In this scenario, Donald Trump is Indiana Jones.
He's running down a vine-choked tunnel, having seized the golden idol (it is an elephant) and is now trying to make his escape. He has to slip under that heavy stone door before it closes, and all the while a great tumbling spherical stone is rolling up to crush him from behind. Trump's goal is simple: Keep putting one foot in front of the other to slide under that door, even if at the very last second -- and, if he's got time, reach back in to save his classy, luxurious fedora. He leaps over areas of the floor that have collapsed, ducks beneath booby traps left by the creatures that inhabit these depths (genus reincus Priebi). He's struggling to catch his breath.
In the Republican contests Tuesday night, despite the rumbling of that giant boulder, Trump took another few steps closer to the door. Which is the 1,237 Republican delegates he needs to clinch the nomination. Was that not clear? Maybe I should have made that clear.
On Tuesday afternoon, we figured that Trump needed to win 52.6 percent of all of the unallocated delegates by June 7 to hit the 1,237-delegate mark he needs before the convention.
Last night, despite losing Utah by near-Romneyian proportions, Trump won about 59.2 percent of the delegates at stake for the entire night. On pace. Putting distance between himself and the boulder. Idol still in hand.
In another version of this scenario, Bernie Sanders is the boulder.
He sees Hillary Clinton in front of him. She's got that shiny idol (it is a donkey) and is trying to make her escape. But unlike in the Republican version of this story, there are no pitfalls or vines, it's just a long, empty hallway that allows Clinton clear passage. Even as Sanders gains ground, it seems very clear that Clinton will easily make it to the door, perhaps even stopping for a selfie with a fan before walking through.
The problem is illustrated simply. Yes, Bernie Sanders won two states Tuesday night to Hillary Clinton's one, but this ain't the Senate. It's the delegates that count, and Clinton's delegate lead is enormous. Two of the three days with the biggest delegate hauls are behind us, and Clinton's scooped up the vast majority of the delegates each time. To catch up, Sanders needs as much blue to appear under the line as above -- and that's excluding the superdelegates.
Sanders needed 74 percent of the pledged delegates last night to hit the Democratic target before the convention. He got 52.7 percent.
Put another way, if Sanders wins every contest by 15 points from here on out, including in New York (where polling shows Clinton with a wide lead), he still can't catch Clinton's pledged delegate total.
And again: This is excluding the superdelegates, where Clinton has a huge lead.
So far, Sanders has beaten Clinton by 15 points in seven of the 29 contests. Clinton's beaten him by that margin or more in 12. There's nothing to suggest that this dynamic will change that much over the short term. A new poll from Quinnipiac University published Wednesday morning shows Clinton with a 12-point national lead. That doesn't suggest that Sanders will start winning by 15.
Sometimes you're the boulder. Sometimes you're Indy (or, if you prefer, the grave-robber). But this year, it doesn't seem very likely that the script will change.