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Bernie Sanders wins Indiana, but doesn't get landslide he needed

Bernie Sanders won Indiana tonight — but not by enough to make a difference in the race.
Bernie Sanders won Indiana tonight — but not by enough to make a difference in the race.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Bernie Sanders won the Indiana Democratic primary on Tuesday night, giving his campaign a moral boost if not an actual path to the Democratic nomination.

The state was called at around 9:15 pm Eastern for Sanders by CNN and NBC News.

Votes are still being counted, but the early results have Hillary Clinton pulling in around 45 percent of the vote. That means, because of the Democrats' proportional allocation rules, Sanders and Clinton are likely to essentially split Indiana's 92 delegates — meaning the victory won't help Sanders cut into Clinton's big delegate lead.

Hillary Clinton is going to be the Democratic nominee

As Vox's Matt Yglesias explained over the weekend, the Democratic primary fight has been effectively over for some time. Hillary Clinton is going to be the nominee.

There's a simple reason for this: Clinton has received many millions more votes than Sanders has at this point in the race, and she therefore has many more of the "pledged" delegates who determine the nominee at the Democratic convention.

Going into tonight, Clinton had a delegate lead of 1,664 to 1,371 — not including the superdelegates who have long been in her corner.

Sanders needs to win 66 percent of the remaining pledged delegates to claim a majority of them. To pull that off, Sanders had to win all of the remaining states by more than he's won in any state but his home state of Vermont, according to Yglesias.

That not going to happen, especially given that Sanders is down in polling in several of the biggest states ahead, like California and New Jersey. Not winning Indiana by a big margin thus puts Sanders even further behind his target to catch up with Clinton.

The new stakes in the race: Can Sanders continue to pull the party in his direction?

sanders Joshua Lott/Getty Images

All of this doesn't mean, however, there aren't valuable objectives for Sanders and his supporters to try to fight for in the remaining states.

Those goals include pulling the party to his positions, showing the breadth of his support across the country, and gaining leverage over the Democratic establishment ahead of the convention in July.

By winning Indiana, Sanders will probably bolster his ability to maintain the fundraising and staffing that have made his insurgency impossible — complicating Clinton's efforts to wrap up the primary as soon as possible.

"I think there may be a possibility that Clinton could get Sanders out before the end of this process, and winning a state like Indiana may be helpful as she tries to nudge him out," said Kyle Kondik, of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, in an interview on Tuesday afternoon.

The state was expected to be in Clinton's corner, with Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight giving Clinton a 91 percent chance of winning the state ahead of the election. Polling from RealClearPolitics' polling average gave Clinton a 7-point lead, and no poll found her ahead by fewer than four points.

But Emory political scientist Alan Abramowitz's forecasting model — which was based on state-by-state demographic factors — predicted Sanders would win by about three points. Sanders's win tonight comes in part because of several factors working in his favor in the state, like its heavily white population and open primary, which allows independents to participate.

Sanders also dramatically outspent Clinton in the state, taking out more than $1 million in Indiana advertising while Clinton essentially spent no money on the primary, according to Kondik.

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