1,600 delegate pile-up

For the Democrats, the results of “Super Tuesday” remind me of a pile-up on a major highway. Chuck Todd at NBC offers this calculation:

          • Obama:  841 delgates
          • Clinton:  837 delegates

— give or take ten delegates, depending on the final results from California.

Neither candidate is anywhere near the finish line. Here’s my perspective on the big picture:

1. A victory of sorts for Obama.
Only two weeks ago, Hillary Clinton was 20% ahead of Obama in the national polls. Clinton had hoped to throw Obama out of the ring last night — but it didn’t happen.

In other words, fighting Clinton to a draw amounts to a victory of sorts for Obama.

2. Clinton remains the front-runner — but barely.
Obama’s rise in the polls was so dramatic that analysts were watching for a dramatic upset. They had their eyes on three states in particular:  California, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. In the end, Clinton won the popular vote in all three states. Andrew Sullivan sums up:

The Obama campaign must be pleased tonight, but Clinton remains the front-runner. Just.

3. Neither candidate is going to lock up the nomination anytime soon.
There’s a very important reason why Clinton has been unable to finish Obama off:  the Democrats award delegates according to the candidate’s share of the popular vote.

In the Republican race, in some states, the winner of the popular vote takes all the delegates for that state. If that were the case on the Democratic side, Clinton would have won 371 delegates just in California; instead, she splits those delegates with Obama.

Now let’s suppose that Obama continues to climb, and he seizes a ten-point lead in the polls. In the upcoming states, we’re going to see results just like last night’s:  Obama might win the popular vote, but the delegates will be shared between both candidates.

It’s a pile-up. No one is going to race across the finish line anytime soon.

Switching metaphors — it looks like these two candidates will continue scrapping all the way to the Democrats’ national convention.

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Random
    Feb 07, 2008 @ 08:09:48

    Question – what do you call a candidate so ineffective that they can’t even win an election that’s been rigged in their favour?

    Answer – Hillary Clinton.

    (I’ve lost count of the number of articles I’ve read that stated that Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious Tuesday was set up specifically to allow the Clinton machine to steamroller any opponents.)

    With that in mind, here’s my prediction (I just know you’ve been waiting with baited breath for this:-)). Sullivan is wrong – Clinton is no longer the front runner, she’s a dead candidate walking. The race is now only a matter of when, not if, Obama is annointed the nominee. The reasons for saying this are as follows –

    1) Clinton’s romneyesque injection of $5M of her own money into her campaign just shrieks of desperation. She’s clearly losing the money primary if she’s having to self-fund on this scale and whereas this is by no means automatically fatal (see John McCain) it certainly speaks volumes about the mood amongst the faithful.

    2) The primary schedule now favours Obama. The next round on Saturday is the Louisiana primary where Obama’s strength in the black community should see him through and the Nebraska and Washington caucuses – and I believe it’s true that Obama has never lost a state that held a caucus (even in Nevada he actually got more delegates despite losing the popular vote). This is followed by the “potomac primary” (DC, Maryland, Virginia) where again the black vote should be decisive. Then the 19th brings Hawaii, Washington state and Wisconsin which could go either way. Things don’t start getting favourable again for Clinton until March 4th, when Texas and Ohio vote – and we all know how well letting the small states go and relying on big ones to act as a firewall worked for Rudy Giuliani.

    3) Exit polling from Tuesday shows that Obama’s base is expanding whereas Hillary’s isn’t. In particular Obama now seems to winning over the one group that has been all but ignored in the mess of identity politics that has overtaken the Democratic nomination process – white men. If true, this would suggest that the Clinton’s dirty tricks have backfired on them, in that whereas they have failed to pigeonhole Obama as the “black” candidate, they have succeeded in pigeonholing Hillary as the “woman” candidate, and specifically the chip-on-the-shoulder-feminist candidate.

    Feel free to remind me of this post if Hillary is adopted as the Democratic candidate in the autumn, but my gut feeling is that we are now in the endgame, and things are effectively all over bar the shouting (of which, bearing in mind we are talking about the Clintons after all, there is still going to be an awful lot).

    One final thought, for all it’s liberal biases I was a huge fan of the West Wing, but I thought the presidential campaign that dominated the final series was hopelessly idealistic. And yet in Obama and McCain real life is about to give us our own Santos vs. Vinnick. Go figure…

    Reply

  2. Stephen
    Feb 07, 2008 @ 11:13:15

    Thanks for that, Random. I’m aware that the upcoming schedule looks favourable for Obama. Therefore, if he isn’t already the front-runner, he will be soon. I just doubt that he can lock up enough delegates to finish Clinton off.

    I’m hoping the super(califragilisticexpialidocious?)delegates will start stepping up for Obama. That might give him enough of a momentum boost to put him over the top. No doubt the other Clinton — Bill — is madly twisting arms behind the scenes to prevent it from happening.

    The other oddity is that Clinton has now surged ahead again in the Gallup poll! Go figure! But I think you’re right, and Obama will still win the upcoming primaries. How decisively?, I wonder. He needs a few more results like South Carolina. Here’s hoping.

    Reply

  3. Trackback: Emerging From Babel » Radio silence … and a book meme

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