The new frontrunner?

Barack ObamaSource: Carlos Barria/Reuters

Figuring out the delegate count in the American primary system is absurdly convoluted and contentious. Note:  A lot of media sources don’t include the results of caucuses (in which Obama has been dominant). The New York Times explains:

As of Friday, seven states — Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, Nevada and North Dakota — had held precinct-level Democratic caucuses to choose delegates who will go to district-level or statewide party conventions in the coming months. It is at those conventions where delegates will officially be pledged to a candidate at the national convention in Denver, where 2,025 delegates are needed to win the nomination.

Until then, there is nothing to prevent the outcome of the caucuses from changing, and that is why The New York Times has not counted the 169 delegates from six of those states in its tallies (The Times is counting Minnesota, whose caucus results are binding).

However — here’s what pisses me off — The Times does include in its count those superdelegates who have expressed support for one candidate or the other. But superdelegates can switch their allegiance at any time. Thus the superdelegate totals are no more fixed than the caucus totals.

The method employed by The Times skews the results unfairly:  it excludes caucuses (which favour Obama) but includes superdelegates (who tilt to Clinton). So let’s ignore The Times!

Obama’s team says he has been ahead since Super Tuesday. That is, ahead in pledged delegates, excluding superdelegates. According to a more conservative estimate, by someone who seems to know how to do the necessary math, Obama didn’t take the lead in pledged delegates until Saturday. Either way, he’s ahead now.

I’m inclined to follow this tally because it agrees with my perception of the totals to this point in the race. Obama captured 111 delegates this weekend to Clinton’s 54.

The current total, including superdelegates:

Clinton: 1109
Obama: 1079

Obama is ahead in pledged delegates, by about 70. However, when superdelegates are taken into account, Clinton is still in the lead.

Do we have a new frontrunner? It would be nice if someone official could supply a definitive answer to such an important question — but that would require superhuman powers!


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Bridgett
    Feb 10, 2008 @ 23:18:37

    Are your totals with or without caucuses?


  2. Stephen (aka Q)
    Feb 11, 2008 @ 07:03:46

    The totals at the end include both superdelegates and caucuses.

    Prior to Super Tuesday, Obama was behind in both superdelegates and pledged delegates (even when caucuses were included). Neither candidate is picking up many superdelegates right now (an occasional one here or there, but not more than that). I suspect the uncommitted party officials are waiting to see how the voting plays out before they express support for one candidate or the other.

    So the only way for Obama to close the gap is through pledged delegates, and he’s succeeding very well.

    Now that he has a clear lead in pledged delegates, he has to hope that the uncommitted superdelegates will eventually come on board too. That’s likely the only way for him to win in the end. The clearest path for him is to continue this wave of victories through February, and then steal Ohio from Clinton on March 4.

    That would probably make the difference, because everyone expects Clinton to win both Ohio and Texas. It would be huge if she loses either state — maybe a knock-out punch.


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