On The Road To 2008 - Commentary on issues as we countdown to the next opportunity to change the direction of America

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Texas and Ohio Aftermath

So Tuesday night's contests finally came and went and what can we take from the results?

Clinton's win in Ohio was a good one for her. She kept Obama at bay there, and kept him from closing the gap too much, as he's been doing everywhere else.

However, she barely hung on in Texas where she had been up in the polls by 20% only a couple of weeks before. In fact, Obama looks like he will win the Texas caucus half of the two-step Texas contests.

RI and VT we can ignore. They basically cancel each other out.

Clinton wins in the realm of public impressions. The media will focus on the vote count (note, Obama still has almost 400,000 more total votes from all the primaries to date that will count), but what matters is the delegate count. The delegates are allocated in each state differently and based on somewhat complicated calculations that are typically a mix of allocations from congressional, legislative, precinct and statewide breakdowns. Often the delegate count isn't set until much later. Here in Washington state, while we've had precinct caucuses, we still have legislative and congressional level caucuses in April and May that will further refine the likely final allocations.

So various sources will have various estimates for these pledged delegates (read, non-super delegates). Here is a good site for tracking them.

Obama may actually gain more delegates than Clinton from Texas, so her only pickup will come from Ohio's results, and given that most estimates had her trailing Obama by 150 delegates going into March 4th, she exits perhaps still behind by 130 or so.

There are only 611 more pledged delegates to capture in the upcoming states and PA is really the only big chance Clinton has to pick up a lot of delegates (158 are at stake there). But the fact is, just to pull level, she needs to win 60% of the remaining delegates. That's very unlikely (she's only once done better than 58% in any contest so far), and practically impossible because most of the remaining contests are likely to go to Obama, which will only further increase his lead.

So if Clinton stays in this to the end, she will likely not pick up enough pledged delegates to have a lead going into the convention.

Then there are 794 "super-delegates". These are elected members of Congress, governors, and party leaders (state chairs and high up state officials). It would be political suicide for elected officials to overturn what in essence would be the results of 50+ primaries and caucuses. Clinton's once sizable lead in super-delegate endorsements has dwindled. There are over 360 super-delegates who have yet to make a decision, and you can bet your bippy they will not want to be accused of bucking the will of the voters.

The other wild-card people talk about are the thrown out delegate counts from Michigan and Florida because those states ignored party rules and held their primaries too early. Candidates were asked to remove their names from the contests. Clinton didn't. Obama did in Michigan. 40% of voters in Michigan voted "uncommitted", 55% for Clinton. In Florida, Clinton got 50% of the vote and Obama 33%. These were flawed contests due to the fact the candidates didn't campaign there and some were not on the ballot and many voters didn't bother voting because they knew the results were moot. Yet, of course, Clinton wants them to count (somehow).

It won't happen. The best they can hope for is a 50-50 split to allow the delegates to attend, but not affect the results of the convention in August.

So now the Clinton campaign is talking about "momentum". Any they claim they have right now will end in Wyoming on Saturday and Mississippi on Tuesday, both likely big wins for Obama. After that we wait 6 weeks for PA, and because Clinton is surely going to stubbornly stay in the race despite the math, lots of money will be spent, and a lot of negativity will abound. She's going to keep claiming she can win the big states, when the reality is both Obama and Clinton would receive the same kind of support against McCain in states like CA, NY, OH and PA, and neither is likely to beat him in Texas (see the analyses at HominidViews, here and here), and Obama is more likely to beat McCain when you add up likely electoral college votes. But to win the nomination you have to win the math, and Obama has the math on his side.

3 Comment(s):

Comment by: Blogger john bourne harbour

good post-- breaks it down in a rational way which needs to be done with more frequency

3/07/2008 8:12 AM PT  
Comment by: Blogger john bourne harbour

i should have added-- i grew up in the state of ri and although now a new yorker i can advise you that it is never wise to ignore a rhode islander-- :)

3/07/2008 8:17 AM PT  
Comment by: Blogger Daniel Kirkdorffer

Heh - I should have been clearer for those that could take offense that of course we can ignore the results of RI and VT because they essentially cancel each other out.

Another issue that few talk about is if MI and FL delegates are seated, would it make a difference? We don't have delegate allocations for those states, but if you assume that Obama would get a vast majority of the "uncommitted" votes in MI at the national convention, then perhaps Clinton picks up 40 delegates on him in each state (if that). Given he is likely to have a 150 or so pledged delegate lead, that still wouldn't put her over the top.

Of course allowing FL and MI to seat delegates after breaking party rules, without new voting, would be a disaster for the party for next time; every state would just ignore the party and do what they want.

3/07/2008 9:15 AM PT  

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