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February 6, 2008
Obama, Clinton in near dead heat
The news nets are still tabulating delegates won by all the candidates last night and we probably won't have any firm numbers until later this afternoon. But NBC and the Obama campaign are in near agreement in their projections for the Democratic delegate totals:
The Obama camp projects topping Clinton by nine delegates, 845 to 836. But trouble is a-brewing in the Democratic race that may lead to a highly unsatisfactory outcome for one of the candidates. Chris Bowers of Open Left speculates that neither candidate can reasonably expect to achieve the magic number of 2025 delegates before the convention:
NBC News, which is projecting delegates based on the Democratic Party's complex formula, figures Obama will wind up with 840 to 849 delegates, versus 829 to 838 for Clinton. Clinton was portrayed in many news accounts as the night's big winner, but Obama's campaign says he wound up with a higher total where it really counts -- the delegates who will choose the party's nominee at this summer's Democratic convention.
With the delegate count still under way, NBC News said Obama appears to have won around 840 delegates in yesterday's contests, while Clinton earned about 830 -- "give or take a few," Tim Russert, the network's Washington bureau chief, said on the "Today" show. The running totals for the two, which includes previous contests and the party officials known as "superdelegates," are only about 70 delegates apart, Russert said.
To date, four states with a combined 137 pledged delegates have held nominating contests. What would be the reaction in the black community if Hillary and the Clinton machine were to steamroll the Super Delegates into supporting her candidacy despite the fact that Obama could be slightly ahead of Hillary after all the primaries were over? The resulting firestorm could tear the Democrats apart.
Currently, Barack Obama is projected with 63 pledged delegates, and Hillary Clinton is projected with 48 (source). On Super Tuesday, 22 states and a couple territories with a combined 1,688 pledged delegates will hold nominating contests. From this point, quick math shows that after Super Tuesday, only 1,428 pledged delegates will still be available.
Now, here is where the problem shows up. According to current polling averages, the largest possible victory for either candidate on Super Tuesday will be Clinton 889 pledged delegates, to 799 pledged delegates for Obama. (In all likelihood, the winning margin will be lower than this, but using these numbers helps emphasize the seriousness of the situation.) As such, the largest possible pledged delegate margin Clinton can have after Super Tuesday is 937 to 862. (While it is possible Obama will lead in pledged delegates after Super Tuesday, it does not currently seem possible for Obama to have a larger lead than 75).
That leaves Clinton 1,088 pledged delegates from clinching the nomination, with only 1,428 pledged delegates remaining. Thus, in order to win the nomination without the aid of super delegates, in her best-case scenario after Super Tuesday, Clinton would need to win 76.2% of all remaining pledged delegates. Given our proportional delegate system, there is simply no way that is going to happen unless Obama drops out.
And that's why it is important for one of these candidates to pull ahead by a couple of hundred votes before the convention, thus making it easier for the Super Delegates to vote for the assumed winner.
A great night for Obama as he took 7 state primaries and 6 caucuses while Hillary took 8 primaries including the two biggest prizes of New York and California. But Hillary lost some primaries she was expected to win - Missouri and Connecticut especially because she was so far ahead 2 weeks ago. And Obama showed extreme weakness among white, working class voters - not a good sign if he wants ot be the Democratic nominee.
Both candidates then, have their problems. And they both will continue the fight well into the primary season.