January NBC/Wall Street Journal national survey and entrance/exit polls conducted in Iowa and New Hampshire by Edison Research. Our model assumes that Clinton will perform best in states with many older voters, African-Americans, Latinos and high-income whites, while Sanders will do best in states with many young voters, liberals and low-income whites.
Because there is extremely limited demographic and exit poll data to model territorial delegates (99 delegates will be awarded in Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Marianas, Virgin Islands, and Democrats Abroad) as well as the 342 superdelegates who had not stated their preferences when voting began, we assume that Sanders and Clinton will each need to win roughly half of them to keep pace. We also assume a modest five percent "home state" boost for Clinton in New York and Sanders in Vermont.
2016 Democratic Delegate Scorecard: Updated for Feb. 12, 2016
How this works: The scorecard below is not a prediction or forecast. Rather, it's a tool to gauge Clinton's and Sanders's true progress towards the nomination. At any given point in the primaries, the candidate who exceeds his or her cumulative delegate target should be regarded as the frontrunner. Click here for a larger version of the table.