At the end of the day, the extent of Bernie Sanders's win in Alaska doesn't really matter at all. Sure, he won the state big, with the Associated Press calling it for him early. As of writing, he won about 4 out of 5 votes in the state. But this ain't the general election; winning small states by big margins doesn't do him a lot of good. He needs to win big states big if he wants to eat into Hillary Clinton's delegate lead.
And that's what he did in Washington. Washington was the fifth-largest state left on the calendar, and Sanders crushed Clinton. If the statewide split as it is right now holds, he'll pick up at least 50 net delegates -- a sixth of the margin between the two candidates. With what he ends up netting in Alaska, he'll almost certainly net more than 60 delegates -- a fifth. That's a big bite into Clinton's lead, and his net haul in Washington will be, by far, his biggest gain from any state.
The problem for Sanders is that winning big in big states requires more big states. With Washington being the fifth-largest, that means there are four more big states left: California, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. We looked at those states on Friday; current polling suggests that Clinton will win all four. And not only that, but she'll win New York by a wide margin, given that it is her home state. If she wins New York by 20 points, she'll have a net gain of 50 delegates.
There's an argument that Sanders's big victories on Saturday will help swing the upcoming states -- the momentum idea and all that. Sure! Possible! When Sanders won New Hampshire by a mile, though, it was followed by Clinton crushing him in South Carolina. When he won Michigan against all odds ... he then lost Illinois and North Carolina and Ohio in a five-state Clinton sweep. He lost Florida -- where Clinton netted about 70 delegates alone. Demographics that have proven to be the more reliable predictors of victory than momentum.
None of this is to denigrate Sanders's victories. These are big wins, and there's little question that Clinton would rather have not been blown out in Washington by an even wider margin than she was blown out there in 2008. Sanders has won 13 of the 32 contests, according to U.S. Election Atlas's tallies, which no one would have predicted. But his net delegate haul in those 13 states (excluding Saturday's contests) was 114. Clinton’s haul in her wins was 418.
The goal instead is to point out that the long-term trend in the Democratic race hasn't shifted -- and that trend points directly to a Hillary Clinton nomination. We made a tool that takes the estimated delegate hauls from Saturday's contests and adds them to what is already in the bank. Play around with it. We included a few different scenarios, including our assessment of how the last four big states look and a look at how FiveThirtyEight figured states might lean one way or the other based on demographics.
Try different scenarios, using delegate estimates for Saturday's contests. See what happens.
Sanders's campaign predicted that the blow-out wins for Clinton two weeks ago in Florida and Ohio were the high-water mark in her delegate lead. That's very possibly true. But tonight may be the high-water mark in Sanders's last push toward victory. He may still close the gap some, but it's very possible -- barring something remarkable! -- that Washington was as good as it's going to get.