April 23, 2008

My Take On The Primary

This is as nasty as the Democrats have gotten this year. Healing the rifts in the Democratic party will be difficult.

Clinton's win shows some continuing strength of her machinery, but she's out of dough and a net gain of eighteen delegates is not terribly impressive after six weeks of intense, nasty campaigning. Maybe this will help her raise some more cash, though. She'll also probably win Indiana, West Virginia, and Kentucky by similar margins as she did in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Remarkably, Clinton has now re-taken the lead in the number of popular votes cast in the various primaries, by about 82,000 votes. This is a significant achievement for her, and one that the media has not picked up on. However, not all of the delegates have been selected through primaries; Obama does well in a caucus setting.

But here's the math, as I see it. She's 131 delegates behind Obama. There are 408 delegates up for grabs in the remaining nine primaries and caucuses. To get ahead of Obama, she needs 270 of those 408 delegates -- two-thirds of them.

The biggest problem for her is that the largest prize left on the schedule is North Carolina, where Obama has a huge lead. RCP is reporting Obama ahead by 15.5% there. That would be a net win of seventeen delegates for Obama, which will all but neutralize Clinton's win in Pennsylvania. If that happens, then Clinton will need 75.1% of the non-North Carolina delegates to get ahead of Obama before the convention. And as I noted before, Obama does well in caucuses and there is at least one caucus left -- Puerto Rico, at the very end of the schedule -- which is reasonably rich in delegates.

So the necessary margins of victory for Clinton are simply not going to happen, in any state left on the schedule.

Using CNN's delegate counter toy, if we assume that Clinton will win eight of the nine remaining contests by the margin she won Pennsylvania, and that Obama wins North Carolina at the margin that the polls there suggest he will, Obama will go in to the convention with 1,914 delegates and Clinton with 1,799.

That would mean that in order to get the nomination, Clinton will need to get the support of more than two-thirds of the as-yet uncommitted superdelegates without Michigan and Florida, or

That is simply not going to happen, either. These super-majorities are clearly out of reach of either candidate outside of their home states.

Clinton's only realistic hope is to change the rules a bit by getting the Michigan and Florida delegations seated at the convention -- and even that may not be enough, because substantial numbers of those delegates will vote for BHO if they are permitted to do so. If we assume that 60% of the Florida and Michigan delegates go for HRC and the other 40% go for BHO, that's a net gain of 74 delegates for HRC. Even using my best-case scenario for Clinton above, she would still be behind by 41 pledged delegates.

If she can pull off seating Florida and Michigan, and they go for her by 20-point margins, then she would "only" need to get 57% of the superdelegates. That seems achievable, but unlikely.

So my prediction is that the convention will be brokered, but by a margin of less than 100 delegates. Obama will be so far ahead of Clinton that he should secure the nomination in Denver on the first ballot.


zzi said...

Doesn't either candidate need 2,024 votes from delegates to win? Looks like Obama will be shy also, so why shouldn't she (Mrs. Clinton) continue?

You have Clinton leading in the popular vote. I believe that's if you include Michigan and Florida.

Burt Likko said...

Yes, it does count Michigan and Florida. Those people did vote; however, their votes do not (currently) count for determination of delegate commitments.