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.