Mock Convention’s predicted nominee suspends bid for president

Mock Convention is projected to make a seventh incorrect prediction


This photo, from Mock Convention 2020, shows students celebrating after announcing Mock Convention’s nomination of Sen. Bernie Sanders as the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate in 2020. A similar process will happen for the GOP presidential nominee this year. Photo by Lilah Kimble

Elizabeth Bell

Senator Bernie Sanders, who Washington and Lee’s 27th Mock Convention predicted would be the 2020 Democratic nominee, suspended his presidential campaign on Wed., April 8.

“Though Bernie Sanders has now suspended his campaign, I rest assured knowing that we made the best prediction we could’ve based on a thorough evaluation of the metrics available on Feb. 15; that we assembled an incredibly talented team of regional chairs, state chairs, and state delegates; and that the convention itself was one for the ages,” said Democratic Party Analyst Luke Basham, ‘20, in an email.

Sanders’s exit from the race means that former Vice President Joe Biden is now the presumptive Democratic nominee and Mock Convention’s prediction is likely incorrect.

“[Biden] will cap off a primary contest unlike any that has ever occurred in American electoral history, in a time unlike any in American history,” Political Chair John Harashinski, ‘20, said in a letter that was published on the Mock Convention website on April 9.

As of April 11, Biden has won 1,217 delegates and Sanders has won 914 delegates. But several states have pushed back their primary elections and the Democratic National Convention was postponed until mid-August because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Prior to 2020, Mock Convention had correctly predicted the nominee for the party out of power 20 times in the 26 conventions held since 1908.

On Valentine’s Day weekend, Mock Convention predicted Sanders would be the nominee after a projected contested convention, for the first time since 1968.

“When Mock Convention made our prediction, the world was a completely different place,” Harashinski said in an email. “Yet, even in the face of all this adversity, I am proud to have been a part of such an extensive team of talented students who gave so much to Mock Convention, as they made it the unforgettable experience that it was.”

Washington and Lee’s Mock Convention is nationally recognized for being the most accurate student-run predictive convention. Its most recent incorrect prediction was in the 2008 Democratic cycle, when the 24th Mock Convention picked Hillary Rodham Clinton as the nominee, instead of former President Barack Obama.

“At the end of the day, the prediction is just that—a prediction. Obviously I️ wish we got it right, but I️ can honestly say that we left no stone unturned,” said West Regional Chair Jack Fencl, ‘22. “We did everything we could, and I’m still proud of the work we did.”

Sanders appeared to be a clear frontrunner in the crowded race for the nomination in mid-February. He finished in second place in a tight race in Iowa and won in New Hampshire and Nevada.

“We used all the available evidence to go through each state and congressional district to allocate delegates, and we trusted the numbers we came to at the end of that process,” Fencl said. “I wouldn’t say there was any one piece of evidence that led us to predict Sanders, but at the time pretty much everything was pointing in that direction.”

Mock Convention predicted that Biden would come in second place behind Sanders, out of the seven candidates who were still in the race at the time.

“Though our team foresaw that the moderate wing of the Democratic Party outnumbered the Sanders/left wing, it appeared that the moderate lane would be split— particularly between Joe Biden and Michael Bloomberg— while Sanders would occupy a lane mostly of his own,” Basham said.

But the momentum shifted after Biden decisively won in South Carolina and the race narrowed to two candidates days later. Biden was endorsed by former candidates Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and he won in 10 of the 14 states that held primaries on Super Tuesday.

“We did not foresee that Bloomberg would narrowly miss viability in most states on Super Tuesday and the other moderate candidates would drop out the day before and coalesce around Biden,” Basham said.

Sanders conceded to Biden, but has not endorsed him. Sanders will remain on the ballot in upcoming primaries and hopes his progressive agenda will influence the Democratic Party’s platform.

“I cannot in good conscience continue to mount a campaign that cannot win and which would interfere with the important work required of all of us in this difficult hour,” Sanders said in a virtual news conference from his home in Vermont. “While this campaign is coming to an end, our movement is not.”

With just one candidate remaining in the race, the Democratic Party now has a unified voice, Harashinski told the Ring-tum Phi.

“The internal divide within the Democratic Party between supporting the best candidate to beat Trump and supporting a candidate who will advocate for wide-sweeping liberal policies has ceased,” he said. “Now, the Democrats are united with one, and only one, objective in mind: beat President Trump.”