Stick in a fork: Clinton's done

There is almost no chance Hillary can get the votes she needs to win the nomination

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by L. IAN MacDONALD
The Gazette, Monday, March 17, 2008

In the business of polling and delegate tracking, they say there is a point where the numbers talk. Well, the numbers are talking now in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination in the United States, and Barack Obama should like what he's hearing.

For he has built a nearly insurmountable lead over Hillary Clinton in every category but one - the popular vote - in the race for the nomination.

He has won primaries and caucuses in 27 states to her 14 - an absolute majority of the 50 states, no matter what happens in the remainder of the primary season.

He leads by at least 100 delegates in tallies by every single major news organization and website. And setting aside the superdelegates, automatic delegates in Canadian terms, his lead increases to about 160 delegates in most counts.

With 2025 votes needed to secure the nomination, CNN's delegate count is 1,618 for Obama to 1,479 for Clinton, a lead of 139. Among elected delegates, Obama leads by 1,411 to 1,242, a lead of 169. Among the 796 superdelegates, CNN gives Clinton 237 to Obama's 207, with 352 as yet uncommitted.

While the dynamic of the race might have shifted with her wins in Ohio and Texas, the math hasn't changed. Since then, Obama has won two more states, Wyoming and Mississippi, re-taking the momentum going into the six-week campaign for the next stop, Pennsylvania, on April 22.

It's almost mathematically impossible for Clinton to overtake his absolute lead among all delegates, and his even wider lead among elected delegates (who comprise a moral majority) in the eight states and Puerto Rico, remaining on the calendar.

Even if she won them all by 10 points, a highly unlikely outcome, she still wouldn't close the delegate gap.

Her problem is that the Democratic Party's proportional distribution of delegates disproportionately favours the loser in nearly every state. Thus, while Obama won Wyoming by a 61-37 margin, he won only seven delegates to her five. Again while he won Mississippi by 24 points, he picked up only 19 delegates to her 14. But it works the other way, too. Clinton won Ohio by a 54-44 margin, but gained only 74 delegates to his 65. In Texas, she won by a 52-48 margin, but won only 77 delegates to his 71. And he won the Texas caucus, run on top of the primary, by a 56-44 margin, giving him 38 delegates to her 29 - meaning he actually won the state.

Looking ahead to Pennsylvania, with its 158 delegates, even if she won by a solid 10 points, she would only get about 83 delegates to his 75. After that, only seven states and Puerto Rico remain, and Obama is likely to win at least North Carolina, Montana, South Dakota and Oregon, and should be competitive in Kentucky, Indiana and West Virginia.

She is running out of time, and real estate.

Clinton's only real hope is that she can overcome his 700,000-vote lead in the popular vote (13.3 million to 12.6 million) with blowout wins in the major states remaining - notably Pennsylvania and North Carolina. Even then, she would probably need big wins in re-votes in Michigan and Florida, to close the gap in the popular vote.

But if she could do that, she could claim the moral high ground of having won the popular vote, allowing her to make the case to undecided superdelegates that she won all the big states, from New York to California, and can win them again in November.

It's a bit like filling an inside straight in poker. But it's the best hope she has left. The numbers are talking, and telling another story.

It's very hard to do the delegate math and see how Obama would have much fewer than 1,900 votes at the end of the primary schedule. And even if he were to lose reruns in both Florida and Michigan by 15 points in each state, his disproportionate share of their delegates might well be enough to take him across the finish line - and that's without even one more superdelegate breaking his way between now and June.

That's about as likely as Eliot Spitzer making a comeback as governor of New York.

 
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