Election Math for A 3 Way Race: The Bernie vs. Trump vs. Hillary Throwdown


Best Ship of State

cartoon by Brian Narelle


Close your eyes for a second and take a moment to imagine this future…You are standing in the streets of Philadelphia outside the Democratic National Convention surrounded by 100,000 Bernie or Bust protesters when an announcement comes over the loud speakers.

“Hillary Clinton has won the Democratic nomination and will be taking on Donald Trump in the general election for President of the United States!” The speakers boom. “And now Bernie Sander with his concession speech…”

The crowd goes wild chanting and booing but Bernie comes on quickly. After thanking his supporters and talking about the numerous instances of electioneering and voter suppression Bernie makes a shocking announcement, “I have decided to continue my candidacy and I will be running as an Independent allied with the Green Party this November!”

If you are convinced that having two liberal candidates against one conservative would split the left vote and throw the election I have good news for you. Bernie Sanders is not Ralph Nader! We don’t have to look very far to offer another possibility. Just next door in Canada, Justin Trudeau was recently elected Prime Minister. Trudeau was able to defeat the conservative nightmare Stephen Harper despite the fact that Canada has two major leftist political parties and only one conservative party!!! [1] In Canada the population is fairly evenly split between the three parties. In contrast barely over a quarter of Americans are still registered Republican. Canada had it WAY worse than we do!

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau won by championing a bipartisan progressive agenda like Bernie’s, not a moderate one! His very first promise as prime minister was to guarantee major election reforms like ranked choice voting and a popular vote!!!  We have a right to have our votes counted equally and to be free to vote our conscience without fear of wasting our vote!!!! Lots of countries do it differently and it’s time we had a president willing to fight for real democracy! Bernie is America’s only presidential candidate that supports systemic election reform.

That’s all great news for Canada, but how much does our election really have in common with theirs? Our political demographics have changed dramatically in the last 8 years, only 26% of Americans are registered Republican, just under 29% of Americans are registered Democrats and over 42% are now Independents. [2] Surprised?

Now lets say that Hillary is the Democrat, Trump is the Republican and Bernie is the Independent. If most people voted their party line, the winner would be Bernie Sanders with close to 40% of the vote and he could even win by double digits! Hillary would get second place and Trump would get third.

That’s a bit overly simplistic you might think and this is fairly complicated so I looked up some statistics and decided to crunch some numbers: You may know that most polls show Bernie winning against Trump by way bigger margins than Hillary in 2 way match ups, but I also found some interesting NBC polling data fresh off the press [3]:

  • 52% of Independents would vote Bernie. 30% of Independents would vote Trump
  • 30% of Republicans under 30 would vote for Bernie and around 12% of Republicans in general would vote for Bernie over Trump in a general election. 

If you split the Democratic vote the same way it is currently split in the primary (H-55% B-45%) and then you factor the Independent and Republican splits here are the results:



(Trump-29%      Hillary Clinton 16%)

Bernie beats Trump by 9%!!! That’s pretty damn good!!! Factor in a few more months for Republicans to learn more about Bernie and for Hillary to implode in a vortex of scandal and he could even do better. Time will tell. For now let’s keep fighting for Bernie to win the Democratic nomination in July and then go from there. KEEP THE FAITH!

By now you should be thoroughly convinced who the strategic vote really is, but I do have to address the fact that most people don’t understand how much ground the 2 party system has lost in the last decade. People feel like the democratic nominee is invincible and there are very real fears that anyone running against her can’t stand a chance. Some of you math wizards may have noticed that the totals for the 3 political parties add up to 97% of registered voters. (The other 3% is the Green and Libertarian voters.) On the other hand my totals for our three way race only add up to 83%. The missing 14% is our undecided and strategic Independents and they are not to be underestimated.

Our strategic and swing voters this election are a diverse bunch. We have Bernie supporters who believe that Hillary is the lesser of 2 evils but would rather have her than risk Trump. We also have lifelong Republican women who would secretly vote for Hillary. The pull to vote for our first ever female candidate is even stronger when you stand her up next to openly sexist and offensive Trump. The third group is the Christian Right. It’s hard to argue that Trump is the candidate for family values or the religiously devoted. Add in Pope Francis’ support of Bernie and the Christian vote is anybody’s guess. Another swing group is the anti-corporate strategic voter who thinks Trump is the only outsider with a chance. They may not prefer Trump, but they would rather vote for him than risk Hillary.

My guess is that these groups will more or less cancel each other out. At the worst, having Bernie in the race will ensure that anti-corporate voters have an option other than Trump and I don’t think he could possibly secure more than half of the swing vote. Even in the worst case scenario, if Bernie got none of the strategic voters and they were split evenly between Hillary and Trump, Bernie would still beat Trump by 2 percentage points. More likely is that Hillary would dominate among swing voters with her historic candidacy and she would come in squarely in second place.*

Trump is the looser in this race, Hillary is the spoiler candidate, and Bernie is the strategic choice and the winner.

With the strategic voters and those voting their conscience united Bernie would win by a landslide!


by Sara Wolf    6/16/16


*Other possibilities:

If Clinton were to succeed at convincing a significant number of Democrats who voted for Bernie in the primary to vote for her strategically it could change the outcome of the race:

  • If you split the swing vote evenly between the three candidates but give Hillary half of Bernie’s Democrats… Bernie Wins.  (B:38+5-7=36, T:29+5=34, H:16+5+7=28 )
  • If you split the swing vote between only Trump and Hillary and give Hillary half of Bernie’s Democrats… Trump wins (T:29+7=36, B:38-7=31, H:16+7+7=30)
  • If you split the swing vote evenly between the three candidates but give Hillary 90% of Bernie’s Democrats… Trump wins. (T:29+5=34, H:16+5+12=33, B:38+5-12=31)
  • If you split the swing vote between only Trump and Hillary but give Hillary 90% of Bernie’s Democrats… Trump wins. (T:29+7=36, H:16+7+12=35, B:38-12=26)

If Bernie dropped out entirely, Hillary won most Democrats, Trump won most Republicans and they split the Independent vote 31/27 based on the numbers in an article by Real Clear Politics [4]… It’s a tie between Trump and Hillary with the Green Party and Libertarian candidates getting collectively almost as many votes as Trump or Clinton. (T:19+2+13=34, H:21+2+11=34, 3rd Parties:18+5+6+3=32 )

  • Independent 42%:  T:13, H:11, 3rd:18
  • Republican 26%:  T:19, H:2, 3rd:5
  • Democrat 29%:  T:2, H:21, 3rd:6
  • 3rd Parties 3%: T:0, H:0, 3rd: 3

If Hillary dropped out and Bernie and Trump split the swing voters, Bernie would win with a huge majority. This is also the result we would get if our country used Ranked Choice Voting. This is the result that reflects the will of the people. Bernie would win an epic landslide victory with 61% of the country behind him. (B:38+16=61, T:29+7=36)

There is no strategy in which Hillary can be expected to win decisively, with or without Bernie. This is why I am encouraging Bernie to stay in the race and and run a strong campaign educating voters why he is the only strategic choice.

Thanks for checking out the Dreamtime Compass journalism department! To read more about the candidates and why Bernie has my vote read on:




[1] “A Big Lesson America Should Learn From Canada’s New Prime Minister” http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2015/10/20/3714126/a-big-lesson-america-should-learn-from-canadas-new-prime-minister/

[2] “Democratic, Republican Identification Near Historical Lows” http://www.gallup.com/poll/188096/democratic-republican-identification-near-historical-lows.aspx

[3] “Who’s More Likely to Beat Donald Trump — Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders?” http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2016-election/who-s-more-likely-beat-donald-trump-hillary-clinton-or-n570766

[4] “How Clinton vs. Trump Could Play Out”

The math crunching from article #3 and current democratic pledged delegate math that was the basis of my non-strategic analysis:

  • If Trump wins 15% of Independents and Bernie wins 52%, and Independents are 42% of voters that equals 6% Indie Trumpers, and 22% Indie Berners.
  • If Trump wins 88% of Republicans and Bernie wins 12%, and Republicans are 26% of voters that equals 23% Repub Trumpers, and 3% Repub Berners.
  • If Hillary wins 55% of Democrats and Bernie wins 45%, and Democrats are 29% of voters that equals 16% Dem Hill-trudgers, and 13% Dem Berners.
  • Totals: T=6+23=29       B=22+3+13=38        C= 16

note: all numbers were rounded to the nearest whole number at each stage in the math. Close enough for me. Sample problem:

Republican breakdown: (26÷100×88=T   26÷100×12=B)


8 thoughts on “Election Math for A 3 Way Race: The Bernie vs. Trump vs. Hillary Throwdown

  1. Regina Robinson Ungar

    What about the small problem that sends the election to Congress if less than 50% of electoral votes are won by the top candidate? Wouldn’t that leave us with Clinton or Trump?


  2. trulythereseblog

    Great piece Sara. Kudos from Canada. Bernie is our Justin and they will make a great team. (Personally, I love Bernie more than Justin.) Love your comment on the writing of John Laurits that wordpress is taking over the media. Anyone wanting to complain to CNN (as I did for the past two days) for their ridiculously biased coverage, here’s the link

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Neil Kilpatrick

    Justin ran on a completely far left platform, which even out-lefted the true socialist party in Canada, the NDP. Pulling out of the war on terrorism, legalizing marijuana, voter reform, indiginous rights, and climate change.. he even upstaged the Green Party. Justin won in a landslide, attributed to the largest voter turn out since 1970.. this is the way I see #Bernie winning.. by everyone getting out to vote, liberals and progressives win when everyone gets out to vote..

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Anne Martello

    It would be interesting to see what the electoral college looks like, as if no one get 270 EVs, the House and Senate Republicans will vote for Trump and his running mate. But Gary Johnsom could also spilt the Republican vote as well. I would prefer him over Trump and Hillary as president. I think Sanders would run as a Green to get on all 50 states + DC, as his volunteers would get the signatures required combined with the Gp’s existing work.. Also besides Texas and South Dakota ‘sore loser laws’ don’t apply to him. https://ballotpedia.org/%22Sore_loser%22_laws_for_presidential_candidates

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Anne Martello

    One problem could be that Sanders brings the election to Congress, making Trump president. But Gary Johnson could also act as a spoiler in Congress. It could be possible that Clinton gets in 4th making her out of the running in Congress as only the top 3 candidates are included, so the the two candidates would split the GOP vote, and they would lose to the one left-wing candidate. I think Sanders would run as a Green instead of an Independent, as they have ballot access on a lot of states, and Sanders’ volunteers would work to get more signatures. The Green convention is after the Democratic convention, so Bernie would get delegates to switch. Bernie also would not have to worry about ‘sore loser’ laws, as only TX and ND have these laws, and they are reliably Republican. https://ballotpedia.org/%22Sore_loser%22_laws_for_presidential_candidates



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