Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The primary by the numbers

Note: Some of the numbers here may be off a few delegates, but it shouldn't be many.

We're far enough into the process where the variability has decreased, and we can with slightly more accuracy discuss what the possible outcomes are. As of this morning, Obama has roughly 1187 pledged delegates and Clinton has about 1028 (according to If any of the superdelegate counts are to be believed, Obama has roughly 169 and Clinton has 239, giving them totals of 1356 and 1267, respectively. They need 2025 delegates to win the nomination, meaning that Obama needs 669 and Hillary needs 758. There are 1426 delegates left to get (Edwards has 26, and I'm including that in this number), 1049 of which are pledged and 387 are superdelegates.

Now, what about the future? How does each candidate picture getting those delegates?

Let's assume, as a best case scenario for Hillary, that she does as well in Texas and Ohio on March 4th as she did in California, where she won by a 10-point margin (and roughly 43 delegates). I don't see her winning by more than that, unless Obama falls on his face somewhere - he's winning too many subgroups, and even if she can hold the line, asking for more than what would essentially be a 30+ point turnaround from Wisconsin would be unreasonable. There are a total of 334 delegates available in those two states, 90% of California. In this scenario, she would gain around 186, and he would get 148. The other two March 4th states are Rhode Island and Vermont, with a total of 36 delegates. Comparing that to Maine and Delaware (two reasonably similar states which voted on Super Tuesday or later), that would project Obama to get 22 and Clinton 14 from those states. So the big "firewall" day would gain her a net +30 delegates, which would reduce the gap from around 90 to around 60 (assuming no changes in the superdelegate spread). Pennsylvania has another 158 delegates, and by this logic, she could gain another +16 on him (87-71).

Interim break: totals including projections for TX, OH, RI, VT, and PA:
Obama - 1597 (428 remaining to win)
Clinton - 1554 (471 remaining to win)

What are the other states still to vote? Wyoming, Mississippi, North Carolina, Indiana, West Virginia, Oregon, Kentucky, Montana, South Dakota, and Puerto Rico (and Democrats Abroad). Given the results of the last 2 weeks, Obama has to be favored by significant margins in WY, MI, NC, IN, OR, MT, and SD. Kentucky could go more like Tennessee, he's really unpopular in WV (my sister lives there and has given me the inside info), and I have no idea what will happen in PR. Those seven states have a total of 315 delegates available. If they go anything like the states have gone in the 10-election winning streak, he'd come out with ~65% of the delegates, or 203 (compared with 112 for Clinton). Let's knock that down a bit, and call it 190-125. Then Obama's at 1787 and Hillary's at 1679. Those other states (KY, WV, PR, and the Dems Abroad) have a total of 141 delegates. Let's say she cleans up there, on the order of TN, which would give her an 81-60 edge in those states. Then, after all the pledged delegates are counted, the totals would be (there are roughly 57 assorted delegates that haven't yet been assigned due to close votes - I'm splitting them evenly):

Obama - 1875 (150 needed)
Clinton - 1789 (236 needed)

We'd then have to turn to the superdelegates. In this scenario (which, again, is a best-case scenario for Clinton), she'd need to get 236 out of 387 superdelegates (or 60.9%). That's certainly possible, given that she's won about 58.6% so far. If that happened, she could win the nomination, with these totals:

Pledged delegates - Obama: 1706, Clinton: 1550
Superdelegates - Obama: 318, Clinton: 475

In this scenario, she wins 2025-2024, on the strength of grabbing 60% of the superdelegates while winning 47.6% of the pledged delegates, and, obviously, causing headaches and turmoil the entire time. That would be a disaster.

I think a far more likely scenario is that Ohio, Texas, and Pennsylvania end up as essentially a tie (or, given momentum, an edge to Obama). If they're a tie, he'd be at 1902 before dealing with the remaining superdelegates, and she'd be at 1762. To win then, she'd have to take 68% of the superdelegates, and unless all the higher ups in the party want to screw themselves over, I don't see that happening.

Here's a more likely (in my opinion) projection of how this goes. One input is how Obama's done in the last 10 races - if we don't count the Virgin Islands and DC (both of which are outliers for different reasons), he's winning by a 29 point margin on average. That's a landslide, folks.

Starting Point - current tally
Obama 1365
Clinton 1267

The superdelegates have been breaking more in his direction over the last few weeks. She'd held a consistent 90+ margin, and now it's down to 70. I won't assume that it will narrow any more, but that they'll split the remaining superdelegates roughly 50-50.

Obama 193
Clinton 194

Remaining states and delegate breakdown predictions (written as Obama/Clinton state and total, without additional superdelegates):

Texas (105/88 - 1470/1355) - he'll be helped by the caucus format
Ohio (66/75 - 1533/1430) - Ohio is too red, and in a hick/racist way
Rhode Island - (13/8 - 1546/1438) - for the same reasons as the potomac states, etc.
Vermont - (11/4 - 1557/1442) - no state that elects Bernie Sanders will support someone who voted to authorize the damned war
Wyoming - (8/4 - 1565/1446) - look at Idaho and Utah
Mississippi - (18/15 - 1583/1461) - 19more like Alabama than Georgia
Pennsylvania - (90/78 - 1673/1539) - she'll be helped by the New York proximity and the racist governor, but by now, the momentum of him winning 15/16 races since Super Tuesday) is too much too stop
North Carolina - (75/40 - 1748/1579) - between SC and VA, and he'll romp here
Indiana - (40/32 - 1788/1611) - lots of Illinois folk to drive across the border
West Virginia - (12/16 - 1800/1595) - despite the historical fact that WV was created because it was the part of Virginia that didn't want slavery, Obama is way unpopular there
Oregon - (35/17 - 1835/1612) - another Western caucus state
Kentucky - (23/28 - 1858/1640) - caintuck just worries me, even though it's a caucus state
Montana - (12/4 - 1870/1644) - western state again
South Dakota - (11/4 - 1881/1648) - ditto
Puerto Rico - (25/30 - 1906/1678) - frickin' guess
Democrats Abroad - (5/2 - 1911/1680) - ditto

Actually, I think it could go a little better than this as the momentum builds, but let's say this happens. Now, if we add 1911 to 193, Obama's at 2104, and the Democratic nominee for president. The real question, in this model, is if after March 4, splitting Ohio and TX, and having a net delegate loss for Clinton of 20 on her firewall day, does she have the decency to drop out, or will she continue trying to hamstring Obama all the way to Denver?

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