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February 9, 2008
Democrats to Caucus in Washington and Nebraska; Primary in Louisiana
Today sees the Democratic contest for president move into the next stage. And on the surface, the contests today in Washington, Louisiana, and Nebraska as well as Tuesday's primaries in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. would seem to favor Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton:
“The states in play this month do favor Senator Obama,” said Howard Wolfson, a Clinton spokesman, during a conference call with reporters. He cited Mr. Obama’s endorsements and his lead in the polls in states like Virginia. “We feel considerably better about the states on March 4.” With the Democrats proportional awarding of delegates in all of their contests, Hillary will not be shut out of any primary and will probably maintain contact with Obama, falling behind by at most 200 delegates by March 4 (she currently holds a 61 delegate lead - including pledged superdelegates - in the Real Clear Politics count.) If Clinton can pick up a state or two before March 4 - Wisconsin is her best bet - that lead will be even smaller.
Those states include Ohio and Texas, and more and more they are being seen as a chance to bring clarity to the neck-and-neck nominating fight. Campaign aides in Washington and other states were scheduled to be dispatched to Ohio and Texas as early as Sunday. Mr. Obama intends to spend considerable time in both states, as well as in Wisconsin, which holds its primary Feb. 19.
With 2025 delegates needed to win and both candidates around 1,000 delegates short, either candidate would need to win around 75% of the remaining delegates at stake in the primaries to reach the magic number before the convention. Since neither Obama or Clinton seem likely to dominate the primaries to that degree, it will probably be up to the Superdelegates - unpledged Democratic officials and lawmakers - to choose the nominee.
This is causing much handwringing in the party - including some threats from prominent liberals:
Superdelegates were established, Pelosi explained, to allow grass-roots Democratic activists to attend the nominating convention without having to compete with high-ranking Democratic party officials for a coveted spot on the convention floor. So, again, I don't think that members of Congress, governors and senators are not attuned to what's happening in their states and in their districts," Pelosi said. Brazile may not have a choice if she wants any nominee at all. The Democrats set their nomination process up specifically to avoid a brokered convention. The proportional delegate awards as well as the huge number of Superdelegates assured this outcome.
CNN political analyst Donna Brazile railed against the scenario.
"If 795 of my colleagues decide this election, I will quit the Democratic Party. I feel very strongly about this," Brazile said.
What they didn't count on was two very popular, well financed candidates slugging it out toe to toe and splitting the available delegates almost down the middle.