Before the final results in New York were known but after it was clear that Hillary Clinton would win the state, Bernie Sanders's campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, appeared on MSNBC to talk to the network's Steve Kornacki.

Kornacki's goal was immediately clear: Have Weaver explain how his candidate could make up the wide gap in pledged delegates between him and Hillary Clinton. Kornacki ballparked that gap at 235, but he lowballed New York. The estimates from delegate guru Daniel Nichanian has the total slightly higher at 239, so we'll use that.

Kornacki presented the remaining map, and asked Weaver to explain how the math added up.


Obviously the big state here is California. A big win there will get you a lot of delegates. Oregon is a state that should be very, very good for the senator. These states [pointing to Montana and the Dakotas] we have won all of the states around these states so these states would seem to be prime territory for the senator. The senator has been increasingly doing well with Latino voters across the country, so New Mexico certainly in play. Indiana, a state that he's going to do well in. It's possible to run all of these states [pointing to the Appalachian stretch]. New Jersey has a lot of delegates. I mean, if you look, there's just a lot of delegates on the board.

It's true that there are a lot of delegates left to be allocated -- 1,400 in total. Of that number, 885 delegates are given out in four states: Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and, yes, California. Most of the states Weaver pointed to don't have many delegates to give, including Montana, the Dakotas, West Virginia and Kentucky. Combined, they have 143 delegates. So winning them will yield Sanders fewer delegates than wins elsewhere.

Weaver reveals the real problem in his first sentence. Any win needs to be a "big" win in order to cut into Clinton's lead. Since Democratic delegates are awarded proportionally, it doesn't matter if Sanders wins California -- he needs to win it by a large margin. If the gap coming down to California is still 239, Sanders would need to win the state with 75 percent of the vote to tie Clinton.

State wins don't mean much for altering the math.

Kornacki pressed Weaver on the fact that states voting next week, including the big ones of Pennsylvania and Maryland, don't seem like friendly territory for his candidate. Maryland's large population of black voters is one reason that Clinton leads Sanders in the state by about 21 points.


I don't think you have to win all of them. But I think you have to win, certainly Pennsylvania becomes a very, very important state in this process. We're doing very well there. Certainly our internal polls are much better than some of the public polls that are out there. We should do very, very well there. When we get past the 26th, you go into May with one state a week, we have the possibility of winning every single week in that month. And on June 7th is the big day. We'll have New Jersey, California and a bunch of other states.

In other words, Weaver predicts a Pennsylvania win next week, despite trailing by double-digits. (Sanders at one point predicted a win in New York, too.) Again, though, Sanders can't just win Pennsylvania by five points. That would net him 11 delegates of the 239 he needs -- while taking another 189 delegates off the table. Nichanian figures that Sanders needs to win about 59 percent of the remaining delegates -- meaning, essentially, that he absolutely needs to hit that mark in the big states. That's a nearly 20-point win.

Weaver doesn't mention Maryland -- but instead looks forward once again to June 7, when California and New Jersey vote. Clinton leads in both of those states, too.

Sanders's campaign manager then throws in the kitchen sink on the delegate math.

The other thing that you haven't pointed out is we picked up a number of delegates, a lot of these caucus states have a sort of iterative process, and we've done a very good job of picking up additional delegates at each one of those levels. We picked up delegates in Nevada. We're going to pick up delegates, I believe, in Iowa. Washington state. We won 70/30 but the outcome in delegates could eventually become 80/20 or even in a really big turnout we could sweep the delegates in Washington state.

The campaign gained two delegates in Nevada. That will not substantially shift the tide of the race.

The point about Washington is interesting. After Wyoming, which Sanders won but in which the two candidates split the delegates evenly, there was a lot of teeth-gnashing from Sanders supporters about the unfairness of the allocation process. Weaver appears to be fairly unconcerned about disproportionate distribution when it is to his favor.

Finally, Kornacki gets to the most critical point: Why would a Democratic superdelegate back Sanders over Clinton, when Clinton will almost certainly end the campaign with more pledged delegates and more votes?

Weaver had noted earlier that the "popular vote doesn't include what's happening in all the caucus states, which brings down the number substantially." The Post's fact checkers determined earlier this month that, even including caucus states, Clinton led by 2.4 million votes. On Tuesday, she added another 250,000 in New York. Caucus states have lower turnout and lower populations. Clinton's popular vote lead is huge.

Weaver's best superdelegate argument?

At the end of the day the Democrats will have to decide who they want to elect in terms of who will be best in November. Bernie Sanders is a much more electable candidate in November. Very important for Democrats. ... If the polls continue to show Bernie Sanders is a much stronger candidate in the general election, and that's for a few reasons. He brings out a lot of young people to the process, he's extremely popular with independent voters. ... If you can't create a coalition with independent voters, you can't win the White House.

One of the reasons Sanders leads in general election polling is that his favorability is higher, and that's in part because he's less well-known than Clinton and because he hasn't been the target of much negative campaigning. Clinton is a weak general election candidate, given her unfavorability -- but it's not clear that she'd do much worse against a Donald Trump or a Ted Cruz than would Sanders. Sanders does do better with younger voters and independents in general election match-ups against Trump and Cruz, but both Democrats generally beat the Republicans.

Also, as we noted last week, Barack Obama lost independents in 2012, but won the election.

The interview concluded with a remarkable statement. Kornacki asked if Weaver's strategy, in essence, would be to work on superdelegates before the convention. Weaver replied, "At this point, yes, absolutely."

This has been the campaign's strategy for weeks. Weaver knows very well that he's not going to catch Clinton's pledged delegates; his only hope has been to convince superdelegates that Sanders has momentum or that he will win the popular vote or that Sanders is preferred nationally or that he's got the better shot in November. Sanders supporters loathe the superdelegates, who they fairly see as undemocratic. But the campaign had no choice.

On Tuesday night, Weaver admitted that -- and tacitly admitted that several of the arguments he'd want to use to convince superdelegates have stumbled. The overwrought "momentum" argument, predicated on a cluster of demographically friendly states, was crippled by Clinton's better-than-expected New York win -- which also hurt the popular vote argument. Weaver has very few arrows left in his quiver.

But the immediate reaction to Weaver's comments was the obvious one: Would Sanders's supporters want to win by acclamation from the undemocratic supers? Some would, sure. But it isn't what they expected. They expected, based on assurances from the campaign, that they'd win New York and ride that continuing momentum going forward. The campaign needed to offer those assurances to keep fundraising and have a shot in upcoming states, but the assurances were always faulty.

Nothing changed in the Democratic race over the last 24 hours. But the New York results and Weaver's explanation of the path to victory were not what his campaign had prepared his supporters to hear.