Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Obama Maintains Pledged Delegate Lead

We don't know a lot coming out of Super Tuesday, like whom the Democratic nominee will be, but we do know some things. First, heading into the night, Barack Obama had more pledged delegates (due to his convincing wins in Iowa and South Carolina, his delegate tie in New Hampshire (despite losing the popular vote), and his delegate win in Nevada (again, despite the loss in popular vote)). We also know he ended the night with a bigger pledged delegate lead than he started with due to winning more states and more pledged delegates than Hillary Clinton did.

The Obama camp now projects topping Clinton by 13 delegates, 847 to 834.

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.

In a "battle for delegates" and in a campaign where the Clinton campaigns own Communications Director Howard Wolfson has said only delegates matter, the fact that Obama not only won more states (13-8 with a possibility a win in still-counting-votes New Mexico, where with 98% of the vote counted, Obama was leading by less than 100 votes) but more pledged delegates is a big win for him. And that's despite Hillary Clinton's wins in population centers like California and New York. How did that happen? Obama won much bigger margins than Clinton did across the country. She only won by 17% in her home state of New York. He won by 32% in his home state of Illinois. She won by 10% in California and New Jersey and Arizona. He won by 50% in Alaska, 35% in Colorado, 36% in Georgia, a whopping 62% in Idaho, 48% in Kansas, and 35% in Minnesota (and to be fair, Clinton had a huge margin of victory in her former home of Arkansas). He also won the close battles, like Connecticut (51-47 victory) and Missouri (49-48). And at the end of the day, he won more delegates, and thus is in a better position today to win the Democratic nomination than he was yesterday.

So what to do about those Super Delegates? Clinton's lead on the Democratic nomination right now is 100% due to her pre-committed Super Delegates, who, of course, are not committed at all, and could abandon Clinton at any time. As Barack Obama said today at a news conference if he enters the convention having won more states and more pledged delegates from those states, it is going to be very difficult for those Super Delegates to take that victory away because the Democrats around the United States will have spoken and their candidate would be Obama. And then there was this nugget from a very insightful column by Politico's Roger Simon. Maybe the Super Delegates won't even get seated at the convention if Obama has the pledged delegate lead.
But what happens if the margin of victory at the convention is the superdelegates. Is that the the way the party really will choose a nominee?

By letting the big-shots pick the winner?

Instead, there could be a huge floor flight. The convention can make whatever rules it wants, and I am guessing there would be a fight to bar the superdelegates and accept the votes of only the pledged delegates.

So maybe the people will speak. But, this only becomes relevant of course if Obama or Clinton fight all the way to the convention and Obama has the pledged delegate lead but not the Super Delegate lead. Which means Obama still has work to do, especially in Ohio and Texas. But if he can win the next six or seven primaries and caucuses (Louisana, Washington state, Nebraska, and Maine this weekend, Washington D.C., Virginia, and Maryland a week from yesterday, and Hawaii and Wisconsin a week from Saturday) he will erase Clinton's delegate lead, Super or not. But if he can't split the Ohio-Texas "mini Super Tuesday" on March 4th, it may not matter at all.

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