There are many echoes of 2008 in the current contest, some of which have been unearthed of late to suggest that Clinton's current attitude toward the race is hypocritical. (See Sanders supporter Shaun King's tweet quoting Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who was then Clinton's campaign co-chair, on superdelegate decision-making.) Clinton told CNN on Thursday that she has already locked up the nomination — which was the sort of thing that, eight years ago, she and her supporters would likely have decried from Obama.
It's worth noting, though, just how that race differed from this one, especially this late in the contest.
By May 1, 2008, with only nine contests left on the calendar, Obama already had an essentially insurmountable lead. Those nine contests offered only about 400 delegates, meaning that Clinton needed to win about 70 percent of the remaining delegates to pass his pledged delegate lead. In 2008, Clinton won five of the last nine contests, but with the exception of North Carolina, all were fairly small victories. She lost North Carolina by 14 points on May 6, the same day that she won Indiana by one. Then, as now, delegates were handed out proportionally, so Obama's delegate lead grew.
With most of the remaining delegates gone, she needed 90 percent of the delegates from May 7 on in order to pass Obama. That wasn't going to happen — and didn't.
As it stands, Sanders needs to win about 68 percent of the remaining delegates. That's a lower figure in part because there are more delegates left. Two-thirds of the remaining delegates won't be allocated until the second-to-last day of voting, June 7 — which is why Sanders can continue to argue that winning a pledged delegate lead is feasible.
While Clinton was still splitting contests with Obama, something else was happening, too. Over the course of March and April, Obama was steadily closing the gap with Clinton on superdelegates. Shortly after the North Carolina contest, as this contemporaneous graphic from the New York Times shows, Obama passed Clinton with superdelegate totals.
This year, with the superdelegate lead belonging to the same person who holds the pledged-delegate lead, that switch hasn't been happening.
The roadmap provided by 2008 is an imperfect one. Yes, Clinton stayed in until the last contest and split the results with Obama. But by then, it was already over, since there were so few delegates left. There are, in other words, reasons for Sanders to hang around that didn't exist for Clinton. His odds are no better; in fact, they're probably currently worse, since he trails in the popular vote and by more pledged delegates.
But no one said that the wheel of karma liked to stay in the same rut.